TRANSLATION Q&A with Paige Aniyah Morris


We’re thrilled to welcome author and translator of Korean literature, Paige Aniyah Morris, who is in conversation with SCBWI’s Global Translator Coordinator Avery Fischer Udagawa about her work, bringing Korean picture books and graphic novels into English.


Paige Aniyah Morris is a writer and a translator of Korean literature, who has recently published three translations for children: the picture books The Moon Tonight: Our Moon’s Journey Around Earth by Jung Chang-hoon, illustrated by Jang Ho, and I Really Like Mom by Su-an Lee, illustrated by So-ra Kim; and the middle grade graphic novel Suee and the Strange White Light by Ginger Ly, illustrated by Molly Park.


 Paige Aniyah Morris

Avery Fischer Udagawa: Thank you for agreeing to this interview! How did you get into translating Korean literature, including literature for young readers?

Paige Aniyah Morris: Thank you for the chance to chat about translation. I stumbled into the field first as a study method and hobby of sorts when I was living in Korea for the first time and wanting to be more engaged in the world around me. I would seek out news and short stories online, browse novels and magazines in the bookstores, and read things that I’d immediately want to have deep conversations about with someone in English.

I realized that the only way to bring most English-speaking readers into those sorts of conversations was to translate the stories that excited me. So I started doing just that as a way to log what I was reading and learning. When I returned to the US for a brief stint to get my MFA in fiction writing, I knew I wanted to keep translating as well, and to stay connected to the Korean literary world.

But I knew next to nothing about the craft and the industry. So I sought out classes and mentorship opportunities and was honored to be chosen for the American Literary Translators Association’s emerging translators mentorship program in 2020—and to take my first steps into the world of professional literary translation under the guidance of the great Janet Hong.

So many wonderful opportunities in all sorts of genres have come my way since then, including the children’s books I’ve had the pleasure of working on so far.



: How did you come to translate The Moon Tonight, I Really Like Mom, and Suee and the Strange White Light?

Paige: All three of these projects came to me in different ways. The Moon Tonight came about when the wonderful Spanish-English translator Lawrence Schimel recommended me to the team at Blue Dot Kids Press, when they were looking for a translator from Korean for a book they had already acquired. I hadn’t translated a children’s book prior to that, but I was excited to take on the challenge and grateful that Lawrence had generously put my name forward.

For Suee and the Strange White Light, I was contacted directly by Ginger Ly, the author, to work on the translation. Then she recommended me to her US publisher when they were seeking a translator from Korean for a separate project that turned out to be I Really Like Mom. So all of these were projects were where people saw and admired the work I was doing outside of the children’s literature realm and believed that I would be a good fit for these books, too.



Avery: Let's discuss your picture books. The Moon Tonight is a nonfiction book about the moon, penned by an astronomer and science writer, Jung Chang-hoon. It explores the moon’s phases, orbit, and effect on Earth’s tides in a manner that preschoolers and elementary school students will enjoy hearing read aloud—while also providing enough detail to enlighten middle graders. My younger daughter was studying some of this content in her Grade 7 (Year 8) science class! Did you get a crash-course in all things lunar while translating it?

Paige: I certainly did! I often joke about this now, but I attended religious schools all the way from pre-school through the end of high school, which is to say that I never received a proper education in most of the sciences. This is made funnier by the fact that I am drawn to a lot of sci-fi and speculative fiction as an adult. But the challenge this presented when translating The Moon Tonight was that I had to be confident that I understood the scientific content and was applying the correct English terminology for concepts like moon phases and gravity.

I’ve often heard that the mark of someone who genuinely knows what they’re talking about is whether they can effectively explain it to a child. So I knew that if I wanted to translate this book for children well, I had to read carefully and fill in the gaps in my own knowledge with supplementary research to make sure that I also understood what was happening on the pages about the tides!

