Taking the pulse of the children’s book market in Asia is no easy task. For a start, this is a huge territory with varying tastes for originals, translations, picture books and YA titles. In general, picture books remain the region’s most popular exports. YA titles are starting to shine, with no better example than Nahoko Uehashi’s Moribito series, winner of the 2008 Mildred L. Batchelder award, now available in English, Chinese, Italian and Spanish.
For accurate industry pulse taking, no one does it better than the rights agencies involved in buying and selling rights, introducing bestsellers to readers and establishing new local authors overseas. PW turns to some of the biggest agencies in the region to give us the lowdown on four countries that are the most active in publishing, translations and rights buying in Asia—China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.
In Japan, “the children’s book market is stable. Originals are getting stronger, even in the YA segment,” says Solan Natsume, senior agent (children’s division) of Tokyo-based Tuttle-Mori Agency. “If in previous years it was hard to find an original YA title on the bestseller list, well, that’s no longer the case.” She and her team inked about 140 deals in 2008, contributing 12%—15% of the firm’s annual turnover. Recently, the agency sold several originals, including Hitomi Kanehara’s Auto Fiction and Yoshitomo Nara’s Lonesome Puppy, while signing deals for such big American and British titles as If I Stay, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, On the Night You Were Born and the Fairy Chronicles series.
Asked about publishing trends, Natsume says, “Distribution of free stories through mobile phone has reached feverish pitch. So, here in Japan, books are competing against not only the usual rivals of video games and TV shows but also mobile phones.” The economic downturn is also casting gloom, with fewer offers and declining advances. A year ago, she adds, “Just as the longstanding fantasy fever sparked by Harry Potter ebbed, fiction for middle-grade girls became very popular. But even this genre has cooled off somewhat in recent months, and it seems to me that Japanese publishers are standing by waiting for the next trend.” Natsume also finds that “while Japanese publishers continue to be keen to translate good picture books, it’s becoming quite difficult to make deals with European publishers, who prefer copublishing. Japanese publishers would rather avoid copublishing owing to its inflexible schedule and high reprint cost.”
At the Japan Foreign-Rights Centre, now in its 25th year of existence, rights sales have been brisk: its team sealed some 700 deals in 2008, including children, literature and general titles. “In general, Japanese publishers have found much success working with their counterparts in neighboring countries such as Korea, Taiwan and China,” says president and CEO Yurika Yoshida. “But most of them are still exploring the best way to present their titles further afield. A few, such as Kaisei-sha and Kodansha, have introduced English versions into their Web site to assist foreign publishers.” Yoshida sold Moribito, a Kaisei-sha original, to several countries including the U.S. She attributes the title’s success to the publisher’s foresight and impeccable translation. “Since the book has already been translated into English, foreign publishers can quickly evaluate its potential and make informed buying decision. It’s a great business model, but the high cost of translation may deter other publishers from following suit.”
As for big names among authors in exports, Yoshida notes, “For picture books, the best known of all is, of course, Taro Gomi, who is widely published by Chronicle Books and Kane/Miller. We also have Mitsumasa Anno, published by Philomel Books, and Komako Sakai, by Scholastic and also Chronicle Books.” Yoshida and her team are set to promote over 100 titles from various publishers—new and established sellers—at Bologna 2009 next month.
Over in Korea, Sue Yang, president of Eric Yang Agency, says, “The children’s market has been developing steadily since 2004. In fact, in 2007, the segment grew more than two and a half times, to $743 million, compared with 2006 and is currently the book industry’s top segment. It seems less affected by the global economic downturn than the adult segment.” The focus, she adds, is less on picture books and more on fiction and educational titles, especially English-language learning materials and edu-comics. “The success of Hesperus, published by Munhakdonge, and Wandeuk, by Changbi, has bolstered the sales of YA originals. Stories of school life and teenage growing pains are also in vogue. In terms of sales, the retail and online channels have overtaken the long-established door-to-door and TV/home-shopping channels, which have contracted in the past three years.” In translation, picture books and fiction/YA titles dominate the Korean book market.
