Multilingual Books for Kids: Meet the Creator of Madeleine Editions

Madeleine Editions - Multilingual books for children (English, Chinese, French) - available on iBooks - Interview with Eva Lou

Access to quality multilingual books can be challenging in monolingual countries like the United States.

For exposure to native language speakers, non-fluent families like ours rely on audiobooksIn addition, many families struggle with limited home space for additional books.

Madeleine Editions - Multilingual books for children (English, Chinese, French) - available on iBooks - Interview with Eva Lou

Therefore, the eBooks of Madeleine Editions are a convenient solution for families raising multilingual children.

Madeleine Editions is a multilingual, multimedia publisher that specializes in charming Tales in Music for children ages 3-7.

I’m delighted to host an interview with Eva Lou, the creator of Madeleine Editions!

What’s special about Madeleine Editions?

  • Each Tale in Music is a collaboration between writer, musician, illustrator, and narrator.
  • The multilingual eBooks are available in English, Chinese, and French.
  • A child can enjoy the stories in their parent’s lap or independently.
  • Digital format offers the option of beautiful classical music with the narration.
  • Stories are gently animated and don’t have excessively fast screen changes and distracting games.
  • Words appear gradually on each page to encourage word recognition while listening.
  • Audio can be turned off so families can read on their own.

Madeleine Editions sample stories

Little Travelers (Chinese version)

Here is an 18-second sample of the story, Little Travelers (Chinese version).

A Wiggly Tooth (Chinese version)

Interview with Eva Lou, creator of Madeleine Editions

I had the pleasure of interviewing Eva Lou in November 2018.

The background about the contributors and behind-the-scenes production of the multilingual books are quite impressive!

I hope you enjoy learning about Madeleine Editions!

Madeleine Editions - Multilingual books for children (English, Chinese, French) - available on iBooks - Interview with Eva Lou

1. Please tell us about yourself and your family!  What do you do and what languages does your family speak?

Both my husband and I are multilingual, and it’s interesting to compare our experiences and decide how to introduce the languages to our daughter accordingly.

Currently, our family of 3 is based in Paris; but I’ve called Kaohsiung, Hawaii, New York, and Seoul home.

My husband speaks English, French, Italian, and Korean with perfect accent.  This is why he can “fool” a lot of native-speakers, even if his Italian and Korean vocabulary are less sophisticated.

I speak English and Chinese fluently, almost-fluent French and intermediate Korean.

My reading level in French is actually quite good; I can read all the literary classics with no problem.  But when I open my mouth, I’m immediately perceived as “handicapped” because I don’t have the right accent.

2. How were you and your husband able to learn so many languages?

It all comes down to this: my husband was exposed to all those languages before he turned 8.

On the other hand, I learned my 2nd language as a teen, and 3rd and 4th language as an adult.

Vocabulary and grammar rules can be memorized at any age, but developing an ear for a language – for the inherent musicality in every tongue – comes naturally to children.

This idea of 7 and under as a “sensitive age” for language acquisition is confirmed by many studies.

As a writer with a music background, I am convinced that it has everything to do with exposing the ears to the beauty of the spoken word.

Explore this: 100+ Popular Chinese Children’s Songs and Nursery Rhymes

3. Did you always want to be a children’s book author?

Not children’s books specifically, but I’ve always loved literature and have been an avid reader all my life and eventually became a writer myself.

I used to only write for adults.  That changed when I became a mom to a story-loving little girl!

4. What inspired you to create Madeleine Editions?

I was frustrated that most children’s products fall into two camps: digital products are often hyperactive and gimmicky, whereas traditional publishers are behind the times in delivery and format.

I am passionate about bringing back an appreciation for literature, music, and visual arts in an innovative, convenient format.

This is why Madeleine Editions books are game-free and gently-paced; the focus is very much on the beauty of the spoken word.

For example, we worked hard to create the right balance for the animation – it’s light enough not to distract from the story experience, but just enough to keep the children interested regardless of their level.

I wanted to make it easy for parents to help kids cultivate an ear for languages and a taste for the creative arts during this crucial age.

Related: Best 20+ Educational Chinese Apps for Kids (Mandarin Chinese)

5. Who are the other writers, illustrators, animators, voice actresses, and musicians at Madeleine Editions?

Our contributors include award-winning writers from Harvard and Columbia, world-renown maestro and musicians, and the newest generation of illustrators from Paris, all at the service of our little readers!

Fun fact: our Chinese voice actress was Elsa in the Taiwanese Frozen!

6. How long does it take to create and edit a story?

Production time for a story ranges from 6 months to 1 year.

7. What is the behind-the-scenes like for producing a story for Madeleine Editions

Each story is a collaboration between a writer, musician, and illustrator.  Sometimes we start with the story, which then inspires the musician and the illustrator.  Sometimes it’s the other way around: we start with the music … etc.

Writing

When we work with original compositions, like in The Little Baby Airplane, it doubles the time.  The composer has to first compose a song for every page; then the musician(s) rehearse and record the music.

Music

The stories that were made in collaboration with the classical music label Deutsche Grammophon were faster, because we started with existing recordings.

Translation

We also work closely with literary translators to make sure the beauty of each language comes through.

Once the translations are done, the Chinese narration gets recorded in Taipei, the French in Paris, the English in New York, all by trusted sound engineers.  The recordings are overseen sometimes in person, sometimes remotely by me.