Avery: The Moon Tonight features main text with illustrations (both full-page and full-spread), inset illustrations with captions, a Q and A about the moon as back matter, and an author’s note. So many ways to approach the subject! Yet it strikes me that the core of this book is its main text, which invites the reader to observe the moon in a voice that is matter-of-fact yet rapt and lyrical. (“Tonight, a waning crescent Moon hides until dawn.”) How did you approach having the narrative voice relay facts while also making it welcoming?

Paige: I appreciate your mentioning this, as the voice was where I devoted the most attention. I remember checking out a lot of nonfiction children’s books from the library to give myself a refresher on how it can be done. 

While translating, I also imagined the different potential readers of the book and what choices might facilitate their reading—my mother is a public school teacher, and I thought about the books she most enjoys reading to her students and the ones she read to me growing up. At the same time, I thought of the students who might independently choose this book from the classroom library and try to read it on their own. So I wanted to use repetition and refrains throughout to give the prose a more lyrical quality and to aid young, independent readers and read-aloud storytellers alike. 

I kept the language surrounding the technical terms quite simple with a more challenging word or two every now and then to keep readers engaged. This way, the reading process becomes one of actively learning as the book goes on and doesn’t feel like reading a dry list of facts.

Avery: Tell me about the decision to capitalize Moon in the English (which I love!).

Paige: This was actually an editorial choice that came about during revisions! I know certain celestial bodies—such as planets and other planets’ moons—are named and thus are capitalized. I had long thought the moon was a generic entity, a common noun, but this stylistic preference on the part of the editor and publisher made me think about Earth’s moon as being specific, singular, and more than deserving of proper noun status. (I still personally tend to lowercase the word out of habit, though!)

Avery: Though this book’s culture of origin is mentioned directly only in the author’s note, which includes the proverb 새벽달 보려고 초저녁부터 기다린다, the book’s setting in South Korea is clear in the illustrations by Jang Ho—which show a streetscape at daybreak and a festival lit by a “full Moon as round as a dinner plate.” Were you as delighted as I was by how the book visually centers South Korea while describing the moon?

Paige: I was thrilled! Admittedly, I wondered at first whether there was much more to say about the moon that hadn’t been said in other books, but when I read The Moon Tonight and saw those gorgeous spreads, I knew this book would add a beautiful, culturally specific take on the subject matter that I couldn’t wait for children in the Anglosphere to read. 

The festival spread was certainly one of my favorites, but there were so many other moments of joyful recognition—the spread of the father and daughter riding bikes along the Han River at night fills me with instant nostalgia when I see it, and the inclusion of the Korean myth about the bunny with a mortar and pestle on the moon in the Q and A made me smile while translating.

I get so happy imagining that reading this particular book about the moon could teach children about a new culture, too, or else evoke that feeling of recognition in children who see part of their culture represented here.

Avery: To turn to a very different picture book, clearly for the very young, I Really Like Mom exudes delight in mothers. The opening endpapers literally say MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! This is so disarming! I Really Like Mom shows various animal moms and their children enjoying life together, some in realistic settings (birds on a tree branch) and some not (a monkey and her child riding a book through the air). I notice that the title phrase repeated on every spread (sometimes twice!) is “I really like Mom”—not love, though love clearly bursts from the pages. Can you tell me a bit about the choice of 'like' in English?

Paige: The English title had already been chosen by the time the project found its way to me, but I would have gone with the same one. Something I have heard a lot of younger Korean people say is that the word 'like' holds more weight for them than the word love, for whatever reason. Perhaps the latter has become meaningless from overuse, or else it seems too grand and therefore disingenuous.

Two common ways to say that you like something or someone in Korean are to say what literally translates to “I like this thing or this person,” or to say what literally translates to “This thing or this person is good.” The Korean title of the book and the refrain throughout use the latter phrasing, interestingly enough. Unequivocally declaring someone or something to be really good is a rather high form of praise, isn’t it?

Avery: Any chance the author Su-an Lee and illustrator So-ra Kim have a companion book out about dads?

Paige: As far as I know, this duo hasn’t come out with a companion book for the dads just yet, but if it ever takes shape, I would be delighted to translate it! Both the author and the illustrator have other children’s books out in collaboration with other people, but I haven’t heard of any plans to bring these other titles to English-language readers at this time.