“Now that the U.S. dollar has risen against the won, many Korean publishers are turning their attention to developing originals and hoping to increase their exports,” adds Yang. The agency handled some 300 children’s titles last year, representing 20% of its turnover, including River Boy (over 250,000 copies in circulation), the Twilight series (450,000 copies) and A Really Short History of Nearly Everything. In recent months, its sales of nonfiction juvenile titles and picture books to Japan and China has picked up significantly. “In general, exports of picture books are growing. Edu-comic, educational, self-help and parenting titles are popular with East Asian countries. Overall, exports to France and Germany have also grown significantly in recent years.”
In China, the “invasion” (and popularity) of science-related edu-comics from Korea and Japan has spawned many local productions, according to Shanghai-based Luc Kwanten, executive director of Big Apple Tuttle-Mori. “There is also a proliferation of bilingual Chinese—English translations in response to the government’s policy of introducing English lessons in grade one,” he says. “Overall, the biggest expansion is seen in the YA segment, both in bilingual publications for ages 9—14, and crossovers mostly targeting university freshmen and sophomores.” Kwanten adds: “The juvenile market remains the realm of local publishers, whereas the YA market is split between originals and imports.” The market for heavily illustrated titles remains small, he says, and the “political correctness” of American illustrated books works against them. “The sale of large series ceased by the end of 2007,” says Kwanten. “Presently, the maximum number allowed by the market is 10 titles—two books at a time.” He also observes, “Chinese publishers tend to promote local authors more. No foreign illustrated books, except some Korean ones, have made the bestseller list.”
The agency handled Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, Artemis Fowl and the Young Bond series, auctioning all three with the six-volume Chronicles getting the highest advance ($6,000 per title). “Since 2004, advances have increased from $800 to $1,500 on average. Given 3% inflation for books and a RMB10—15 sales price for juvenile titles, a translated title needs to hit at least 30,000 copies to break even. YA titles, though priced higher at around RMB25, command a higher royalty advance, making the break-even point about the same,” says Kwanten, who established a new subsidiary, Paradise Literary Agency, to represent Chinese authors (YA and adult) in Honolulu last year.
Across the Taiwan Strait, the children’s book market has been gloomy since mid-2007 after one major children’s book distributor went bankrupt and two major book chains faced financial difficulties. “Last year, Taiwan’s door-to-door market collapsed amid the island’s worsening economy, with GDP reportedly declining 11%. The public also prefer buying single titles to large series of 10 titles or more,” says Kwanten, whose subsidiary office in Taipei handled several big deals including The Compound and The Three Little Princesses. “Add the global economic woes, and the outlook for Taiwan’s book market, especially the children’s segment, is far from rosy.”
PW’s conclusion? It is a mixed picture of a growing market, a stable industry and declining sales. More originals are coming out of Asia, while big-name translations remain an indispensable part of a publisher’s program. The huge Asian presence at the Bologna Book Fair every year attests to the region’s burgeoning children’s segment and its appetite for deals, imports or exports.
The following pages feature 15 publishers randomly selected from China, India, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. There are, of course, many more children’s publishers out there, such as China’s Jieli and 21st Century, Japan’s Fukuinkan Shoten and Riron-sha, Korea’s GimmYoung and Yeowon and Taiwan’s Heryin and Grimm Press. All of them will be at Bologna 2009 (March 23—26), where Korea is the guest country. Make a date with them and see what amazing products they have to offer.
At BIR, the Stop! series is not showing any signs of slowing down. “The main character in these books is Jeany. She shouts 'Stop!’ to freeze everything for five minutes and then holds fascinating conversations with animals,” says senior foreign rights manager Song Jungha. Five volumes, 72 pages each, have been published and more than 35,000 copies sold since November 2006; rights have been acquired by Chinese, Taiwanese and Thai publishers.
