How a Danish book for children about death comes to be published in the U.S.

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Illustration by Charlotte Pardi.

“Cry, Heart, But Never Break”

by Glenn Ringtved to be published in January 2016

A Fortuitous Meeting

It’s the end of June, 2011, and I’m tired of writing. It’s a beautiful day, getting on to lunchtime. Central Park calls. A chicken salad sandwich from the deli, a book, the subway. A bench under the trees near the softball fields has a plaque honoring first responders who died on 9/11. I look at other benches; there are similar plaques. I think/don’t think about 9/11, those I knew who died, those who witnessed the tragedy first hand. A family comes and sits on the next bench: a mother and father and two teenage sons. They are looking at a map and a guidebook, speaking a language that seems both familiar and not. I walk over and ask if I can help.

The Naturalness of Death

So begins the publishing saga: A Danish children’s picture book about death—chronicling it as part of life’s natural order—five years later comes to be published in the United States. Glenn Ringtved, his wife Berit, and their sons are visiting the U.S. and New York City for the first time. They are looking for Strawberry Fields, the John Lennon memorial. I mention to them that we are sitting on benches with plaques that pertain to 9/11. It seems that death entered our conversation very early. After a day-long visit, Glenn and I share professional writing stories. He writes books for children and young adults, has won numerous awards and accolades, and has been translated into 14 languages. I am particularly attracted to one book, Cry, Heart, But Never Break, which has been published in German, Korean, Chinese, and Japanese. But not yet in English.

An Inspiration

Years ago, when Glenn’s mother told him she was dying, it was he who cried, and she who said the words: “Cry, Heart, but never break.” Glenn was inspired to write the book of the same title to help communicate to his children the natural sadness of having someone close to you die, while telling the story of how a family might find hope and solace after death.

Publishing a Translation

In our discussion Glenn mentions his publisher might be open to finding a U. S. publisher. Over the next several months, working from a word-by-word translation, Glenn and I develop a working draft that takes into account U.S. sensibilities. A friend, Joanne Zippel, a manager of creative projects and people, takes on the project of finding a publisher. At the New York Book Expo, June of 2012, Claudia Bedrick, the publisher of Enchanted Lion Books, becomes interested, and creates a positive environment for looking at the text and pictures in a new way. Now, some four-and-a-half years after the meeting in Central Park, and 14 years after its first publication, the book will be available in English for the first time in January 2016.

As a parent and grandparent I believe parents and children can benefit from having available a means to discuss one of life’s most important moments. When all are ready to begin the conversation, this book will be there.

 

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