The Treasure of Barracuda is the latest mid-grade novel published by Little Pickle Press (their new imprint, Big Dill Stories) - the publisher of my own A Bird on Water Street - and it is marvelous! It was written by Llanos Campos, illustrated by Júlia Sardà and translated into English by Lawrence Schimel. It's a tribute to books and reading, cleverly disguised in a fantastically entertaining pirate story.
     Librarians and teachers - you need to check this one out - it will fill a need for you, PROMISE!!!!
     Happily, I sent some questions to Llanos and Lawrence translated them for us below, along with answering some questions himself about translating books - Groovy! Read on...

e: Llanos, I so enjoyed this story! It’s a tribute to reading, while keeping a rapid pace for readers. I couldn’t put it down!

      My life oscillates between theater and literature. This novel was born as a children's theater piece called SoloLeo that I put on with my company years ago, which is about reading, imagination and surprise. In this piece, a boy named Leo (who doesn't like to read--a joke since "leo" in Spanish means "I read") is so bored that one of the books in his room comes to life and starts to tell him a story about knights, dragons and battles. Another tells him a horror story, and another... one about pirates. I wrote the first chapter of THE TREASURE OF BARRACUDA for this theatrical piece, when the crew arrives on Kopra and finds the legendary treasure of Phineas Krane. Since the show was about literature, I thought it would be funny if the treasure they finally found were... a book. And that's where the story remained for almost a year. But I knew there was something more there. If the pirates were illiterate, what would they do with a book? If someone took so much effort to hide something as Phineas did with his "treasure", what would this book contained? The rest, I must admit, emerged with astonishing fluidity.
e: How did the story idea come to you? Did you begin with a pirate story in mind first, or a story about learning to read?

      It began as a story about pirates. This is a world that's fascinated me since I was a little girl. Living on board a ship, with no other law but the sea, no other ruler but your captain, traveling from port to port, from adventure to adventure... it seemed to me (and it still seems so now) the height of happiness. And it began there because I think that a story (novel, theater piece, film) whether for children or adults, must in my opinion be fun first of all (in many different ways). Especially if it's for children. What a child must learn first about reading is that it's FUN. And later everything else will follow without effort.
e: So many action stories can feel like they jump from scene to scene - all your scenes wove together perfectly. Was that difficult to achieve? Was it an issue at all?

      More than difficult, it was a challenge. And I like challenges. I must also say that perhaps because of my theater background I write thinking about the story almost as if it were a film, I see it clearly in my head, with clear images, being very aware of the rhythm of the action.
e: What has been your path to publication and your first novel in English?

      I can't complain. My path has been meteoric. I have devoted my whole life to writing theater. This is my first published novel. I never tried to write one before because it seemed to me to be tremendously difficult. When I finished it, aided by my lack of knowledge in this area, I dared to send it to the very prestigious "El barco de vapor prize" in Spain. In truth, I just wanted someone to read it, and I thought submitting it for the prize would guarantee that. And then I went and won it! No one was more surprised than I was! Not even the pirates in Kopra!
      From that moment, everything has been one joy after another. If someone would have told me two years ago that a novel by me (my first novel) would journey to South America, to Italy, to the Arab Emirates, that it would be translated into Persian, into English! I wouldn't have believed it. I still pinch myself every morning.
e: Will this be the first of a series, I hope? I want to know what happens next!

      It is already the first of a series. Another proof that I never really thought I'd win the problem was that I didn't even know if one could present a book that didn't end. This story is a series of three books. After THE TREASURE OF BARRACUDA comes BARRACUDA AT THE END OF THE WORLD (already in Spanish bookstores) and at the beginning of next year the third part will be published, BARRACUDA, THE DEAD KING OF TORTUGA, both full of adventures and enormous surprises.
      And I must admit that it's been very sad for me to say goodbye to my pirates.

### Now for Lawrence!

e: Lawrence, what was your initial reaction to the story?

      I knew this story was going to be great fun to work on from the very start. I was asked by the original publisher to do a sample of the first few chapters, for them to use to show to foreign publishers who don't read in Spanish. And I really hoped that an English-language publisher would pick up this project because I really wanted to continue translating the adventures of Sparks and the crew of the Barracuda! I'm so glad that Little Pickle Stories did just that, and then asked me to continue translating the rest of the book.

e: Do you have to love a story to translate it?

      I think that as a literary translator, having an affinity for the work you're translating is really important. Literary translation isn't just a matter of substituting a word in one language for the definition of that word in another. I think that not loving a story you're working on makes it so much harder to do the work, and the end result might feel flat–it isn't fair to the original author, the story, or yourself as a translator (working on the "wrong" story for you can feel like having your teeth pulled).

e: Did the humor translate easily between languages, or was it a struggle?

      Pirates and reading are both subjects that kids (and I) love, so there were a lot of similarities between the original and the English, or ways to re-create the jokes in English. I think the trickiest bit was the word play when the pirates are still just learning to read and make mistakes with words that look almost identical but have one letter different–and of course, they mean very different things. In those cases, the wordplay was more important than trying to reproduce the literal sentence in the original, so the trick was to convey the liveliness and the fun of the original.

e: Thanks you Llanos and Lawrence! I hope we get to read lots more about Sparks and the crew of the Barracuda!
P.S. My friend Pedro loves this book!

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