London Korean Links

Covering things Korean in London and beyond since 2006

Children’s books – the latest translation trend?

Six childrens book covers

In this month’s edition of World Literature Today, Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp draws attention to a number of recent publications of translated children’s books coming from Korea. She speculates:

The interest in the Korean children’s market may have been spurred by innovative illustrator, animator, and artist Baek Heena being named the 2020 laureate of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, a major international award honoring the body of work of children’s book creators.

I confess that the genre hasn’t been one that I’ve been tracking until now, though Baek Heena’s two recent titles have been in the LKL Korea Book DataBase since I came across her name last year courtesy of translator Sophie Bowman. But a look at the names of some of the translators listed below indicate that it’s a genre that people take seriously.

The WLT article mentions that there have been five titles to hit the bookstores in the last 12 months, but there was only room to talk about three of them. Intrigued, I contacted Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp to find out what the other titles were, and together we discovered that there are in fact six.

Title Author Illustrator Translator Publisher
Magic Candies Baek Heena Baek Heena Sophie Bowman Amazon Crossing
Moon Pops Baek Heena Baek Heena Jieun Kiaer Owlkids
I am the Subway Kim Hyo-eun Kim Hyo-eun Deborah Smith Scribe
One Day Lee Juck Kim Seung-youn Asuka Minamoto, Lee Juck, Dianne Chung Enchanted Lion
The Three Water Drop Brothers Lee Eun-hee Yoon Mi-sook Asuka Minamoto Enchanted Lion
It’s OK, Slow Lizard Yoon Yeorim Kim Jian Kim Chi-young Restless

All the titles are now uploaded into the database. The publishers’ websites are well worth a visit for information about the awards some of these titles have won; and what is surprising to me is the range of subjects covered. Who would have thought of a book written from the perspective of a subway train, for example?

The range of illustration styles is also of interest – for example, as the WLT article points out, Baek Heena’s “illustrations are photographs of her intricate miniature models, all crafted with astonishing detail and character”.

A random factoid I discovered while browsing about these titles: the author of One Day is singer-songwriter Lee Juck, who was once a member of Panic (whose 4th album is in my iTunes library), and whose third solo album won four prizes at the 2008 Korea Music Awards. A charming trailer for the book is embedded below.


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