For the past 25 years, I immersed myself in the world of English Children’s and YA Literature: the output by writers, illustrators, and publishers from the U.S., the U.K., and Australia, mostly created in English.
This year (and hopefully for years to come,) my focus has shifted: I’d love to see what’s going on in the Children’s Literature world in my own mother country: China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan.) And if possible, I’d love to serve as a bridge to connect the U.S. readers (young and not so young) with contemporary children’s literature created in China, by Chinese writers and illustrators, originally written in Chinese. I’d love to help expand the U.S. readers’ understanding and reception of that vast treasure.
The first step was for myself to get to know that “vast treasure” a little more.
This and a few forthcoming posts are to share my first impressions:
During this year’s BEA (in NYC) and at Beijing International Book Fair, I learned a little about how Chinese publishers and Chinese children’s publishers function structurally. As evidenced in these few photos, most publishers are attached to some huge publishing “groups,” all following a detailed government issued publishing guideline. Each Province or Special District has its own Publishing Group that often contains more than a dozen publication specialty companies — we can consider them “branch publishers:”
This is Sichuan Publishing Group: the branch publishers range from Science, Culture & Arts, Literature, College Textbooks, Maps, and Children’s publishing companies.
Below is Shandong Publishing group’s display of Confucius (Shandong being his birth place) statue and all the sub groups: Science, Culture & Arts, Multi-Media, and Children’s publishers, etc. (The children’s branch of this group is the Ming Tian – Tomorrow – publisher that brought us many high quality children’s picture books in the past decade or so!)
And when a Children’s Publishing branch is successful, it gets a separate booth at the Children’s Literature exhibit area:
Hai Yan (Petrel)
Feng Huang (Phoenix)
Shao Nian (Young People)
Jie Li (Relay)
CCPPG (China Publishing Group)
Zhe Jiang Shao Nian Er Tong (Zhejiang Province Children’s)
There seems to be plenty of creative autonomy within each individual branch. However, the publishing guidelines and government mandates are not that hard to detect. For example, since the third entry of the “essential missions” in the official publishing guidelines stresses the ideal of disseminating and upholding the doctrines of Marx, Lenin, Mao, and Deng, this following publication isn’t much of a stretch by one of the biggest children’s publishers, China Children’s Press & Publication Group (CCPPG):
And although Chapter 3, entry 27 states that the publication aimed at minors may not contain materials “luring youth to mimic anti-social and anti-moral behaviors and criminal acts” or “featuring terrifying and cruel content that might harm the mental and physical health of youth,” Hunger Games (both in English & in Chinese translation) trilogy sells extremely well in China. (So are Maze Runner, Percy Jackson, Divergent, Twilight, etc.)