Avery: Finally, let’s shift to Suee and the Strange White Light, which is a 228-page graphic novel. In it, three students, self-dubbed the Zero Detective Club, investigate a centuries-old mystery and nab some crooks. The young detectives take themselves super seriously, and I love how you make their voices express this. “There’s only one person in Newtown who’d write a code like this!” “Guys, let’s goggle up.” Did you find yourself turning into a ten-year-old crime solver as you voiced the kids in English?

Paige: I did! I had a lot of fun getting “into character” and channeling the voices of the kids as I worked on Suee and the Strange White Light. What I love about the series is that the kids really do take themselves seriously, but they are also completely warranted in doing so—the adults around them are hopeless! So it was especially fun to write the kids’ dialogue, as it was often very smart, witty yet earnest.

Avery: Even though Suee and the Strange White Light has fantastical elements, there are many references to South Korean society including corporate culture, family life, and the way in which archaeological artifacts are unearthed and logged in the course of real estate (re-)development. Did you find that much (if any) of this required subtle explaining as you translated?

Paige: Luckily, I didn’t have to do much at all on that front—I think being a seasoned author and illustrator pair meant Ginger Ly and Molly Park were well aware of how to use the limited space of a graphic novel to convey the important context for the story clearly and efficiently. I think they trusted, as I did, that a lot of this subject matter is more relatable across languages and cultures than people might think. I also think the visual aspect of a graphic novel lends itself to needing less exposition and explanation in the form of prose.

Avery: Suee and the Strange White Light is the companion to another book called Suee and the Shadow, which was translated into English by Keo Lee and Jane Lee. The three main characters are the same three students: Suee, Haeun and Hyunwoo. How did you find it trying to keep the terminology, mood, and characters’ voices consistent with the previously published translation, while also inventing the English of a very different, fantastical crisis?

Paige: I was nervous about that at first—it’s always hard diving into an established world that exists already in other people’s translations. I consulted Suee and the Shadow a lot while translating the second book to make sure I retained certain definitive elements like the characters’ particular verbal tics or names and ways of referring to reoccurring locations. At the same time, I felt I brought a new style to a new story within an existing world.

Avery: What’s next for you?

Paige: The next few titles I have coming out in translation are all for adult readers, but I would absolutely love to work on more books for younger readers going forward. I am on the lookout and keeping my inbox especially open for more fantastical, magic-tinged titles for kids, tweens, and teens!

Avery: Thank you for partaking in this e-interview!


*Header image: Ell Rose and Tita Berredo


SCBWI Translation News

SCBWI Virtual Summer Conference

 1-4 August 2024

 This year's Virtual Summer Conference features several sessions of interest to translators: 

  • Breakout session with Arthur A. Levine of Levine Querido: The Duet of Translation (details)
  • Translators Social with (drum roll ...) Jan Mitsuko Cash, translator from Japanese of 2024 Batchelder Award book Houses With a Story! This social is also open to translators not registered for the full conference
  • Breakout session Insight into the Spanish Publishing Industry (details
Many other sessions also offer info of interest to translators, such as Making Publicity and Marketing Work for You with Tracy van Straaten (details). I attended Tracy's session at Winter Conference and found it very practical.

As always, if it fits your budget, the conference can be a place to learn, network, and be visible as a translator!


Pitch-Perfect Translation Grant

The brand-new SCBWI Pitch-Perfect Translation Grant is coming soon. This new grant has been created to assist children’s book translators in the development of a specific translation project into English, which is not currently under a publishing contract.

Up to two winners will be selected annually. Submissions for the inaugural round of this grant will open in July 2024. So check out the details, tell your translator friends, and start perfecting your pitch!






Avery Fischer Udagawa's translations include the 2022 Batchelder Award-winning novel Temple Alley Summer and the 2024 Batchelder Honor book The House of the Lost on the Cape, both authored in Japanese by Sachiko Kashiwaba. Temple Alley Summer has just come out in paperback. Avery volunteers as SCBWI’s Global Translator Coordinator.

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