The Styling Librarian

In my opinion, books are the best accessory.

Styling Librarian: Author Interview and Review: Marijn Brouckaert Invisible

Cover image Invisible

I often hear from children’s authors, publicists, publishers, and more about reviewing books. Often, I have to be honest and tell wonderful people reaching out that I don’t want to overcommit to reviews, interviews, etc. Sometimes I come across a concept that gives me pause, floors me, makes me say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” I met the author whom I interview below because he reached out and wrote to me.

© Mathieu Bouyer

Marijn Brouckaert © Mathieu Bouyer

Marijn Brouchaert is an author who took the book he wrote, in his native language, Dutch, worked with a generous illustrator, posted his book online and then connected with one wonderful translator after another until his FREE eBook was translated into 27 languages, so far. What a wonderful way to reach out to the world and share your voice!

When Marijn reached out to me he said, “The project is a voluntary collaboration with an illustrator and over 30 translators and proofreaders from all over the world.”
This is the direct link to the English translation:

Thinking with my teacher hat on, I believe this book and translations provides an amazing opportunity for a classroom to celebrate books. First off, if you have children who speak a different mother-tongue, they might be willing to share this book in their own language after reading it independently! Secondly, if children are learning another language, they could have books ready to read and practice with as well!

"A baby that flies in your tummy."

“A baby that flies in your tummy.”

Now, on to the book!

Cover image InvisibleInvisible is a book about pregnancy, loss, birth, and something invisible. It is a beautiful, touching story with a mom who naturally has a conversation with her child about a loss. I believe it is an important book to share with children, they should learn about loss so that they have coping mechanisms, knowledge, and hope already in their hearts in the future. I’ve never experienced a book available free in so many languages simultaneously, quite amazing. I really enjoyed this beautiful story that will reach many readers as well… Tough topic for many children, I can imagine it would be a book that will help with the healing process and questioning as well.

And now the interview with Marijn Brouchaert!:

What led you to this type of publishing?

It goes without saying that online publishing gives the opportunity to spread a book world-wide, even on a shoestring budget. However, if your native language is Dutch, things are somewhat different. Dutch is an official language in 6 countries, a lot less ‘world-wide’ than English which is officially recognized in about 70 countries. So if I wanted to bring the text to readers around the globe, I knew I would need translations.

It’s incredible how you meet translators in the strangest places. I met the American translator Sean Quinn at a party in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I don’t remember what we ended up talking about but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t literature… That came later and during the year I lived there he showed some manuscripts he had written. I loved the stories and I was euphoric when two years later he told me he’d be happy to join the project. I knew he would make a thorough translation and the English text was a central point to translate many other languages.

Did you know that many translators gave the main character a new name? It’s a nice challenge to find Bastian’s different names in the different stories. Kids get really proud if they manage to decipher the names by looking for capital letters.

"When did she say that?"

“When did she say that?”

"When did she say that?" - Japanese

“When did she say that?” – Japanese

Do you have any key writing tips for kids? Or adults?

If you work with kids or if you have children of your own, why not make an online publication with them and challenge your kids to a ‘reader’s race’? Their task is to get as many readers as possible by using “the internet”. I think that would be a very enriching ‘media wise’ exercise. And they’d get all sorts of feedback.

Are you additionally planning to publish this book in the traditional format? Which languages will be your priority?

I wouldn’t be able to decide on what languages have priority. I mean, I was as proud of the first 1000 readers of the English translation as I was on the first 20 readers who read the book in Rwanda. Rather than worrying about paper publishing I want to spend more energy in bringing the picture book to readers in countries that are harder to reach. I’m sure it will lead to wonderful (virtual) encounters with children’s literature enthusiasts from everywhere.

How are world-wide connections? Have you received any special type of feedback for the different people you’ve provided your book to?

The success of this project is mainly based on people I don’t know from countries I’ve never been to speaking about the picture book in a language I don’t understand.

By word of mouth the picture book found its way to readers in 68 countries in only 4 months time. I admit the ‘numbers’ cause quite an adrenaline rush but the best part of it all is the feedback I get. From a passionate librarian who wants to project ‘Invisible’ on a wall of the kids corner, teachers who used it in class, people who volunteer spontaneously to add a translation to the collection, encouraging mails from child therapists, or a personal story of readers who lived the loss of a child. This is definitely encouraging for the next projects!

Cover image Invisible

Who have you reached out to with this book? 

At first I thought the subject of the picture book would be a “barrier” to spread it widely. I was afraid many parents would consider it a ‘dark’ picture book, so I first focused on bringing the story to professionals who are often confronted with loss or bereavement: child therapists, midwives, teachers…

This changed when I saw a storyteller use the picture book for a multilingual storytelling hour in a library. During the story he focused mainly on the pregnancy of the mom and after the story we drew the newborn sister and gave her a name. This was a wonderful moment. The kids drew the ‘happy ending’ of the story themselves!

No matter how you want to focus on the story I’m pretty sure it’s actually healthy to talk about feelings and questions linked to ‘death’ with children, even if there’s no person or pet close to the child who passed away. We don’t necessarily have to wait until death occurs to touch the subject, right?

"But is my little brother somewhere alone?"

What was your favorite childhood book memory?

Both my mom and my dad read loads of stories to me. My mom read ‘by the book’ faithfully following the words of the author, while my dad stayed faithful to the first sentence and then quickly started inventing, adding characters, deleting scenes, etc.

So I guess one of my favorite childhood memories was the first time I read Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” by myself and discovered there’s no knight with an armor made of fish scale which made him immortal so he never bothered to learn how to swim and eventually drowns.  Thanks dad!

Have you read any children’s literature books recently?

I read children’s literature all the time. I like to see how writers, illustrators and graphic designers combine forces to create new reading experiences. Also I have a thing for “bestiaries”. Bestiaries are illustrated books that show and/or describe true and imaginary beings. I like the idea of having an encyclopedia filled with … well, how do you say ‘the opposite of a fact’ in English?

Do you have a new book being released in the next year?

We’ll keep adding more translations of ‘Invisible’ on and there is a possibility that ‘The resistance’ will come out in 2014. It’s an illustrated story about tinkering, war and about a granddad who slurps down his coffee really loudly. There are five translations so far. Let’s see how this evolves. With volunteers helping you out, you never know where the horizon’s at!

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