The titles Chinese publishers are bringing to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in April run the gamut from downright whimsical to outrageously adventurous. Contemporary themes and plots weave through many of the picture books, representing a major shift from the oft-regurgitated folktales and classical stories of past years. Illustrations often blend the best of Chinese traditional art styles—ink wash and paper cutting in particular—into something that is uniquely Chinese and yet universal and modern. Those titles that do engage with Chinese culture, folktales, and history, on the other hand, are given a unique spin to make the stories fresh, engaging, and accessible to young readers around the world.
The ever-present educational slant in the Chinese children’s book industry (and the market demand therefor) is impossible to miss: the illustrations are not there just for the sake of prettying up the pages but to highlight the content and to educate. And, in consideration of the emotional makeup (and developmental needs) of the young, the content is always geared to the thoughtful, warm, and sensitive. Storybooks and bilingual editions for the very young (up to age three) are popping up in this showcase, indicative of a nation that is placing a lot of emphasis on early childhood education and an industry working hard to fulfill the content and quality requirements of preschool teachers and young parents.
Also obvious are the presence of many middle grade and young adult titles—the two categories that have been slow to pick up in China due to its exam-centric education system and pedagogy (which are now set for a complete overhaul in 2020). Humor is a significant element in such titles.
Famous names and personalities—Cao Wenxuan, Qin Wenjun, Shen Shixi, Tang Sulan, and Yang Hongying, for instance—are going to be well represented at Bologna. So are multivolume series of the educational and fantasy/mystery kind, which have been selling very well in China, especially through online retailers and social media platforms.
Selling rights are on top of everybody’s agenda at Bologna, and Chinese publishers are no exception. To ease the rights-selling process, many Chinese publishers are working on translating their titles and preparing English-language samplers (chapters or whole books) to bring along to the fair.
The 10 publishers profiled in this special report will be at Bologna, and the following pages contain a sampling of their original Chinese publications on offer, for which they have provided descriptions.
21st Century Publishing
Whimsical, imaginative, and inspiring, this picture book is about a frog named Hahaha who wonders about his lack of a tail and his journey to find the tail in question. (Ages 3–6.)
A Panda’s Story
Beautifully illustrated in black-and-white (with vivid red text), A Panda’s Story chronicles the birth, growth, and survival of a panda, and that panda’s reunion with his mother. Weaved into the story is the 2008 Sichuan earthquake that devastated much of the giant panda’s habitat. (Ages 3–6.)
Express Delivery from Dinosaur World
This mysterious package unveils a prehistoric world of dinosaurs of different shapes and colors. The 10 adventures within contain activities, puzzles, and games that will keep your child entertained for hours. (Ages 5–8.)
You’re My Sister
In a remote and scenic village where life is simple, a group of girls from two different families illustrate bonds of love and friendship that are lasting, pure, and precious. (Ages 8–14.)
Anhui Children’s Publishing House
Baby I Know You
Each book in this series recreates the world of children, exploring that world’s innocence as well as its fantastical and scary bits. The series urges parents to take it slow and to try to appreciate a child’s thought processes, perspectives, and emotions. (Five volumes; ages 3–6.)
Fun Pop-up Classic Fairy Tales
Classic fairy tales, from the tortoise-hare race to Pinocchio, now come with complex pop-ups and pull tabs! Each book offers 16 beautifully illustrated pages for fun parent-child interaction. (Eight volumes; up to age 3.)
The story of Pip’s lively and innocent life—full of fun and mischief—is used to advance a better understanding of, and better responses to, a child’s behavior and psychological and emotional makeup, in order to help a child become a confident and good person. (Two volumes; ages 3–6.)
Environmental concerns and the author’s wild imagination give rise to these novels, which revolve around a troubled botanist, his wise wife, marauding arms dealers, and helpful animals.
A happy (and green) read full of joy, magic, and ecological awareness. (Three volumes; ages 11–14.)
Beijing Dandelion Children’s Book House
Xiaomi Grows Up
With her family thrown into disarray—grandfather falls ill, and mother has to move to a mountain village for six months for work—first-grader Xiaomi makes her own decisions, finds unexpected surprises, and gains many new experiences. (Six volumes; ages 7–up.)
