Recommended kids books in translation

Feeling stuck in a kids book rut? Maybe some translated children’s literature from all over the globe might help. Here are some of our recent favourite kids books in translation.


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Forever by Beatrice Alemagna

This gorgeous, simple and very comforting picture book explores how things are always changing and moving, and nothing stays the same forever. Tears dry up, sleep ends, birds and music float and fly away. In Forever, Alemagna’s trademark sensitive artwork pairs with a clever book design that uses transparent pages to transform her images. Beatrice Alemagna is an accomplished Italian artist and author who lives in Paris. If you like her style, you’ll also love the delightful On A Magical Do-Nothing Day.

For ages 3 and up.


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Why Do I Feel Like This? by Shinsuke Yoshitake

Prolific Japanese picture book author Shinsuke Yoshitake is a Readings favourite, and any new translation of his quirky and philosophical work is enough for us to get excited! In Why Do I Feel Like This? Yoshitake follows a child’s hilarious, wildly inventive train of thought as she walks home in a bad mood. This gem of a book is guaranteed to lift anyone’s spirits, and explores distraction, naps, hiding, friends and food as tools to soothe and calm.

For ages 3 and up.


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Hattie by Frida Nilsson (translated by Julia Marshall)

If you’re after a funny and lively story, please enjoy Hattie by Frida Nilsson, which is translated from the original Swedish. Hattie is six, lives in a tiny country town and is about to go to school for the first time. She gets her first swimming badge, falls madly in love with a hermit crab and meets a best friend, but she also winds up in a fair bit of trouble due to her charmingly impulsive nature. This junior novel is perfect for kids who love another Swedish gem, Pippi Longstocking. Nilsson is also the author of another novel for middle grade readers (aged 9 and up), The Ice Sea Pirates.

For ages 6 and up.


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Monster Nanny by Tuutikki Tolonen (translated by Annira Silver)

When their mother wins a trip to Lapland – and with their father away for work, as usual – Halley, Koby and Mimi Hellmann are provided with the strangest sort of nanny. Grah is hairy, enormous and can’t talk beyond a grunt. Still, the three siblings find a way to communicate with their new nanny, diligently reading a library book on monsters to aid the process. But when they discover that kids all over their town have also been landed with monster nannies, the mystery becomes deeper and more magical. Author Tuutikki Tolonen seamlessly intertwines contemporary Finnish life with a world full of strange creatures in this warm and amusing adventure.

For ages 7 and up.


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The Letter for the King by Tonke Dragt (translated by Laura Watkinson)

When sixteen-year-old Tiuri answers a desperate call for help, he takes on a perilous mission to deliver a secret letter to the King who lives across the Great Mountains. This classic Dutch children’s book was published in 1962 to great acclaim. Tiuri, the son of a lauded knight and a strong believer in knightly honour, is tested from all angles during this thrilling adventure, and must truly come into himself to succeed and survive. The story is also beautifully illustrated by the author Dragt, who was a Japanese POW in Dutch-Indonesia during World War II, and is still alive and kicking in her eighties. The screen adaptation of The Letter for the King is now showing on Netflix, so now is a great time to read this timeless classic!

For ages 10 and up.


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Greta’s Story by Valentina Camerini (translated by Moreno Giovannoni)

If you needed any more proof that Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg has had a global influence on the fight against climate change, here’s a book about her translated from the original Italian. Told in a relatable and accessible way, with illustrations included, young readers will be interested to hear all about Greta’s early protests, her inspirations and role models, her use of social media, and how autism and depression have shaped her life. Greta’s Story also includes useful information about the climate crisis, and includes practical things young people can do to help.

For ages 8 and up.


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Everybody Counts by Kristin Roskifte

This unique Norwegian book manages to effortlessly combine search-and-find, counting, and a pleasingly loose and winding story. It starts with no one, then one child, then his father, then widens and unspools into a classroom, into a whole town and the whole earth. Numbers increase from single digits to billions in this way, and there’s also left-of-centre questions and things to think about along the way. There’s truly hours of ruminating, finding and discussing in this captivating book.

For ages 6 and up.

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Why Do I Feel Like This?

Why Do I Feel Like This?

Shinsuke Yoshitake

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