Today, I’m celebrating Three Balls of Wool, a story of hope and ingenuity, that was originally written by Henriqueta Cristina in Portuguese. Newly translated by Lyn Miller-Lachmann, it is available today for the first time in English.
Three Balls of Wool tells the story of a family that moved from Portugal to Czechoslovakia in search of a place where ‘all children go to school.’ Their new country, however, was far from perfect. In the new, gray world in which they found themselves, the family felt the lack of freedom in the smallest things, such as the colors one could and could not wear. The mother of the family set to work and sparked a small revolution, showing all that can be accomplished with some creativity and a little bit of wool.
Three Balls of Wool is especially close to my heart because I had the fortune to join Henriqueta Cristina and Lyn Miller-Lachmann the day they first met in the beautiful Portuguese town of Coimbra. As we talked about the international world of children’s literature, Henriqueta’s husband, Raimundo, gave us a private tour of one of the world’s oldest and most beautiful universities.
Lyn, who you might recognize from an earlier post and as a successful author in her own right, has taken on the role of translator over the past few years. In addition to Three Balls of Wool, she has translated three other award-winning picture books, The World in a Second; Lines, Squiggles, Letters, Words; and The Queen of the Frogs. Lyn joins us today from New York City to talk about her dual life and tell us What Was on her…
List of Favorite Memories from Coimbra: Meeting Kuki (Henriqueta’s nickname) and Raimundo and touring the UNESCO World Heritage Site at the University of Coimbra. I’m so happy that Sandra could come along. Among other interesting things we learned is that bats were encouraged to live in the Joanina Library, built in the Middle Ages, in order to eat book-destroying insects.
My trip with Sandra was the second time my husband Richard and I had traveled to Coimbra. The first time, we saw the home where José “Zeca” Afonso, the revolutionary fado singer, lived when he was a doctoral student at the university. He lived across the street from the Sé Velha, the old cathedral, but I suspect he didn’t spend a whole lot of time there.
Most Recent Portuguese Travel Agenda: The last time we were in Portugal, our university housing was in an old convent. While it was a healthy walk from public transportation, the location and ambiance were perfect for a writer, and I got a lot of work done on a brand-new project. We also traveled to Austria, where my maternal grandmother’s family originated. Richard and I spent a lot of time looking for a café that specialized in her wonderful Dobash cake. (The closest we ever came was years ago in Budapest, Hungary where the Dobos Torte was first invented.) While in Vienna, I took a day trip to Bratislava, Slovakia, making me the only person in my family who has ever been to Slovakia.
Glossary of Portuguese Words:
- bom dia/boa tarde/boa noite: good morning/afternoon/evening
- obrigado/a: thank you
- até logo: see you later
- o novelo: the ball of wool
- o livro: the book
- ler: to read
- a livraria: the bookstore
- os meninos: the children
- o mundo: the world
- Desculpe pelo nosso presidente: I’m sorry for our president.
Writing Desk: Piles of notes on slips of paper. When I write, I make a rough outline, but what happens within each scene is often a momentary inspiration that I write down on an index card or sticky note. Yes, it’s old-fashioned, and my desk is soon covered with these slips of paper. One of my favorite writing moments is when I finish a chapter for the first time or a revision, I gather up the relevant notes and put them in a folder or throw them away. Unless they’re really important for the future of the story, I throw them away.
Translation Desk: Right now, copies of books that I’m considering for translation because I’m between projects and focused on finishing and finding a publisher for a pair of historical novels.
Catalogue of Favorite Things in New York:
- The Tenement Museum and Store
- The LEGO Store in Flatiron (though the prices are 10% higher than online and in other LEGO Stores)
- Independent movie theaters and film festivals that show films from other countries and bring the filmmakers for Q&A.
- Restaurants from all over the world. You can try out any cuisine without leaving NYC.
Coffee Table: LEGO pieces. I made a set of Lego Tiny Houses that I auctioned off—one for a VCFA fundraiser and one to benefit people in Texas affected by Hurricane Harvey. Now, I’m starting on an Amsterdam-style houseboat to replace the Tiny Houses.
Dinner Plate: Tonight, shrimp with ratatouille. It was French night at our house.
- Finish a pile of interviews and guest posts for the launch this month of Three Balls of Wool.
- Finish an early chapter book for an educational publisher.
- Make progress on a new YA historical novel set in Central Europe in the late 1960s.
- Prepare a school presentation about my debut YA novel Gringolandia and my experience writing on the refugee experience.
- Renew my passport.
Mind: How easily an inhumane regime can take power and instantly endanger the lives of millions of people. We talk about institutions and checks and balances, but these are only as good as the willingness of people to uphold norms and the rule of law, and to defend the dignity and rights of every human being.
Lyn Miller-Lachmann Lyn Miller-Lachmann Lyn Miller-Lachmann Lyn Miller-Lachmann
You can keep up to date with Lyn by visiting her online at lynmillerlachmann.com and by following her on Twitter at @LMillerLachmann. If you would like to order Three Balls of Wool, click on the book below:
If you would like to know more about me and my writing, please visit sandranickel.com.