New AFCC Asian Children’s Book Award’s $30,000 prize will reward translators and illustrators as well as authors

Benji, Yumi, Origami! (above left) and Monster Day On Tabletop Hill (right) being launched at the Asian Festival Of Children's Content on Thursday.
Benji, Yumi, Origami! (above left) and Monster Day On Tabletop Hill (right) being launched at the Asian Festival Of Children's Content on Thursday. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

The AFCC Asian Children's Book Award will be split equally among the translator, illustrator and writer of the winning work

A new $30,000 award for translated children's books has been announced, making it the richest award in Asia for the genre.

The difference this time is that the prize, which will be given out next year, will be split equally among the translator, illustrator and writer of the winning work.

The Asian Festival Of Children's Content (AFCC) Asian Children's Book Award by Genting Singapore is a joint initiative by the National Book Development Council of Singapore and integrated resorts operator Genting Singapore.

The award aims to promote the publication of Asian children's books in multiple languages and also highlights the significant role translators play in the development of children's content, says the council's executive director, Mr R. Ramachandran.

From a commercial perspective, he says translation allows books to enter different markets.

"If a Singapore book is translated into Hindi, it gains access to the Indian market," he says.

"If it's translated into Bahasa Indonesia, the market widens and the scope for content arising in any one language suddenly has a great reach and potential."

The award was launched on Thursday, during the AFCC, which runs till tomorrow at the National Library Building.

Japan is the country of focus this year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Japan and Singapore.

In this spirit, two illustrated children's books - each created by a mixed team of authors, illustrators and translators from Japan and Singapore - were launched.

The first book is Monster Day On Tabletop Hill, about a fork who discovers new friends. It was written by Japanese author Akiko Sueyoshi, translated into English by Canada-born Cathy Hirano and illustrated by David Liew.

The second book is Benji, Yumi, Origami!, a story about friendship between a boy from Singapore and a girl from Japan. It was written by Emily Lim-Leh and translated into Japanese by Yumiko Fukumoto.

Artwork was provided by Japanese illustrator Kazumi Wilds, who said she learnt a lot about Singapore through the process.

She says: " I hope that with this book, young readers from Japan and Singapore will develop good relationships and a better understanding of each other and, hopefully, visit each other's country in future."

Beyond this deliberate cross- cultural project, many writers agree that translators play a greater role as cultural mediators.

Naomi Kojima, a Japanese writer and illustrator of children's books, who was in town for the festival, says: "Translation is important because that is how one learns about a new world and experiences what are not in his own culture and language."

Thankfully, translators, who are often overlooked, are getting more attention in the literary world.

The AFCC Asian Children's Book Award is a step in the same direction, says Hirano.

People like her, who translate from foreign languages into English, are often poorly credited and suffer from a lack of visibility.

She says in Japan, people who translate literature into Japanese are recognised with their names printed on the cover and readers regularly seek out books by their favourite translators.

"But the opposite is true in the English-language publishing world. The translator's name is usually hidden in the list of credits."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2016, with the headline 'New $30,000 prize for kids' books'. Print Edition | Subscribe