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?)


Anonymous Anonymous bligged...

I can highly recommend all the Ekaré books. The skill and effort they put into every detail would take several pages to describe; my mother works there and I on occasion go to watch them work. My favorites are "El rabipelado burlado" and "El perro del cerro y la rana de la sabana" but that is because I grew up with them; explore their catalog, it's a great opportunity to learn Spanish while reading the most amazing books for children.

1/06/2007 12:37 PM  
Blogger web bligged...

oooo - if your mom knows any of the backstory on the redo of Toilet Tales, I would love to hear about it!

1/06/2007 1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous bligged...

This is Conor's mother and here goes the backstory of En el baño.

We first published it as a board book with the original design in a small format and had to eliminate some illustrations to accomodate the fewer number of pages, hence the child disappearing ( and some animals too). Our boardbooks didn't do so well and were expensive to produce in those days. So when we started a new collection for pre-schoolers called El Jardín de los Niños, taken literally from the word Kindergarten, we decided to include it. Our art director was not happy with the white spaces in a bigger format, so she and the editor proposed a redesign and hired a very young, very kooky new designer to make it more playful and colorful. We also added the animal dialogues and ellipses because, as you wisely say, the text was a bit too factual.
It was a great team effort, done with the consent and cooperation of our good friends from Annick Press, going back and forth between Venezuela and Canada and it just seemed to flow. It was much fun and we were all happy with the results.
The only diffciult part was deciding on a title as in Spanish there are many different words for toilet, depending on each country.The board book title was EN LA POCETA, but we had complaints from Mexico and Spain saying they couldn't understand the word, so we changed it to the generic " bathroom".
With the new design , we thought it would be more fun and open ended (like the ellipses) to leave the toilet empty so that the reader could sit herself or himself on it without having to identify ( or not) with a specific child.

Thank you for the kudos. We are delighted.

1/07/2007 10:07 AM  

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