BIR, part of the Minumsa Publishing Group, has 1,200 children’s titles, including the Magic School Bus series (8.4 million copies sold), Momo, Der Zahlenteufel and The Boy Who Is Always Late. In the works are Kate DiCamillo’s latest fiction and Robert Sabuda’s pop-up Peter Pan. “Although translations make up about 85% of our list, BIR originals are becoming more popular. Red Choo Choo, for instance, has sold 250,000 copies and is now available in Japanese. We have also sold The Zoo to the U.S. and France, while Seven Friends in a Lady’s Chamber is now available in French and Japanese,” says Song, adding that French publishers are receptive to Korean originals while American publishers are increasingly working directly with Korean illustrators.
Song will be promoting several originals at Bologna, including My Myung-won Art Studio and How to Catch a Tiger. “Suzy Lee wrote and illustrated Myung-won and The Zoo. Her previous title, Wave, was named the best illustrated book in 2008 by the New York Times. I definitely hope to find more deals for Suzy’s works and other BIR originals at the fair.”
Borim Press (Korea)
Since the Borim Picture Book Award was established in 2000, 16 illustrators have won and 12 of the winning titles were duly published, including the 2007 winner, The Elephant Who Went to the Forest (whose rights went to French publisher Sarbacane), and the 2005 winner This Is My Family. “We added a new category for novelty and toddler books last year, but did not have a winner,” says editor Eom Heejeong, adding that the competition aims to “uncover hidden talents and help enrich the Korean publishing industry.”
Thirty-three years after its inception, Borim’s catalogue has 400 titles, including bestsellers Adventure of a Blue Crab, Whose Shadow Am I, How I Caught a Cold and This Is My Family and translations of perennial favorites by Babbette Cole, Brian Wildsmith, Tashima Seijo and Ryoji Arai. “We add about 20 titles every year, mostly originals,” adds Eom, whose most exported title is Underground Garden (available in Chinese, French, Spanish, Catalan and Italian). Equally popular are How I Caught a Cold and When It Rains, which have appeared in four other languages.
Eom will introduce three major titles at Bologna. “One is On a Rainy Sunday Morning 7:00 by Sim Mia, author of bestseller Goyangsun, the Naughty Cat and winner of the second Borim Award. The second title is Run! by Lee Haery, whose other works will also be displayed at the fair. The last one is Hello Europe, a nonfiction title by Polish author Iwona Chmielewska. Children everywhere will love these picture books.”
Crown Culture (Taiwan)
This is where Harry Potter has parked his Nimbus 2000 broom since day one. At last count, six million copies of his adventures have flown off the shelves in Taiwan. For the last installment, the 600,000-copy first printing vanished in no time following its release in October 2007.
Crown Culture also translated Cirque du Freak (known in the U.S. as Saga of Darren Shan) and Shan’s Demonata and Mitsuru Yuki’s Shounen Onmyuoji. More than one million copies of the first two series combined (totaling 20 volumes) have been sold. “Our focus has always been on YA titles, fiction and nonfiction,” says rights director Emily Chuang, whose team publishes about 30 YA titles annually. “In the children/YA segment, we are more a buyer than a seller. Our huge success with Harry Potter and other series has brought us a big and loyal YA readership. And although 2008 was especially tough for us and everybody else in the industry, we are still very keen to introduce more great YA titles to our readers.”
As for rights sales, Chuang says, “In general, it is still very difficult to sell our titles to the U.S. and Europe, even Japan. I usually sell to Asian countries. In my opinion, firstly, our titles most probably do not have a wider international appeal. Secondly, American publishers and their counterparts in Europe and Japan have many great authors themselves. Thirdly, good translators of Chinese to English and other languages are hard to come by.”
Hunan Juvenile (China)
The 80-strong juvenile division of the Hunan Publishing Investment Holding Group chalked up sales in excess of $40 million in 2008, and has published more than 6,000 titles during its 28-year history. “Every year, we introduce about 400 new titles, targeting babies as well as 18-year-olds,” says the group’s general manager, Zhang Tianming, whose team has also translated many bestsellers, including Max Velthuijs’s Frog series. “The Chinese edition was launched in June 2006, and it was voted children’s favorite title in 2006 and 2007. Over 1.3 million copies have been sold domestically.”
