October 29, 2014

Iranian children’s books coming to the UK


Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 12.38.37 PMAmidst the mass exportation of Western children’s book, one small publisher, Tiny Owl, will bring Iranian children’s book to the UK. Founded by Delaram Ghanimifard and her husband, Tiny Owl will begin publishing Iranian children’s literature in English for the first time. The couple started Tiny Owl because felt literature in translation was under-represented in the UK.

Persian literature is one of the oldest literary traditions in the world. However, a miniscule percentage has been translated into English—Melville House is doing its part with Mahmoud Dowlatabadi’s Missing Soluch, The Colonel, and, most recently, Thirst.

Consider Western children’s books for a second: The Little Prince has been translated into over 250 languages; Winnie the Pooh has been translated into more than 50; Paddington Bear has been translated into 30 languages and sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. The West is exporting a great deal of children’s literature. Yet, are we exposing our children to the literature of other cultures. Not that I have children, but, you know, there are American kids out there reading somewhere, I hope.

A few highlights of Tiny Owl releases will be The Little Black Fish, which is an Iranian story was originally published in 1968 “as an allegory for a nation in which it was dangerous to dare to be politically different;” The Clever Mouse, who decides to marry a princess, but when she isn’t as pretty as he hoped, he learns to appreciate her kindness and benevolence; and Rumi’s The Parrot and The Merchant written in the thirteenth century.

David Almond, winner of the Hans Christian Anderson Award, wrote that their stories were “beautiful, and deserve to find an audience…especially when there is so much ignorance and suspicion about Iran.” This is part of Ghanimifard’s hope to reveal another side of Iranian culture largely ignored by in the West.

Only three percent of books published in American are books in translation. I don’t know what the percentage is in the UK, but, from one small publisher to another: we commend you Tiny Owl for adding to that number for children and adults alike.