First Aired on Ideacity (10/05/2012)
The classic children's book Love You Forever by the great Robert Munsch appears to have met its match. The beloved tale about a mother's love has recently been translated and produced into a Mohawk version by a team at the Akwesasne reserve in Ontario. According to Munsch, the new translation is "better than my original story. Sometimes you got to think outside the box and wonderful things can happen."
Munsch recently spoke at Ideacity about his experiences travelling to aboriginal communities across Canada over the course of his career, and discussed his decision to give free rights to his work to any aboriginal group in Canada.
The author joked about signing books at the Akwesasne reserve in Cornwall. "When you sign books for Mohawk kids, you're in trouble because they have like 26 letter names. I learned always start on this side of the book because it's going to go over one page and across the other," Munsch said. He also revealed some of his more jarring experiences in aboriginal communities, like visiting the death site of a murdered Cree teen in northern Manitoba. Overall, Munsch described his years of visiting different reserves and communities as eye opening and wonderful.
"This is why about two years ago, when the lady from Akwesasne called me up and said, 'Hey, we want to do Mohawk books, can we do Mohawk books?'" Munsch already had the first full colour Canadian children's book published in Inuktitut, but it went out of print due to poor sales. According to Munsch there were not enough people to justify the print run for the publisher. But when the Akwesasne community approached Munsch he gave them free rights to Love You Forever, and was thrilled they would produce it themselves.
"I give them a key that they can then generate their own stuff with and actually have a little economy, and they're selling it on their own," he said. "This way they made the book, and they changed the story around, so it becomes a mix, it's just wonderful."
The translators made small changes in the telling of the story and also added a traditional Mohawk lullaby to make the translated story more authentic to their community. "You know that part in the book where the mother says, 'I'll love you forever, I like you for always, as long as I'm living, my baby you'll be'? You know the part that everybody likes? We changed it!" Munsch said, imitating the production team from Akwesasne.
"All I did was say yes two years ago, and the yes wasn't a normal market model. I said in this case market models don't work, you got to work outside the market forces and put it in a foreign aid model, and that happened," explained the author. Recently, the Akwesasne community released a DVD of Love You Forever in both English and Mohawk, including the traditional lullaby and some new material. Munsch could not be happier with the results. "They loved it, they made it themselves, and it became a best hit, a Mohawk bestseller. They burned out one printer and had to buy another!"