Hunan Juvenile boasts many renowned writers of contemporary Chinese children’s literature, such as Yang Hongying and Cao Wenxuan (A Red Gourd and The Straw House). Yang’s two campus novels, A Girl’s Diary and A Boy’s Diary, are among Hunan’s bestsellers. Another original, a 12-volume storybook series on the 12 Chinese zodiac animals, has sold over 3.6 million copies. “Our rights sales have picked up in recent years, mostly to neighboring countries such as South Korea and Vietnam,” adds Zhang. Taekwondo Queen, for instance, was sold to Vietnam.
Among the new titles that Zhang and his team will promote at Bologna is Listening Online. “This is like a series of psychological guides for children. The author, Wu Meizhen, one of China’s most popular writers, has always focused on children’s growing-up pains.”
Iwanami Shoten (Japan)
Of the annual 30 to 35 children’s titles published by Iwanami Shoten, 80% are translations. “Historically, we have built a varied and extensive list that is mostly translations,” says foreign rights manager Rika Ito. “Our readers come to expect us to continue with this tradition, and naturally we cater to their demands.” The Little Prince, Winnie the Pooh, The Hobbit, Curious George, The Chronicles of Narnia and the Tales of Earthsea series are some of its top translations.
“The Little Prince entered the public domain in 2005, and there now exist 20 Japanese versions. However, ours is still doing quite well. We have sold over 6.3 million copies since 1953,” says Ito, whose team is collaborating with NHK Enterprises, the merchandising rights holder of Curious George in Japan, to further promote the lovable monkey to the market. “We translated The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, a new edition of Pippi Longstocking and Lugalbanda recently, and now we are working on new titles from Tonke Dragt and Andreas Steinhoefel.” Meanwhile, the originals The Magic Drum, The Crab and the Monkey and The King and the Nine Brothers are now available in Arabic, French and Korean respectively.
Two original series—the Iwanami Library of Juvenile Literature and A Pocketful of Japanese Folktales—are at the heart of Iwanami’s publishing program. The first series, launched in 1950, is considered an essential item by bookstores and libraries. Special sets are being put together for the classroom reading hours conducted at many elementary and junior high schools.
No stranger to the children’s publishing industry, 73-year-old Kaisei-sha has translated many bestsellers by Eric Carle, Dr. Seuss, Ezra Jack Keats, Tomi Ungerer, Pat Hutchins and Don Freeman. “We have sold 4.5 million copies of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and early this year the pop-up edition was out with a 70,000-copy first printing,” says Yuko Nonaka, who is in charge of foreign rights.
Kaisei-sha originals have also appeared on American soil and beyond. “Exportwise, we have done about 1,300 titles and focused on the U.S.,” says Nonaka. Top-sellers include Taro Gomi’s Bus Stops (to Chronicle Books), Satomi Ichikawa’s Nora series (Philomel Books) and Nahoko Uehashi’s Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (to Arthur A. Levine Books). Moribito, an 11-volume YA series, is getting worldwide attention. Taiwan’s Sharp Point Press will bring out seven Moribito titles in all, and Italy’s Salani Editore will publish the first three volumes over the next few years. The Brazilian publisher Editora WMF Martins Fontes has also signed up this series. Meanwhile, the animated version of Guardian of the Spirit, launched two years ago, now airs on the U.S. Cartoon Network.
Domestically, Kaisei-sha’s frontlist of 3,000-odd titles boasted many bestsellers. Nontan, a 35-volume original picture book series, for instance, has sold more than 30 million copies, and the Play Books for Babies series, about 10 million copies. “However, the hugely successful Nontan series has not made it to the U.S. yet, something which we are keen to change at Bologna 2009,” says Nonaka, who will also introduce Ryoji Arai’s The Sun Organ and two new books on counting; A House of 100 Stories, which sold 100,000 copies within six months; and 100 in Total.
This December, Kodansha will celebrate its centenary with a big commemorative event. “Our company will publish 100 new works this year, 16 by our children’s division,” says Eisuke Otake, publisher children’s books, who has already released four picture books and two novels.
