One of the most beautiful picture books that I’ve seen in the last few years is the bilingual A Tree 《树》 by the Chinese writer and illustrator San Zhi 三只. I’m not surprised that it was one of the books on the “10 picture books you can’t miss” list that we’ve written about earlier.
In very simple words and with beautiful illustrations San Zhi gives us the biography of a tree, from its “conception” as the seed sinks into the earth until the day that the tree dies and itself becomes new soil.
The illustrations are delicate, in pastel shades of green, blue-gray and brown. The tree is surrounded by animals – squirrels, foxes, birds, insects, deer, rabbits – who all benefit from it and contribute to its growth. With illustrations like these you don’t need many words to make readers see the importance of trees.
A Tree is a bilingual book, and it seems that the author translated the book herself. San Zhi (real name: Gan Wei 甘玮) was born in Chongqing, and studied Illustration at the University of the Arts, London. In 2015 she set up the VE Art Studio (VE艺术工作室) in Chongqing.
This book is published by Tsinghua University Press and the ISBN is 978-7-302-40421-7. You can find it on the publisher’s website, on amazon.cn and on worldcat.
Peng Xuejun’s 彭学军 award winning novel Sister 《你是我的妹》 is a beautiful and dramatic story for older children that takes place in Yunnan, sometime in the early 1970s. The young protagonist and narrator is a nine-year-old girl whose mother has been sent down to the countryside to learn from the people. The family (the narrator has a sister) settles in a tiny village with a population of farmers belonging to the Miao people, and although life here is very different and certainly harder and more austere than in the city, it’s also a new and interesting world for the children to explore. Continue reading
Mr Pang and Mr Shou (that is, Mr Fat and Mr Slim) live on opposite sides of a river, together with their families. For some unknown reason they don’t like each other and are always fighting. Their children are not allowed to talk to each other – they don’t even let their dogs Pointy Ear and Round Ear play together. But then one morning the families are cooking breakfast. The white smoke from one of the fires mingles with the black smoke from the other. And when the families see this, they start to change their minds … Continue reading
I am a tiger, who am I scared of? 《我是老虎我怕谁》 is the name of this lovely picture book by Wang Zumin 王祖民 and Wang Ying 王莺. Tiger isn’t a very nice animal. He’s big and strong and as the king of the animals (well, in his own opinion, at least) he doesn’t need to be considerate or nice to anyone. Continue reading
It happened when I was three or four years old, and it’s one of my earliest memories. That day, I was playing alone outside and happened to find a lump of dark clay in a ditch by the road. I must have been bored, for the lump immediately caught my attention. I picked it up, and with the help of a stick that I’d found I sculptured it into something that looked a bit like a cat. I was very proud of this little thing that I’d made and I wanted to share my joy with someone. And so, with the lump in my hands I ran home to find my mother. I remember the look on her face – it was as if I’d given her a treasure. Gently, she lifted the little thing into the air and studied it, then very carefully placed it in one of our flower pots. We stood there and watched it together a long time. It must have been the first thing I ever created. When I think of it now, so many years later, I realise I should have thanked her. If she had thrown the little black clay cat away I might not have become the writer I am today. People always ask me why I became a writer. It’s really very simple: I want to write a book that would make my mother proud of me.