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ZigZag: De la A a la Z / From A to Z – a dual language children’s book by Rochelle Newman and Alonso Nuñez

Two Bilingual Writers Discover “Converslation”

Creating ZigZag: A dual-language children’s book that doesn’t use traditional translation

By LatinoLA Contributor
Published on LatinoLA: January 6, 201914854-zig-zag+copy

ZigZag: De la A a la Z – From A to Z is a new bilingual children’s book created by Rochelle Newman and Alonso Núñez. Illustrations are by Argentine artist Pablo Zweig. The book was recently published by CIDCLI, one of Mexico’s most renowned children’s book publishers. It was also chosen by Mexico’s Secretary of Culture as part of its literary program.

ZigZag begins with a declaration that the book, which plays with the alphabet, will be switching between Spanish and English. Unlike many bilingual books, however, this is not done by using translation or using Spanglish. The two authors decided to write the book somewhat simultaneously, so that the two languages were in dialogue with one another and the illustrations, which they call the third language, are central images that tie the whole page together.

There are two letters on every page. In the first half of the book, the letter on the top of the page is accompanied by a short playful saying in Spanish. The bottom letter has the same structure in English. When the first half of the book reaches Z, the languages flip. The message that appears reads: “Second Part. English Starts.” “Va al revés. Primero inglés.” An example from this half of the book is the Q and R. Q is for Queen with Questions, reads the top of the page. R es de Reina con Respuestas, appears on the bottom half. The image is of a queen looking in a mirror. A prince appears in the mirror while a frog sits on the floor at her feet.

The two authors met over 10 years ago when they worked together at an advertising agency in Los Angeles specializing in US Latino marketing. Núñez, originally from Mexico City, was a copywriter and lead creative for the firm, which was co-founded by Newman, whose advertising career began quite accidentally in New York City, where she was born. A theater major, Newman had taken a part-time job straight out of college that leveraged her bilingual skills and intercultural experience. It became a career.

Decades later, she decided to focus on her writing and pursue an MFA at Antioch University in Culver City. One of her courses was literary translation. Newman reached out to Núñez with a request to translate some of his published children’s books from Spanish into English. The books she chose — ENE-O, NO and La reina de corazones were both written by Núñez in rhyme.

After successfully translating the rhyming stories into English, Newman and Núñez began to discuss the idea that led to ZigZag. What would happen if they tried to create something in both languages at the same time, where both languages had equal emphasis, and a bilingual reader could appreciate the writing without feeling like they were reading the same thing twice? They also wanted the two languages to retain their unique rhythms and expressions and not be tied down by the rules of translation. Núñez suggested they start with the alphabet and they began ping-ponging ideas back and forth until they had gotten through every letter in both languages before adding the Ñ.

ZigZag was a successful seller at the Feria Internacional del Libro (FIL) Guadalajara 2018 where it was introduced. It is now available via CIDCLI in Mexico or at Los Angeles’ first Spanish language book store, La Librería: http://www.la-libreria.net/ For additional information about the authors contact Rochelle Newman at nuevohombre1@me.com or Alonso Núñez at sanchopancesco@gmail.com.

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