Famed for introducing perennial favorites The Rainbow Fish and Miffy to Japanese children, Kodansha offers translations that make up 15%—20% of its children’s catalogue. “Our recent bestsellers are two picture books from the Netherlands—A Special Day and Hello, Little Baby—and the U.S. series Follow the Line. We are now working on Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why,” says Otake, adding, “the current bestselling titles in the market are usually the same established ones that continue to sell as well as they did 10 or 20 years ago. In our case, it would be The Cat That Lived a Million Times.”
The biggest success at Kodansha, however, is the Aoitori series for middle-grade readers. “We have just published the 789th title, and sales have exceeded 35 million copies. Worldwide, we have more than 5,000 Aoitori book club members, and among them are 100 'junior editors’ who help us proofread galleys and check content,” says Otake. The series’ full-length multigenre novels average 280 pages with manga-style illustrations. Its bestsellers include the four-volume The Enchanted Castle (at 160,000 copies), 12-volume The Young Innkeeper Is a Primary School Kid (1.6 million copies) and 23-volume PC Detectives Case Files (3.4 million copies). The popularity of this original series is evident: it won the Librarians’ Award in 2006 and 2007.
Putting a new spin on Aesop’s much-loved fables has paid handsomely for Kyowon. In Aesop’s Theater, a 3D animated series, a drama company put together by wolf leader Aesop and his fox, rabbit and pig friends travels from town to town recounting the fables. Targeted at four- to seven-year-olds, the 39-episode series has sold more than 35,000 sets (each with 10 DVDs) in Korea since its September 2007 launch. Elsewhere, broadcast stations in Portugal, Taiwan, Australia, Italy, Norway and many more have snapped up the rights to the 10-minute episodes.
Kyowon is known for such originals as the 100-volume Korean Fairy Tales (over 500,000 sets sold), 20-volume The Three Kingdoms (350,000 sets) and 17-volume Korean History (400,000 sets). It has sold Korean Fairy Tales to Belgium, France and Canada, and The Three Kingdoms to the U.S. Translations are equally successful: the 60-volume Animated Fairy Tales and 180-volume World Picture Book, both from Japan, have sold one million and 800,000 sets respectively. For Bologna, Kyowon is introducing a world literature series and Wizmaker, a CD and workbook program that helps students study English and at the same time gain general knowledge in science, social studies, mathematics and art.
Says senior manager B.T. Sohn, “Our business is conducted solely through our 30,000 door-to-door sales representatives. We face stiff competition from retail, online and home shopping channels. However, our sales remain strong because of our focus on quality and sophisticated educational products that customers can’t find elsewhere.”
Lisbeth Zweger’s storybooks kicked off Linking’s children division in 1990. Since then, translations of Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, Lord of the Rings and Eragon have populated its catalogue. “About 20% of our list comprises children’s titles, 80% of which are originals,” says publisher Linden Lin. “Our bestselling originals include one 50-title comic series that has sold more than 800,000 copies, and a five-volume series on Taiwan history.”
Linking, a subsidiary of the United Daily News Group, publishes for 8—12-year-olds and is best known for its Let’s Read series. “This 36-volume series follows the school curriculum for primary and junior high school, aiming at providing students with essential reading materials. The larger goal is to foster a good reading habit,” says editor Jessica Chuang. “We have launched a series of school and in-store campaigns to promote this series.” Linking, by the way, operates six retail outlets that distribute magazines and books by other publishers.
Lin and his team will introduce three originals, including the illustrated storybooks The Secret of Panda and Big Panda, at Bologna. Asked about the children’s book market in Taiwan, he notes that “while the birth rate has declined, our government has increased its budget for reading activities. So the market has remained more or less constant in the last few years. In general, it is still big on translations.”
