Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

PALM LATITUDES

SCHOOL DAYS : Separating the Trigo From the Chaff

March 07, 1993|Mark Ehrman

"Can you believe this?" demands Isabel Schon, finding yet another stilted, literal translation in "Nueve Dias Para Navidad," a new Spanish version of "Nine Days to Christmas," the children's classic by Mary Hall Ets and Aurora Labastida. "It's like when the Japanese were printing those instruction manuals that said, 'Fondle your machine with care.'

"This is the best book about Hispanic culture in the U.S.," she says. "In English it reads beautifully, but this sounds like a high school student translated it. The joy of language is just gone."

Schon is the founder and director of the Center for the Study of Books in Spanish for Children and Adolescents at Cal State, San Marcos. Since it opened in 1989, the center--the only one of its kind--has been a resource for teachers and librarians, gathering from around the globe every book currently published in Spanish for young readers. With more than 6,000 books, it also serves as a reference library, and it publishes a list of recommended books, which is available through the center.

It's not just ham-fisted translators that Schon rails against; she also has a lot to say about the uninspired material published originally in Spanish. "In Mexico and in other Spanish-speaking countries, they still put out a lot of horribly boring, didactic, moralistic children's books," she says. "You know: All children wash their hands, they all love their mothers, they all love their teachers."

And books in English about Latino cultures are often no better. "American historians, especially when they write for young people, emphasize human sacrifice. It's almost the only thing kids know about the Aztecs and the Mayans."

But no matter how bad the book, she won't deny it a place on her shelves. "No censorship," she says. "We want to encourage teachers and librarians to see what's available."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|