For Li Xin, vice president and general editor of the children’s book division at Thinkingdom Children’s Books, Leo Lionni’s Swimmy is that book. “In the story, Swimmy teaches a school of small red fish to form the shape of a big fish in order to intimidate other big and predatory fish in the open sea,” Li says. “Swimmy then becomes the eye of that big fish and gets the others to fall into formation. That particular image, so powerful, has always stayed with me. I would like to be Swimmy myself: to know what I want and to persevere in the face of mounting challenges.”
Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is the source of inspiration for Huang Xiaoyan, founder and publisher of Everafter Books. “The story line, characters, illustrations, imagination, and stories behind its creation have fascinated me for the longest time,” Huang says. “And as a children’s book publisher, I hope that my team and I have a chance to publish original titles like this—ones that draw kids into the adventure, get them totally immersed in an imaginary world, and give them a ‘wonderland’ that they will never forget.”
Sally Yan of Beijing Dandelion recalls vividly the first time she saw Richard Scarry’s Little Golden Books series, on a Hong Kong trip in 1996. “I had never seen such children’s books before and was blown away by the characters, design, and core values delivered through the stories,” says Yan, the company founder and editor-in-chief. She immediately searched for more information on the series and the author. In 2007, the Golden Books series became Beijing Dandelion’s first major bestseller. “There is so much that children can learn through the scenes and endearing characters,” Yan says, who has published more than 30 Scarry titles. “And every time they look through the colorful and detailed illustrations, they discover something new. It is a generational bestseller that has delighted countless children around the world, and it has certainly inspired me in my editing career.”
The first picture book series that editor-in-chief Bai Bing encountered upon joining Jieli Publishing House was Annette Tison and Talus Taylor’s Barbapapa. “It contains all the ingredients for a successful title for children—love, humor, a unique story line, and originality—and I continue to be inspired by it, both as an editor and as an author,” says Bai, who cites the series as his company’s benchmark when it comes to selecting and translating picture books.