This has been the home of Thomas the Tank Engine for 30-odd years. A prolific publisher, and very much a brand name in Japan, Poplar releases roughly 390 children’s titles yearly, 90% originals. Two series—Zukkoke Trio, about three good friends (50 volumes published), and Kaiketsu Zorori, about a heroic fox (47 volumes out)—have sold more than 23 million copies. “According to local daily Asahi Shinbun, Zorori is the most loved storybook hero for children aged six to 10 years,” says foreign rights manager Yumiko Urano. “In fact, whenever a new volume is published, it appears on the trade bestseller list almost immediately.” One French media company has already purchased the rights to the Zorori animated series.
Other originals, like Happy Birthday, Coco, Little Mouse’s Red Vest, Little Mouse Wants an Apple and Who’s Hiding? have been acquired by American, Australian and New Zealand publishers. Many more went to French publishers such as Gallimard, L’ecole des loisirs and Bayard Editions. “Our top exports are I Say, You Say, Who’s Hiding? and Little Cub Oof,” adds Urano, who has sold Oof to Taiwan, Germany, Brazil, the Netherlands and France. Recent successes in translation include the series Little Genie and Little Princesses as well as Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
Poplar recently published Letters from Young Witches, a picture book by Eiko Kadono, bestselling author of Kiki’s Delivery Service. Twenty illustrators, including Ilona Rodgers and Sara Fanelli, contributed to this title. This will be among the many titles that Urano will bring to Bologna.
Random House (Korea)
Much has changed since RH Korea bought out its partner, JoongAng M&B in 2006. Its re-energized publishing program now does 60 titles annually, up from just 20. It has also entered the door-to-door distribution channel with two imprints, Piccolo (for picture books) and Deep In (for reference titles). “We have published six series under these imprints, and we are about to launch a special series for English-language learning,” says Eric Yang, president and CEO of RH Asia. Junior Random, as the children’s division is called, focuses on literature titles, edutainment series and educational comics.
So far, Junior Random has released 380 titles, 60% translations. Original series Fantasy Math, for instance, has sold more than 450,000 sets and now available in Thai, Vietnamese and French. This 17-volume educational comic series applies Armageddon-like battle strategies to help children become the kings of math. Then there are bestselling originals The Spelled Village (15,000 copies sold since its launch a year ago) and The Story of Briquet Road for Children: Beautiful Loser, as well as translations Storia di Iqbal (60,000 copies) and The Rules. “Coming out next are translations of The Tunnels and The Wednesday Wars,” adds Yang, whose team is also planning several series on reading and education for young adults that are based on the school curriculum.
The present Korean children’s book market, says Yang, is stagnant. “Market consumption is declining, while production cost continues to rise. The nonfiction educational segment is faring much better than fiction or adult segments. Korean parents will save to buy educational books for their children, even in tough times.” On the other hand, he says, “Exporting to neighboring countries such as China, Japan and Taiwan is easy, and sales are growing.”
As befitting its name (which means “four seasons” in Hangul), Sakyejul offers picture books ranging from one-color (A Boy Who Is Looking for His Cow, An Old Man Watching Birds) to full-color (New Year’s Clothing, Tigers Tied up in One Rope). Many are award winners: New Year’s Clothing and Ssireum, Korean Traditional Wrestling, for instance, won the country’s Children’s Book Award in 2006 and 2007 respectively. Sakyejul started out in 1982 as a humanities and social science publisher. Now, 50% of its large children’s publishing program is picture books. “We have released 230 titles, with 50 new titles added annually,” says copyrights manager Kang Hyun-joo, whose team recently sold Something for School to Kane/Miller and New Year’s Clothing to Editions Chan-Ok.
“We started participating in the Bologna Fair in 2000. At that time, there wasn’t much interest from Western publishers in our picture books, but mostly Chinese publishers looking for educational titles. The scene has changed a lot since then,” says Kang, adding that “cultural differences remain a stumbling block to more deals outside Asia.”
But Kang believes that there is cause for optimism. “At Frankfurt 2005, when Korea was the guest country, understanding of Korean literature, culture and arts was greatly improved. So I fully expect Korea’s status as the guest of honor at Bologna 2009 to further deepen the understanding and appreciation of Korean picture books and children’s publications.” Work is progressing in earnest on several new titles targeting the event, including Two People, Tigress in Love and Sun and Moon.
