Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sweet Greencastle Story

This is the kind of thing that I think might happen only here in Greencastle.

The other day I was in line at the post office (in the very short line at our little friendly post office) when a pleasant woman came up to me. Although we had never met, she recognized me as the visiting professor who is also a children's book author and asked if I would be willing to come as a speaker to the after-school tutoring program she's involved in at Gobin Church.  Of course, I would!

So I took my trusty totebag full of my books and spent Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons this week meeting with two different groups of children, seven or eight children in each group, as well as DePauw student volunteers who work with them. The children were delightful, and many of them also knew me from visits to their school. (When I walk around Greencastle neighborhoods, invariably children call out to me, "You're Claudia Mills! Hi, Claudia Mills!")

I like to show the children some of my translated books, especially the copy of I have of You're a Brave Man, Julius Zimmerman in Japanese, which opens from (what we would call) back to front, with the type arrayed vertically rather than horizontally on the page. Well, in yesterday's session, one girl in the group was Japanese, here in the U.S. only recently, attending the tutoring center to work on her English-language skills. She was too shy to want to read aloud from the book to her fellow students, but her mother was in the room, and she accepted an invitation to let us hear what the book would sound like in Japanese.

It was a thrill for me to hear, for the first time ever, my story read aloud in this very different-sounding language. I could detect Julius's name from time to time. Oddest of all to my ears, I could hear little bits of French interspersed among the Japanese, as the opening scene of the book takes place in Julius's summer French class. As the mother reading pronounced all the French perfectly, I realized (and confirmed afterward) that she speaks French as well as English and Japanese.

So I had the joy of hearing my own book read aloud to me in a language spoken half the world away by the mother of a child in a group I was speaking to because in this tiny friendly town on the edge of western Indiana someone had recognized and greeted a stranger in their midst.

Pretty sweet, wouldn't you say?


  1. Lovely! Even in large cities we can sometimes find a small-town feel (I'm greeted by name in my local bookstore and, er, in my local tavern), and it really warms the heart.
    I had fun with the Dutch translation of one of my novels, trying to figure out what was being said. My favorite was "Hoe durf je?" ("How dare you?"). I think "Hoe durf je?" sounds much more indignant!

  2. Love the Dutch indignation, Tracy! One of my books is in French, and there everything sounds so much more melodramatic in French. "Catastrophe!" sounds so much better with a heavy French accent.

  3. You deserve sweet things, Claudia.