Illustration

Meanwhile, the illustrator is busy working on the illustrations.

The last person to pull it all together is our very talented in-house animator Elise Follin, who takes the illustrations and the audio and the words and synchronizes them into moving pictures.

Related: Inspired by Her Child, An Author Writes Chinese Books with Pinyin and English

8. What has been the most challenging aspect of the production and publication process?

I absolutely love the creative side of the project.  It gives me so much joy.

The IT part has proven to be challenging but is now sorted.

It’s probably the business side that drains me the most, honestly I don’t think I’m made for it, ha!

9. Which of your stories is your favorite and why?

I have a soft spot for The Princess who loved Rose, because it’s a reversal of the helpless princesses in traditional fairy tales.

Also, the soundtrack is absolutely gorgeous, with excerpts from Rimsy Korsakov’s Sheherazade.

10. Does your daughter have a favorite story as well?

My daughter loves The Little Baby Airplane, because it was a story I made up for her when she was the most “baby”.  She loves humming the theme song, which never fails to make me smile.

She can recite The Taste of a Strawberry by heart because the protagonist’s name is Wisdom, which is the meaning of her name.

In addition, she attended a workshop with the illustrator, Steffie Brocoli, who is very popular in France.

We release a story a month, and they do get progressively more complex in terms of the language.

11. Any tips to other parents who hope to raise a multilingual family?

I’ve said this earlier, but really want to reiterate it again:

Vocabulary and grammar rules can be memorized at any age, but developing an ear for a language – for the inherent musicality in every tongue – comes naturally to children.

Play beautiful audio for your children!

If possible, travel.

Related: 12 Fun Car Games for Bilingual Kids to Use the Minority Language

Thank you, Eva Lou for sharing about your passion! Learn more about Madeleine Editions on their website.

TIPS ON CREATING A MULTILINGUAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENT AT HOME

Happy reading, friends!

18 Comments

  1. Yes please! We speak mandarin and English and my hubby sometimes speaks malay to the children but our emphasis is on mandarin. Multilingual books are essential to teach and share the enjoyment of the language with the kids. The clip looks so lovely even I’m interested to read further myself! Fingers crossed!

  2. What an awesome giveaway! We speak Mandarin and English at home. Would there be an expansion into other languages for these books?

  3. Yes yes yes please!

    I speak Mandarin and Husband speaks Gujarati to our son. We each also speak Cantonese and Hindi, which at some point we might consider teaching him as well. Eva is absolutely right, to get the native sounding tone and way of pronunciation, children have to be exposed to the language from very young, some said by 4 as their muscles for articulation then start to have limitations.
    Would love to win this amazing gift.

  4. My four young children are trilingual and speak Spanish, Mandarin, and English. Beautifully said—we need to cultivate their ear for languages/creative arts during this crucial window while they are young. My eldest is very interested in learning French, which I’m eager to support.

  5. Thank you for sharing about this series. It sounds fantastic! My children take music classes and the instructor also believes as Eva does, that there is this magic learning window when it’s important to expose children to music and to train their ears. Makes total sense that this window is also the best time for exposing children to the different sounds of languages.

  6. I speak English, Tagalog, Hokkien and some Mandarin. My husband speaks English, Teo-chew, and Cambodian. Kids are learning mandarin.

  7. We speak Cantonese and English at home, and eventually will enroll our son in French immersion. These books will be give children the opportunity to explore the same story in more than one language, and will allow them to also engage in meaningful conversations with their parents in various languages.

  8. I speak Thai and my husband speaks some Mandarin. We’re trying to teach my 4 year daughter Mandarin ( as well as a Thai) and these books would be such a great resource!

  9. We speak Cantonese and English at home, and in the future I plan to introduce Mandarin and Vietnamese as well as my husband is Vietnamese although he currently doesn’t speak it at home. One of the ways we reinforce language learning at home is. Y repeating the same materials in English and Cantonese, so multi-lingual audio books will be super helpful with that!

  10. I have high hopes for my baby daughter to speak Chinese in the future. I’m am American-Born Chinese. Our family is doing our best to teach her the language. Even though I cannot read Chinese myself, I tell my daughter stories written in English in my own translation. It will be wonderful to share these books with her. Her Grandma can read to her.

  11. We have two little boys. I speak Mandarin to my kids, and my husband is French. He doesn’t have time to teach my kids French, even though it’s his native language, which makes me sad. I want my kids to have an appreciation for languages and want then to have a healthy and exciting exposure to books and media in different languages.

  12. Our little one speaks Mandarin and English (English being the dominant language due to where we live and because daddy only understands and speaks English). I’m multilingual but decided to focus on only mandarin to maximize his opportunity of hearing that language.

  13. We speak English and Mandarin at home and love all books: audio, picture, and chapter 🙂 The entire family learns together!

  14. We speak English, Minnan Hua, Tagalog, struggling Mandarin. We would love the Madeleine Edition ebooks as they would be perfect for my two children (daughter is 6 and son will be turning 4). They love reading and we definitely need to work on our Chinese!

  15. We speak Mandarin and English at home but predominantly Mandarin. And we also learn French! So these e-books would be perfect! We also try and build in music learning at home. These e-books are a wonderful idea. We would love to win!

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