Classic Picture Books in China
Edited by Yan Xiaoli et al.
This collection celebrates the best of Chinese picture books and original illustrations from the 1960s and 1970s. It contains classics such as The Giant Turnip, Pony Crossing the River, and Pig Eating the Watermelon. (11 volumes; ages 3–up.)
Through the Eyes of a Teenager
Orphaned during the 1937 Battle of Shanghai, a 12-year-old grew up amid strangers in orphanages to become a postman. Through all these years, he continued to believe that his younger sister did not perish during the battle… (Ages 7–up.)
You Give Me Roses, What Do I Give You?
Written to mark World Book Day, this title starts with a raccoon giving a squirrel a rose as a gift, which the squirrel then gives to her mother, who decides to tell a story in return. And the story is then passed on from one to the next as a gift. (Ages 3–up.)
Children’s Fun Publishing Company
This series is a continuation of the author’s bestselling books about wolves. In this series, the protagonist is awkward, awesome, kind, and funny, and totally relatable to young children. (Two volumes; ages 3–9.)
Chinese Fairy Tales Through the Generations
Edited by Wang Quangen
This compendium offers six classic ancient Chinese fairy tales. One of them, Yeh-hsien, is one of the oldest versions of Cinderella, told some 800 years before the version popular today. (Six volumes; ages 7–up.)
Chinese Classics & Traditional Animations
Shanghai Animation Film Studio
With hand-painted illustrations by Chinese masters, this series, which includes “The Monkey King,” is a perfect addition to any home library. (Two nine-volume sets; ages 3–up.)
Original Picture Books from Zhang Leping Award
Chen Lianhua et al.
The books in this series are winners of the award named for comic artist Zhang Leping, who played a key role in the development of modern comics (or manhua) in China, and whose notable work is the stories of the three-haired boy Sanmao. This series showcases the best of Chinese manhua in recent years. (Six volumes; ages 3–8.)
China Children’s Press & Publication Group
Illustrated by Roger Mello, the pages of this book follow a lemon-colored butterfly’s journey across deserts, rivers, and mountains in search of a field of flowers. Unfortunately, the field of flowers is submerged in flood water. This is a story of nature, dreams, and unflinching courage. (Ages 6–up.)
Daddy, Don’t Be Afraid
Father Bear and Cub Kaka go out to find food, with the latter warned not to eat white-flowering rabbit grass, lest he turn into a rabbit. But when Father Bear turns into a rabbit, Kaka has to be his protector and grows up fast. (Ages 3–6.)
I Am Hua Mulan
Set in modern times, in this story a little girl dreams about her namesake, the legendary warrior Hua Mulan, and of the warrior Mulan’s life—the hardships of war, the beauty of comradeship in the battlefield, and the longing for home. The modern Mulan proves just as courageous and kind as her namesake. (Ages 6–up.)
Where Does Rice Come From?
Young readers will learn about how rice is grown—the tools used, the ideal planting conditions, and the different stages a seed must go through before it eventually becomes a grain of rice. (Ages 5–up.)
Hunan Juvenile & Children’s Publishing House
The Adventure of Prince
The characters and adventures in this series occur in a realistic world where children and adults alike will encounter beauty and ugliness, simplicity and complexity, happiness and sadness. Readers are encouraged to find the wisdom, courage, and strength to face life challenges. (Three volumes; ages 8–12.)
Whether it is telling the story of a wolf, boar, eagle, or extinct dinosaur, this series depicts the harshness of the natural world even as it praises the beauty, diversity, and resilience of the animal kingdom and nature. (Eight volumes; ages 8–14.)
Extraordinary Life Stories
An inspiring series on the lives of eight extraordinary people—Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Ang Lee, Hayao Miyazaki, and Ando Tadao—that seeks to uncover their courage, patience, and perseverance. (Eight volumes; ages 8–12.)
Stories of Clumsy Wolf
This award-winning laugh-a-minute series is about a warm-hearted wolf who is clumsy, funny, honest, and simple, and who is kind to all sorts of friends (including a bunny, duckling, kitten, and more). (Eight volumes; ages 6–12.)
