HGE, ASRC to release three bilingual editions of ‘My Two Blankets’
Publisher Hardie Grant Egmont (HGE) and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) have partnered to publish three bilingual editions of the picture book My Two Blankets (Irena Kobald, illus by Freya Blackwood, Little Hare).
Publishing in October 2018, the bilingual editions will be in Arabic-English, Dari-English and Farsi-English, reflecting the three languages most commonly spoken by the communities represented by the ASRC.
Kobald’s text was translated from English by a group of nine ASRC members under the professional guidance by Sylaba Translation, while the book’s editorial, design and production components were handled by Hardie Grant Egmont. The financial cost for the three editions is covered by a grant from the Readings Foundation.
Hardie Grant Egmont managing director Annabel Barker said the partnership with the ASRC came about after the publisher assisted the organisation with book donations for its new children’s centre in Footscray in 2017.
Barker said the publisher suggested Kobald and Blackwood’s 2015 CBCA Picture Book of the Year because of the story’s exploration of a child’s arrival in a new country. ‘We suggested My Two Blankets because we felt the content may be relevant … but the ASRC also just loved both the text and illustrations. It is one of our most beloved and successful Little Hare picture books.’
Marketing, selling and distribution to bookshops will also be handled by the publisher, with proceeds from the sale of each book to go towards the ASRC’s literacy projects for people seeking asylum, and full royalties being paid to the author and illustrator. The ASRC said it will also distribute the books among its members and use them in workshops about ‘the importance of home language maintenance’.
In an article on the ASRC website, project coordinator Kirsty Sword-Gusmao said, ‘It’s really important for our members, not only through their association with ASRC to learn English, but to also value their home language and ensure their children are becoming literate in both English and their language of the home.’
Zakia, a community language teacher and refugee who worked on the Dari translation of the book, described the bilingual editions as rare and valuable resource for her community. ‘They will be very useful to be used as a tool for reading in language schools, as resources are very limited for our community children,’ she said.
The ASRC is hoping to undertake similar publishing projects in the future, should the bilingual editions of My Two Blankets ‘sell well enough’. ASRC grants manager Deborah Welch told Books+Publishing: ‘We’d like to repeat the project with another Australian children’s book, [one that] speaks to children’s experiences and a sense of belonging. An annual bilingual publication would be a lovely thing to produce. We also hope to inspire others to consider bilingual children’s book projects.’