Reading around the world, by Geraldine Brennan

Pop Up Festival Presents, from Pop Up Projects, provided a free summer showcase of some of the best books for children and young adults.

24 authors, illustrators, poets and translators brought literature to life in classrooms in 700 schools between 14 and 18 June 2021.

Over 46,000 pupils and their teachers from primary, secondary and special schools took part in a variety of readings, performances, stimulating activities and creative challenges. Thousands enjoyed singing and dancing along with the author of the Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson. Teachers posted their pupils’ questions about how they first became authors and what inspires them, and were invited to access free class resources on Pop Up Hub.

Geraldine Brennan, Resources and Reviews Editor of the Times Educational Supplement (TES), tells us about some of the events she attended as part of Pop Up Festival Presents.


Reading around the world, by Geraldine Brennan 

When she was a new translator working on her first two books, Sarah Ardizzone went to live on a tiny Greek island. 

She couldn’t speak any Greek, so went back to baby steps. She spent her evenings with the village elders, pointing to things and writing down their answers phonetically, making them laugh when she said “the moon is orangeade”, instead of “orange”. 

The playfulness that such early explorations in a new language provided has stayed with her. Sarah believes in translating ‘with’ not ‘for’ and in capturing the unique voices and perspectives of the authors she translates, mostly from French. Born in Brussels and based in Brixton, Sarah has lived in France and Argentina, as well as Greece, speaks several languages and once travelled to the Caribbean on a cargo ship! Along the way, she’s translated forty books – from picture books to novels for adults. She’s passionate about the right of children to access stories and imaginations from all over the world. 

Sarah has twice won the Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation, for The Eye of the Wolf by Daniel Pennac and Toby Alone by Timothée de Fombelle. She cherishes her long-term collaborations with both these authors, and with the French Rwandan hip hop artist Gaël Faye and writer Faïza Guène, who she met when translating her first novel Just Like Tomorrow, written while Guène was still a teenager. “When we are together we make each other cry with laughter, and my job is to hear her voice in my head and work out how to get her humour across.” The quest led Sarah to Marseille to explore French Arabic verlan (slang).

Working closely with her authors, Sarah says, means “four hands playing the piano” and the privilege of entering “someone else’s head and heart”.  

And if we don’t read books in translation, we’re missing out on so much: the perspectives of the 7.4 billion people who “think, dream, imagine and share stories” in other languages.

Click here for a list of books that Sarah Aridzzone has written and translated. Suitable for Upper KS2 +