Jieli Publishing House
On the Origin of Species
This exquisite book relates Darwin’s academic life, his theory of evolution, and the impact of his discoveries on today’s world. Using plain language and hundreds of illustrations, this book is both illuminating and accessible to young children. (Ages 7–up.)
School of Cool Bugs
This is China’s very first original comic series that offers in-depth knowledge of the insect world. The series vividly illustrates all sorts of insects while highlighting their unique characteristics, habits, and habitats through funny and entertaining adventures. (12 volumes; ages 6–up.)
Little Bird Princess
Two girls—willful and arrogant Guoguo and kind and noble Jigu—enter the imaginative world of the Kingdom of a Thousand Birds and are transformed into bird princesses. (Three volumes; ages 7–10.)
Xiao Mao et al.
Using simple words, this bilingual early childhood picture book series encourages and stimulates toddlers to start learning and thinking creatively. The English text is by Harvard linguist Josh Steinberg. (20 volumes; ages 2–up)
Juvenile & Children’s Publishing House
Adventures of San Mao
Sanmao, a child with only three hairs on his head, is a Chinese boy who is also a symbol of Chinese identity. His adventures span the 1930s (as a naughty young boy), the 1940s (as a soldier), and modern China (as a keen sports fan and science enthusiast, and everything else). (Ages 6–10.)
Baozi the Little Bear
This fantasy series about a three-year-old boy and his little magical toy bear has sold nearly 500,000 copies in China. Woven in throughout are the themes of companionship, love, responsibility, and personal growth. (Six volumes; ages 6–9.)
100,000 Whys, 6th Edition
Edited by Han Qide
With new questions and fresh content in an attractive full-color design, this series sets out to explore topics in basic sciences, recent scientific discoveries and inventions, and hot issues on the leading edge of scientific research.
(18 volumes; ages 9–up.)
Traditional Chinese Festivals
Beautiful illustrations and lively stories introduce traditional Chinese festivals and customs involving activities such as dragon-boat racing, eating dumplings and mooncake, and kite flying. (Eight volumes; ages 3–6.)
Xinjiang Juvenile Publishing House
Afanti: Comics Edition
Tinged with a strong Xinjiang ethnic flavor, the classical stories of the inimitable Afanti are delivered here in three vividly illustrated volumes, with each focusing on his humor and wisdom. (Three volumes; ages 7–10.)
A modern-day boy gets lost (or distracted) and ends up on great adventures during his travels with his father to the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, the Shaolin Temple, and other places. (Five volumes; ages 3–6.)
The essence of Mongolia—its history, philosophy, politics, economy, military, customs, and rugged landscape—runs through this epic that chronicles the heroic stories of Jangar and his 12 commanders. (14 volumes; ages 8–12.)
When I Was in My Childhood
A panorama of old Beijing from the 1930s through the 1990s is central to this series, which depicts changes to life and culture in the capital city and its hutongs. (Four volumes; ages 3–6)
Zhejiang Juvenile & Children’s Publishing House
Five Little Wolves
From the king of animal stories, whose books have sold over 26 million copies, Five Little Wolves is about the interwoven paths of five young wolves with different personalities and destinies. (Ages 10–14.)
Little Boy Naughty Hu
This series of novels for primary schoolers in China is about life in the classroom (misbehavior, struggles to fit in, and more) and relationships with teachers, parents, and fellow classmates. It is filled with humor and tips on growing up. (10 volumes; ages 8–12.)
Daddy in the Pocket
This highly imaginative series is about a shrunken, pocket-size father accompanying the protagonist Yang Ge on one adventure after another. What boy is worried about encountering a pterosaur—or super villain—when he has dad in his pocket? Definitely not Yang Ge! (12 volumes; ages 8–12.)
Nono and Soso
An anthology of short stories containing the popular and whimsical tales of two boys—one forgetful, the other unhappy. One becomes an architect while the other becomes an actor, and their intertwined lives continue to bring joy and insight to readers. (Ages 8–up.)