Tara Books (India)
Winner of the Bologna Ragazzi Award 2008, The Night Life of Trees exemplifies the unique handmade titles published by Tara Books. “Sometimes the only way to honor an artist’s intricate and personal style is to screen-print the illustrations by hand,” says Gita Wolf, managing director and company founder. Her team has published 38 children’s titles so far, and Wolf herself has written a number of them.
“Certainly the unique nature and quality of our handmade books make them popular with those who know Tara Books,” Wolf says. “But our biggest challenge, as with many other publishers, is that of visibility. We are constantly looking for ways to make our books better known, especially in North America.” For this reason, eight months ago, Wolf set up an office in Seattle: “Our list sells itself once people see a Tara book.” Its biggest exports are Tiger on a Tree, Beasts of India, One, Two, Tree!, The Night Life of Trees and The Very Hungry Lion.
Adds Wolf, “We also have a range of titles on arts and crafts. The four-volume Everyday Materials series, for instance, drew from workshops held in schools, while Sophie Benini Pietromarchi’s The Book Book is a visual exploration into crafts that appeal to both the young and the old.” Several new titles are planned for Bologna; among them is The Flight of Mermaids, a feminist retelling of Andersen’s The Little Mermaid that features artwork by Bhajju Shyam (who illustrated Trees), and Tsunami, a scroll that recounts the 2004 disaster.
Tulika Books (India)
At Tulika, a picture book on lines and circles has turned out to be a big hit. “Line and Circle was our first publication, and it is now available in three bilingual editions including Arabic, Czech, Kurdish, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish and Vietnamese. The English-Tamil edition has sold over 10,000 copies,” says company founder Radhika Menon, whose initial concept of Line and Circle was intended for a local television program for children.
With 120 originals in its catalogue, rights sales have been brisk. My Mother’s Sari and Takdir the Tiger Cub, for instance, have been released in English, French, German, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish. “About 40 titles have been exported. It is not just the West that we sell to, but Asian countries as well,” adds Menon. “At the same time, we have translated a Korean folktale High in the Sky, and we are working with the Chennai-based Indo-Korean Centre on more children’s projects featuring writers and illustrators from both countries.” Tulika also did the first-ever Hindi edition of Pippi Longstocking.
Two originals, Ju’s Story and Shaija’s Space (originally published in Malayalam) will be launched at Bologna 2009. Menon points out that “these two differ from the stories usually found in picture books in that they tell the experiences of children from deprived backgrounds. Our goal is to introduce young readers to the world of the less fortunate. We are also looking forward to finalizing the sales of Rangoli and Night and selling more rights during the fair.”
Woongjin Junior (Korea)
At Woongjin Junior, 29 years in the business means a big list (110 new titles in 2008 alone) and equally big sellers. It’s All Right, a brightly colored picture book, has topped 150,000 copies and is available in Chinese. “An even bigger success is The Bad Kid Stickers, now in its 100th reprint. This 94-page fiction about a student getting into endless troubles with his teachers and classmates has sold over 670,000 copies with rights purchased by five countries including Germany,” says assistant manager Lee Ji-ye.
Many of Woongjin’s titles have been selected as great picture books by online magazine OpenKidZine.com (e.g., Heave-Ho! and My Insect Friends 123). The company also has a varied list with environmental themes, such as Where Does Rain Come From? and Slop Slop Water, both named the 2007 Children’s Environmental Book to Save the World for the Next 100 Years by a nongovernmental body. Overall, its fiction segment is 40% translations, with a slightly lower percentage for nonfiction. Cyberiad, Ulysses Moore as well as about 34 Penguin Classics titles are among the translated titles.
Work is in progress on the sequel to It’s All Right, aiming for a Bologna launch. “We are so excited to hear that Chang Ho has been selected for the nonfiction illustrators’ exhibition at the fair. He illustrated our original title Where Is the Moon?” adds Lee, who is hoping to replicate the success of Red-Bean Porridge Granny and the Tiger, winner of the 2004 Ragazzi Award.