In our series of interviews with children's book translators, translators explain just what goes into their work. This month's interview is with Nathalie Reis, a French translator who translates from English. Nathalie explains how she came to translate her latest book series.

Some of Nathalie's translations from English

What made you interested in translating these particular books?

I “met” the author of this book series, Claire Culliford, online and I immediately fell in love with her kindness, her generosity and her unconditional dedication to her vision. Claire is an author and a translator too. Her inspiring vision is to help create a better world by raising awareness amongst young children of environmental and social issues through colourful and cheerful animal characters the children can relate to. I also love the fact that the books can be used by parents and teachers alike. When Claire asked her network of linguists to help her translate her beautiful books, I did not hesitate.
In the last week, worldwide rights to the book series have been obtained by a London publisher and I am so excited to see where the series I have been a part of since its conception is now headed.

The original English-language version

What made you interested in translating in the first place?

I’ve been a translator for over 25 years. As a child, I was exposed to 3 languages (French, Italian and Corsican) every day, and when English was introduced at school at age 11, there was an immediate connection! I wanted to be a translator from age 13, so you can say it was a 'vocation'. The ability to communicate a message and a culture in a different language seemed irresistible to me. I wanted to be that messenger!

What are you most proud of in your translating work?

Apart from Claire’s books, I am very proud of the two art books I translated quite early on in my career. They were on topics that fascinated me and they taught me a lot about translating large projects – consistency, research, time management etc. I am also very proud of some of my published translations for the Agence Française de Développement (AFD). 

Nathalie's latest translation

How did you become interested in English?

My school had very inspiring and fun English teachers. English was a cool language too: pop songs, iconic movies, plays, posters. I loved knowing what everything meant and learning more about the 'Anglo-Saxon' culture at the same time. In my small Corsica, being able to stretch my horizons to this world was fascinating.

How did your English become so good?

I travelled to England almost every year from age 14. and felt very comfortable with the people and the language. My university degree was in English. My Masters in translation was in English. Most importantly, I moved to London in 1991 and married a British man. Best way, non? 

“I’m sad because we’re losing our home,” replies Finn. “We live in the coral reef and mum and dad say it’s slowly disappearing. Soon we won’t be able to live there anymore.”

« Je suis triste parce que nous allons perdre notre maison », lui répond Finn. « Nous vivons dans la barrière de corail et mes parents disent qu’elle va disparaître petit à petit. Bientôt, nous ne pourrons plus y vivre. »

How did you become a translator?

I remember thinking of being a translator when I was merely 13 years old. I loved the gymnastics involved in going from one language to another. I found it magical, fascinating, relaxing, creative and useful. So, I studied and qualified. The very straightforward story of an ambition I did everything to achieve.

What made you want to translate for children/young adults?

When I had my own children, I read to them a lot, in English and in French. I believe in the power of reading to be an independent, creative and bright individual. As a child, I read avidly and loved storytelling. Translating for children is a way to spread the magic of the stories to a very captive audience.

How long did the translation take?

Well, the text is quite short so it did not take that long but I took my time. I have translated three of Claire’s books so far and am translating the fourth one at the moment.

What were the hardest parts to translate? 

I found the animal noises and all onomatopoeia challenging.  Once you find the right tone, it becomes a really fun task.

What do you hope to translate next? What would you love to translate?

I recently translated a book on assisted reproduction entitled Il est une fois, L’épopée de la procréation assistée (Once Upon a Now: The Epic Tale of Assisted Reproduction, a picture book that tells children born through assisted reproduction how they came into the world) and would love to continue translating books that contain messages of tolerance, friendship, understanding and love. I would also love to translate art books for children.


Nathalie Reis is a French translator, born and bred in Corsica. She lives in London with her husband and two children and specialises in art and children’s books. She is a member of the Chartered institute of Linguists and of the Society of Authors, and is an Associate of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting. Nathalie also translates in the creative industries – tourism, culture, fashion, food and wellness. When Nathalie is not translating, you can find her walking in the woods with her dog, discovering art in various London museums, practising yoga, or very simply reading on her sofa.

Nathalie's website:

Follow her on Twitter: @natreis1

Picture credits

Translation cover picture by Jess Stockham
Hector and series illustrations by Emma Allen
Il est une fois cover by Raquel Gutiérrez

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