What are International Books?
Many books can promote awareness and understanding of other cultures and countries. Some of these are published in the United States. I use the term "international book" to denote books published in countries other than the United States first (or jointly). Translated books are included here, but are actually a much smaller subset of international books. Translated books were originally published in another language in another country. Many books from other countries that are brought to the United States are from other English speaking countries, especially Canada, Great Britain, and Australia. Books from Canada are sometimes translated from French, usually when they hail from Quebec. A few are bilingual, in Inuit and English.
There are different recognitions that are given to books that fall into these different categories. The Batchelder Award is given to the publisher of the most notable translated book. The USBBY (United States Board on Books for Young People) selects an annual list of Outstanding International Books. And the International Reading Association publishes an annual bibliography of Notable Books for a Global Society, which includes books published in the United States as well as from other countries that are significant in raising cultural appreciation. More information about these awards and other relevant booklists can found in the Awards and Bibliographies areas of this website.
Muddying the Waters
At times it can be difficult to tell where a book was first published. Joint publication is becoming more common among English speaking countries. Additionally, there are authors who were born in another country and immigrated to the United States, who write from their experiences. And authors from the United States who have lived abroad or spent a significant amount of time in another country and write about that country. It is important to try to determine where the author bases their knowledge to help determine authenticity.
So what do we do?
Looking at voice and authorship is an essential part of evaluating international books.Try to look to see where an author is from. Have they spent time in that country or culture? Source notes and author's notes are very useful here. If it is from another country, is a translator listed? When possible, introduce that context before or after sharing a story. Seek out international books, translated books and multicultural books published in the United States. Pay attention to the Batchelder Awards and the Outstanding International Books List. Make displays of them in your library. You'll soon start to recognize certain publishers as well. Look under Programming for other ideas on how to bring the world to your library.