Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Family Mouse moves ahead on fifty language worldwide Odyssey

Today we want to tell you about a bit more concerning progress on a collaborative international project on a children's book exactly on our subject. Back in mid March, we announced our intention to produce a 2011  edition of this successful  children's book, but this time in (our target) fifty language editions. Read on to see where things stand today. All the more  if any of you out there might be interested in lending a hand so that we can create handsome print and electronic versions for worldwide distribution and use. - Alvin reports from Paris

Story behind the Family Mouse: 1992

The children's book, the Family Mouse, was born of a creative process that involved three people working together over a period of several months in the winter of 1992. The process was set in motion by Eric Britton, who had been pondering for some time of ways to engage children in the work that he and a number of international colleagues were engaging to advance the cause of sustainable mobility, sustainable cities and sustainable lives.

This led to a conversation with his old friend Wolfgang Zuckerman who had been working with the group on these issues as writer/editor for several years, and between the two of them they gradually began to sort out a plan and theme.

In a next step Eric brought in another friend, the illustrator Roget Tweedt who had already created a series of successful children's books based on very big figures and bright colors , and the three started a regular brainstorming process.

Gradually the concept of a family of mice, facing what are after all rather typical challenges of modern society, challenges met and unmet, started to take shape -- and a few month later Family Mouse was ready for the presses.

The book was a modest success. It went through two editions in English and was quite widely distributed with the help of collaborating public interest groups and individuals around the world, and eventually procured by people in more than thirty countries.

In addition a German language version was developed in collaboration with Professor A-E Bongard and published and distributed in seven thousand copies to schools across Germany and Austria (setting a model which we hope to build on with the new edition in the various language areas)..

And now, two decades later, that first generation of FM readers is coming out of university, and, sadly as you know, the situation of our planet has steadily worsened year by year. So we thought it was time to see if we could bring the mouse family back into the picture to train up a new generation of future leaders and more responsible citizens. Here is how we intend to do it.

2011 Work Plan

The plan now, twenty long years later, is to see if we can in the months ahead create and distribute worldwide, though a friendly, wide-open, collaborative international process, the new edition. But this time we hope to get the message out in much larger numbers – with the goal of putting this little book into the hands of children, families and schools in many parts of the world and in many languages.

Our goal is to make a strong statement about the importance of engaging even very young children in the process that we now must conceive and put into place if we are to be responsible citizens and give at least an outside chance to retaining the wealth of the planet for future generations.

The key this time around is to provide a wake-up call though the creation of a very large number of language editions which we can put into the hands of children in countries , language areas and cultures all over the world.

To get the job done, we need to find talented volunteer translators /poets to work with us to achieve this common goal. Might that be you? (For reference the number of words in the master text is 1,126.)Here in rough draft form is what I think might be our shared goal and procedure.

families and for schools (where it might, for example, be used in both, say, Croatian and English version. It makes a good read for small kids learning English too).

2. Then we start to figure out how to put it into people's hands. We have a couple of goals for this, among them:

a. It should be widely and easily available.
b. And affordable.
c. Available in both e- and print versions.
d. I would hope that the print version would be hardback (if it does not put the price through the sky), because good children's book should be made to last for a long time.

3. For the school versions we hope to cut a deal with the school system in each country to buy in quantity and distribute broadly. (We did this with our German partners for the German edition in 1992 which was eventually printed in a series of 7,000. So we have a model and know it can be done)  Another option might be to get support from the European Union, if anyone out there can help us with this.

4. And since we will be facing pretty much the same challenges with the other language editions, at one point working on project after project simultaneously we will find the key. Of that I am confident.

Our language goals are . . . very ambitious. We are hoping to find colleagues who will help us get out this message to children around the world and in at least thirty or forty countries and languages. No, let's aim higher: FIFTY! (Given that World Streets is today read in more than seventy countries, that should not be an impossible goal.)

Here is the way our Language Thermometer looks this morning (before we have even started the campaign to bring skilled translators on board and based simply on some friends who got word of this and who contacted us immediately to discuss possible cooperation:
• Chinese (traditional)
• French
• German
• Hindi
• Italian
• Japanese
• Persian
• Slovenian

As to the mechanics both of production and distribution, as well as the economics,. this has yet to be figured out. But we have to start somewhere and what you have in the following is our first step.

To get things moving, we have pulled together a small workbook for eventual collaborating translators which you can freely view, print or download here: The workbook presents the revised English language text in full, and on each page reproduces the graphics from the original edition, with the thought that this will help the translator find the context and mood for her well chosen words.

If you have any questions, and especially of course if you have a bit of the poet in you and wish to turn loose on a translation into your own loved language, please do get in touch. That's either, by phone +331 7550 3788. or Skype newmobility.

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