Since Cao Wenxuan is the most famous writer of children’s literature in China and also the one most well-known abroad, it was no surprise that there would eventually be a prize in his name. In fact, there are already two: The Bronze and Sunflower Award 青铜葵花奖 and the Cao Wenxuan Children’s Literature Award 曹文轩儿童文学奖. The Cao Wenxuan Children’s Literature Award was inaugurated in April 2017, with the aim to promote children’s literature in China, to encourage young writers, to promote Chinese literature abroad and to make Jiangsu province a major centre for the development of children’s literature in China.
Six months later, in October, the jury had received 1696 entries by writers from China and abroad. It must have been a formidable task to go through all these works, but in the end the 21 ladies and gentlemen in the jury selected five previously unpublished full-length works by established writers and eight unpublished short stories by young and upcoming writers as “Outstanding works”. The jury could not agree on a recipient for the main award.
The five full-length works are:
- The Great Flood 《大水》 by Zhao Ling 赵菱
- The Golden Gourd 《金葫芦》by Jin Shaofan 金少凡
- Tiny 《小不点》by Pang Yuliang 庞余亮
- South of the Village There Is a Brook 《南寨有溪流》by Guo Jiangyan 郭姜燕 (ISBN 9787558407864)
- The Boy With the Shepherd’s Flute 《牧笛哥哥》by Xiaohe Dingding 小河丁丁 (ISBN 9787558405310)
So far, three of these works have been published in book format. They all focus on co-operation, solidarity, mutual aid, tolerance and respect as ways of strengthening the individual and creating a cohesive society. Zhao Ling’s The Great Flood, that was listed as first among the five winners, tells the story of a small village south of the Yellow River regularly threatened by floods. The flood brings both death and destruction, but the villagers are resilient. Helping each other they find ways to rebuild the village. The main character is 10-year old Lan, who witnesses both tragedy and acts of great kindness. The Great Flood is partly based on stories that Zhao Ling’s grandmother told her, of the floods she experienced as a child.