Nurturing and facilitating collaborations between homegrown and overseas talents is one unique feature at CCPPG. For company president Sun Zhu, such collaboration is made possible by the global village that we live in.
“The younger generation is much more inclusive and multicultural, and our program is aimed at cultivating more such world citizens,” Sun says. “The illustrators whom we work with come from different parts of the world, with some having cross-cultural identities that are reflected in their works.”
Sun’s team is set to launch Grandpa and Me by author Xu Lu and Spanish illustrator Javier Zabala. Other collaborations include Huang Yu’s Dinosaur Bus (illustrated by Ross Kinnaird), Xu Lu’s Flying Little Umbrella (illustrated by Yoko Miyahara), and Huang Chunhua’s What a Scare (illustrated by Mahboobeh Yazdani).
The team also worked with Belgian author and former IBBY president Wally De Doncker and Chinese illustrator Liang Xiong to produce Nian and the Boy, a classic title. “This collaboration offers the opportunity to tell the same story from different perspectives,” Sun says. “A Belgian author has different interpretations than those of Chinese authors, and this makes the story unique and multicultural.”
As for New Year, author Mei Zihan collaborated with Toronto-based (and Shanghai-born) designer/illustrator Qin Leng on a story about a painter spending the festive season overseas and away from her family. “It is a story that appeals to local and overseas audiences,” Sun notes. In fact, that appeal has led a Canadian publishing house to buy the rights before the Chinese edition was published.
CCPPG’s Sino-foreign collaborative program kick-started in 2012 with The Feather, by Cao Wenxuan and Roger Mello, both Hans Christian Andersen Award winners. It was a local bestseller with sales exceeding 100,000 copies, and rights were acquired by a dozen countries, including the Netherlands and the U.S. “We have continued to expand our pool of overseas illustrators for original works and further enrich our publishing program,” adds Sun, whose team had organized the Chinese Original Illustration Exhibition at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair since 2015.
In several cases, the overseas collaborators have promoted the titles to their domestic markets. Russian illustrator Anastasia Arkhipova, who worked on Across the River with author Xue Tao, for instance, recommended the picture book to Rech Publishing House; 3,000 copies were sold in Russia. The same happened to Grandma Lives in Fragrance Village, which was illustrated by Germany-based Sonja Danowski, and The Feathers in Brazil. Sun explains, “Deepening our international exchanges and creative collaborations has effectively spread our original picture books into other markets around the world.”
Meanwhile, creating IP-based products has been keeping Sun and his team busy. After acquiring a stake in the New Zealand–based Milly and Molly Children’s Publishing Group in 2018, CCPPG started redeveloping the Happy Milly and Molly series. A Chinese character, Lily, was introduced together with additional activities to turn it into extracurricular reading courseware for kindergartens and elementary schools. Plans are afoot for new formats such as a bilingual Chinese-English edition, audiobooks, and animation based on the series. Copyright agreements for Arabic, Dutch, and French editions were signed at the previous Frankfurt Fair.
“Creating IP-based courses requires considerable planning,” Sun says. “We must discover, mine, or cultivate an IP with derivative development properties. But at the core, the course must have high-quality content, character depth, internet-enabled scalability, continuity, transformability, and recognizability.”
For the successful Lucky Rabbit Elf series, for instance, CCPPG partners with Chinese author Ge Jing to create a Reading Training Camp to further cultivate children’s interest in reading, and to improve their reading ability and comprehension. CCPPG also partners with Today’s Animation Company to create Magic Martin New Readings, an extended reading series that is synchronized with primary school textbooks.
As for CCPPG’s Happy Reading Platform, it continues to offer young readers material across four categories: newspapers and periodicals, animation, picture books, and an African-wildlife resource library. Its newspaper and periodical resource database contains content from CCPPG’s five newspapers and 13 magazines. The animation resource database offers 3,800 animated episodes, with 150 new ones updated annually, while the picture book resource database has recently launched five series of nearly 1,500 e-books, including the Happy Milly, Molly, and Lily series and many original picture books from CCPPG.
“Our program is planned around meeting the reading and learning needs of young readers,” Sun says. “We are focused on publishing titles that will inspire, motivate, and resonate with them.”