Talking Turkey

Thursday, September 23, 2010 / Bloggified by Jake Bell /

I got some exciting--albeit random--news last weeks while I was out of town. Scholastic sold the Turkish language rights to the first three Nate Banks books. I have no idea how long it takes to translate a book into Turkish or what the publishing schedule is like. I may be 80 years old by the time this thing hits the stands in Gümüşhane for all I know. Regardless, I'm fascinated by the whole concept and can't wait to see how the translation is done.

On a side note, did you know there is a city in Turkey called Batman? I have never wanted to do a signing anywhere more than I now want to do a signing in Batman, Turkey. I wonder if they have a Barnes & Noble.

When I first got the word about the foreign rights, however, my thoughts immediately went to a kid named Jake from Ontario. Back in April, he gave me my favorite review yet. Of FREEZER BURNED, he said:

I don't think this guys is Canadian, he mentions US stuff a lot. You can give this book to someone else, maybe somebody older or Ben, since HE understands this boring stuff.

Jake's mom explains in the comments that Canadian kids don't take American history classes until junior high or high school, so my references to FDR's New Deal or the Eisenhower Administration and the interstate highway system might as well have been written in Chinese. But Jake made me realize maybe I was being too clever for my own good.

As it is, most of the historical references I use in the books are obscure, even for American students. I'm a history buff, so I like to talk about subjects more off the beaten path than Lincoln's assassination or the signing of the Declaration of Independence. My initial thought was maybe it would make kids wonder, "Hmm, what's the Stamp Act?" and maybe look it up on Wikipedia. Or maybe it would give teachers an opening to bring up the subject and explore it more in class, but now I'm starting to realize it might be a bigger obstacle than that.

I can't help but wonder, how will Turkish kids react to a book that opens with a chapter called, "Careful, President McKinley! Those Jalapeños are Spicy!" and hinges on a rivalry that began in World War II and reached its pinnacle during the Cold War? If our neighbors from the Great White North are stymied by a joke where the "U.S." in Ulysses S. Grant's name is confused with meaning "American," what are Turkish kids going to think when I break down the Fourth Amendment or the secession of the Confederacy?

The lesson, as always, is that I should have just made more fart jokes.

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