When I tell an adult – a bookstore owner, a librarian, or a potential buyer – that the books aren’t translated, they nod, and start flipping through a book. Then suddenly, as though I’ve been hiding this fact from them, they look up and say, “But it’s not translated!”.
And kids don’t see this at all. I know a French four-year-old who stopped his mum translating the English bits – he found it annoying. He just wanted to get on with the story. And when you think about it, why is this so weird?
A four-year-old accepts that not every word he hears means something to him. That’s the beauty of being four: every day teaches you something new; every day you go a bit further, discovering your world. Today this is a bike. Tomorrow it can be a bike AND a fiets! (A precocious five-year-old of my acquaintance, whose mum is French and whose dad is English, explained to her mum one day that the raspberries they were having for dessert were also framboises, in case she hadn’t caught that!).
Since I started these books five years ago, I’ve been looking for a publisher – or at least someone to handle distribution. I can only approach so many bookstores, so many people – and there are so many people I want to make happy with my books! So I soldier on, hoping one day to reach a tipping point.
I’ve been told that the combination of unknown author and untried concept is deadly for bookstores. And yet. . .
Indigo in Montreal can’t keep the books on their shelves. Montreal, I admit, is a special case. People there are constantly flipping back and forth from French to English and back again. They don’t have that built-in reserve most of the adults I come across have when it comes to a book that’s not translated. They get it in one!
But how to convince the rest of the world? Any ideas?
(The photo is from Indigo in Montreal, although they’re too limiting in the age category: Betty & Cat can go – and do go – to age nine or ten)