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Translated Children’s Fiction in New Zealand

History, Conditions of Production, Case Studies


Anne Siebeck

In 2005, a new publisher entered the New Zealand market – the first to specialise in English translations of children’s books. The notion of «homegrown translations» was a new departure for a post-colonial book market dominated for several decades by literary nationalism. This study aims to illuminate the history of translated children’s books in New Zealand and the sociocultural context in which the translations of this new publisher are produced and received in order to account for the peculiarities of marketing and reception associated with them. For this purpose, diachronic and synchronic perspectives are combined with case studies of individual books and series.
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1 The History of Translated Children’s Literature in New Zealand


1The History of Translated Children’s Literature in New Zealand

In the 2006 conference publication Literary Translation in New Zealand the only essay on children’s books states: “By a considerable margin, the most common form of published literary translation in New Zealand at the moment is children’s literature-in-translation.”1 What author Don Long is referring to is translation in the educational sector from or into Māori and Pacific Island languages.

According to the 2006 census, 30.7% of the population identify with the ethnic groups Māori, Pacific peoples or Asian.2 Statistics from the Ministry of Education based on July 2012 school rolls show that 42.3% of the school-aged population identify with the ethnic groups Māori (22.7%), Pacific peoples (9.9%) or Asian (9.7%).3 Educational publishing, Long points out, is an important outlet in particular for languages other than English with a small number of speakers such as Tokelauan, for which it is the only way to publish texts aimed at children – whether these be original or translated texts.4 About a quarter of educational resources produced in New Zealand, he claims, are translated readers (Long prefers the term ‘book’ but it should be noted that there is a significant difference between educational readers and trade children’s books5), and are mostly translated into Māori or Samoan. The major producer of such materials according to Long is educational state publisher Learning Media, which started providing Pacific Island language resources to schools in 1976. He does, however, voice...

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