Friday, January 05, 2007

found in translation

I was browsing the new children's books at the library today and picked this up, thinking it might be good to include in my books about bodies or multilingual books bibliographies:

(The best image I could find of the cover, which is actually an attractive light blue, with the title in red.)

My Spanish is sadly pretty much limited to la revista and la multa, but I was so tickled by the illustrations of a woeful elphant crushing the toilet and a proud lion making it his throne, I was thinking I would take it home and just improvise the text. Then I got to the end and discovered this: "Titulo original: Toilet Tales."

Wait a minute--I know that book. Sure enough, there is was:

A book I could distinctly remember my husband sighing with boredom over when I checked it out for our son. And when I looked at it, I was stunned. The book wasn't funny anymore.

Now, it could be that I only thought En el Bano was so funny because I couldn't read the Spanish text. But I don't actually think that's it. The book has been seriously redesigned. A few of the pages have actually been reillustrated, but the main differences are in the design. En el Bano is slightly smaller than Toilet Tales, but they make up for it by removing white space around the pictures and enlarging them, making the figures dominate the pages more than previously. An even bigger difference is the type, which has been moved to the middle of the page, changed to a casual, wavy, sometimes colored font and allowed to spill onto the illustrations. It is also clearly a less bluntly factual text, now embellished with ellipses and exclamations points and question marks.

It is simply fascinating to realize how much the dullness of the text, the design, the very typeface of Toilet Tales just suck the funny right out of the pictures. Kudos to Ediciones Ekare publishers for figuring it out and fixing it up.

(One point for Toilet Tales though: it includes an illustration of a child on the toilet, which En el Bano avoids. A cultural issue?)

I guess being Time Magazine's person of the year really worked

Yesterday I got a publisher's catalog, addressed to "Notes from the Windowsill Blog." I'm appreciative, but also amused. I've been writing this blog for 10 months. I've been reviewing children's books online at Notes from the Windowsill for 14 years.

poetry friday: My son's very first Rosemary Wells

Yes, he got hooked very early and I admit it--I was his pusher.

My Very First Mother Goose edited by Iona Opie. Illustrated by Rosemary Wells. Candlewick, 1996 (1-56402-620-5) $19.99

Intended for the youngest listeners, this big, bountiful collection of Mother Goose rhymes expresses the coziest, silliest and most joyous elements of the verses. Well's very child-friendly illustrations, which incorporate traditional Mother Goose images with her own lovable animal characters, are ideal for this purpose: in her vision, Jack has a somewhat bemused smile after his tumble down the hill, and Humpty Dumpty is just an egg accidentally-on-purpose knocked off the table by a mischievous bunny. Even the little mouse frightened under the queen's chair is defiantly sticking out his tongue at the cat. An uncluttered design, with a large typeface, reinforces the purpose of the book--this is no excuse for an artist to show off, this is the real thing, meant for real kids. * (6 months & up)