Chinese children’s books popular with overseas readers

Updated: February 13, 2020 Source: People’s Daily Online
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Thanks to its high level of creativity and design as well as its various models of Chinese-foreign cooperation, Chinese children’s books have drawn worldwide attention and enjoyed increasing influence in overseas markets.

Visitors at the China Shanghai International Children's Book Fair (Photo/Xinhua)

In recent years, more and more Chinese children’s literature works have won extensive praise around the world, winning global awards one after another.

Not long ago, White Fox, a children’s book by Chinese author Chen Jiatong, was included by Financial Times on the list of its ‘Best books of 2019: Children’s books’. Since it was introduced to the UK in 2018 by British publishing company Chicken House, White Fox has attracted a great deal of attention from British readers.

White Fox is the first Chinese children’s book introduced by world-renowned publisher Barry Cunningham to the UK. Cunningham spoke highly of the book and its author Chen, saying that they make him feel the unique cultural appeal of a brand new Chinese narrative.

So far, the copyright of the White Fox series has been exported to the UK, US, France, Germany, and Mexico.

White Fox is not the only success story in Chinese children’s literature. In 2016, Chinese novelist Cao Wenxuan won the Hans Christian Andersen Award. Ever since then, the international publishing industry has paid growing attention to Chinese children’s books.

In October 2019, Zhu Chengliang, a Chinese author and illustrator of children’s books, won the Golden Apple Award at the 27th Biennale of Illustrations Bratislava (BIB) 2019 for his picture book Don’t Let the Sun Fall.

In June 2019, Chinese author Liu Xianping won the Honorary Award at the Bianki International Literature Awards in Moscow with his novel Lonely Elk King, among many other examples.

Besides international awards, Chinese children’s books have also won favor with foreign publishers. At such international book fairs as the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy, Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany, and Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, exhibition stands of Chinese companies that publish children’s books are attracting the attention of more and more foreign exhibitors.

At one book fair, Peter Usborne, founder and managing director of British publisher Usborne Publishing, told Bai Bing, editor in chief of China’s Jieli Publishing House, that he has told all of his employees to focus on Chinese exhibition stands, hoping that they will gain better knowledge of the children’s books market in China.

Imported children’s books used to be a hot spot in the Chinese children’s book publishing industry. But today, Chinese children’s books have become one of the areas witnessing the fastest development, the best economic returns, and the fiercest competition.

More than 520 of China’s over 580 publishing houses are engaged in publication of children’s books, printing 900 million copies and 23,000 varieties of children’s books per year.

“By importing copyrights, Chinese writers and the publishing industry have learned a lot and progressed quickly. Now, Chinese children’s books have seen a huge improvement in quality,” said Bai.

“We fully follow internationally recognized copyright rules in introducing our children’s books to overseas markets. We are ready to have our books tested in markets,” disclosed Ma Lina, director of the center on international cooperation of Encyclopedia of China Publishing House.

Encyclopedia of China Publishing House has exported copyrights of its encyclopedia books for children to more than 10 countries and regions, and realized export of copyrights of more than 100 categories of books since 2016.

In addition, various models and multiple channels for promoting the overseas popularity of Chinese children’s books have frequently emerged, such as Chinese-foreign cooperation in the creation of children’s books, and establishment of overseas branches of Chinese publishing companies.

The Beijing-based Daily Publishing House is now working with a publishing house from Norway for a China-Norway picture book co-creation project. Each side will send three authors and three illustrators to work on the project. These six people work in pairs to create six picture books, which will be published in both China and Norway.

“The reason why we chose to create these books through cooperation with a foreign counterpart is that we want to get a deep understanding of the local market and the needs of its readers, and we also want to see how foreign publishers create books and run businesses,” said Zhang Yuntao, president of Daily Publishing House.

By jointly creating picture books, the two publishing houses can realize a deeper level of exchanges and cultural cooperation, said a publisher from Norway.

Through merger and acquisition, Guangxi Normal University Press Group has established several branches in countries including Australia, Malaysia, Croatia, and Japan.

China has the world’s largest children’s books market, which is a unique advantage that China’s children’s books industry possesses, according to Bai, noting that he believes that China will be an important exporter of children’s books and make greater contributions to the global publishing industry in the future. 

Editor: 张广琳