I hadn’t intended to visit China just yet on this picture book journey; however, Miss 6 came home from school a few weeks ago and announced that they were studying China in class this term. I scurried off to make a shortlist of titles and placed my order. Two of my chosen books immediately went in to school – I’ll need to borrow them back to write my reviews!
I have enjoyed researching and selecting picture books translated from Chinese, partly because of the amount of information online about children’s literature in China, but also the choice of titles available. In this interview on the World Kid Lit blog, Princeton University librarian Minjie Chen comments:
‘The one thing to know about Chinese children’s literature is that it is making rapid progress in the twenty-first century, and currently the most exciting growth area is picture books.’
Hoorah! And not only is there a significant increase in homegrown children’s literature in China, but a growing interest in translating these stories into English for the US market, explains this 2018 article in Publishers Weekly. (Later in my post, you’ll discover that publishers from other English-speaking countries also have a keen interest in translating Chinese children’s books.) Chinese children’s literature is in the spotlight. Author Cao Wenxuan was the recipient of the prestigious 2016 Hans Christian Andersen Award for his children’s novel Bronze and Sunflower, translated into English by Helen Wang. And China was the official guest of honour this year at the Bologna Book Fair.
I had already earmarked a number of potential titles to explore over the last year, mainly through reading regular posts by the dedicated and highly knowledgeable team at Chinese Books for Young Readers: Helen Wang, Anna Gustafsson Chen and Minjie Chen. If you are interested in children’s and YA books originally written in Chinese, their blog is an excellent source of interviews with Chinese book creators and translators, informative posts about children’s publishing in China, details on literary awards, and so much more. You can also follow them on Twitter @cb4yr
Do also check out this impressive and extensive survey by David Jacobson, editorial consultant at Chin Music Press, of books translated from Chinese, Japanese and Korean. He lists 63 titles (of which 50 are picture books) translated from Chinese into English, published between 2005 and 2018, and remarks on the striking fact that:
‘Nearly 60% of the Chinese titles came from just three small publishers: Balestier (UK), Starfish Bay (Australia) and Candied Plums (US).’
I have chosen to feature three picture books by Chinese book creators and one cross-cultural (Chinese/Brazilian) picture book collaboration:
The Story of Ink and Water by Qingye Li, illustrated by Peilong Liang, translated and adapted by Chun Zhang (Balestier Press, 2018)
Express Delivery from Dinosaur World by Yanan Dong, translated by Helen Wang (Candied Plums, 2017)
Ash Dresses Her Friends by Fu Wenzheng, translated by [unknown] (New Frontier, 2018)
Feather by Cao Wenxuan, illustrated by Roger Mello, translated by Chloe Garcia Roberts (Elsewhere Editions, 2017)
As usual, reviews to follow shortly! I hope you enjoy these books as much as I do.[Image: Chinese Traditional Red Lanterns by Lydia Liu made available under a creative commons licence. Source: flickr.com]