Shelley Tanaka

Copyright: Shelley Tanaka
Copyright: Shelley Tanaka
Shelley Tanaka is an award-winning writer and editor of books for children and young adults. She has a B.A. (Hons) in German and English from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and an M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of Toronto. She is the fiction editor at Groundwood Books in Toronto and teaches in the Writing for Children and Young Adults MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Awards include the Orbis Pictus Award, Science in Society Children’s Book Award, the Mr. Christie’s Book Award, the Silver Birch Award and the Information Book Award. She has also been twice nominated for the Deutsche Jugendliteraturpreis and has been named Canada’s selection in the French to English translation category for the IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) 2006 Honour List.

Selection of translated titles:
  • Rotraut Susanne Berner: Definitely not for little ones (Märchen-Comics). Groundwood Books, 2009
  • Rotraut Susanne Berner: Hound and hare (Hund & Hase). Groundwood Books, 2011
  • Tamara Bach: Girl from Mars (Marsmädchen). Groundwood Books, 2008
  • Heinz Janisch: The Fire. An Ethiopian Folk Tale (Das Feuer). Groundwood Books, 2002

Three questions to Shelley Tanaka:

Why did you choose to become a translator? Is it the profession you always wanted?
I fell into translation as an offshoot of editing and writing. I’m not academically trained in translation, and my approach to text is not as rigorous as some. My natural inclination is to side with the reader, so it’s a balance of author intent vs. reader reception. My approach can be too loose for some authors but I am a good collaborator, especially for writers whose English is good.

Which German book do you like the best and why?
Probably the first German novel that I ever read just for pleasure. It was Die Rote by Alfred Andersch, and it was recommended by a fellow traveller in a youth hostel. I loved it and read it three times in German and then once in English.

Is there a particular book you would like to translate?
I love the challenge of translating picture book texts. Maintaining the flow and tone of the original even if the translation is not literal (e.g., when working with rhyming texts full of puns!).