107. Chinese children’s books in Swedish – by Anna Gustafsson Chen

Anna Gustafsson Chen is a prolific translator of Chinese books, and yet we haven’t featured her translations of Chinese children’s books before. So, this post is to highlight her translations of children’s books – scroll to the end of the blog. It’s also a homage to Anna, who posts a new Chinese book cover design on her instagram/ Facebook/ Pinterest every week, and writes the Bokberget [Book Mountain] blog about Chinese books in Swedish.

Anna, congratulations for all your amazing work! Please tell us more about your own translations of children’s books, and about Chinese children’s books in Swedish.

Chinese children’s books translated into Swedish by Anna (scroll down for details)

AGC: Chinese children’s books aren’t exactly a big thing in Sweden, but since 2010 at least 24 books have been translated and published in Swedish, and four more are on their way, so that’s something. [scroll to the end of this post for details and book covers] Right now, there are two publishers who stand out a bit: ChinLit and Vombat. ChinLit, as you may guess, is focused on Chinese literature for adults and children, whereas Vombat publishes children’s books from all over the world. Almost all of the published books are picture books – I guess it may be easier to bridge a genuine or perceived “culture gap” when there are more images than text in a book. And the translation cost is lower … Most of these books have been published in English as well, but there are exceptions, like Jag heter Maximilian och är 900 år (我是夏蛋蛋/My name is Xia Dandan), written by Peng Yi 彭懿 and illustrated by Zao Dao 早稻, and a couple of books by Yin Jianling 殷健灵 that were published in the early 2010s by a now defunct publisher.

I asked the publishers Eva Ekeroth (ChinLit) and Tin Eriksson (Vombat) how their books have been received, and they both say they’ve had a very positive response from readers and critics. One of ChinLit’s books, Blinda rödluvan och vargen (走出森林的小红帽/Little Red Riding Hood Out of the Wood) by Han Xu 韩煦, was in fact turned into a theatre play for the national Swedish radio. That book, as well as Cao Wenxuan’s 曹文轩 and Yu Rong’s 郁蓉 Sommar (夏/Summer) published by Vombat, was also included in a list of books that the Swedish Arts Council gave away for free to all pre-schools in Sweden in 2019. I’d call that success!

I rarely think of myself as a translator of children’s literature, which is perhaps odd since I have translated 11 Chinese books for children and young adults (if I include the 3 that are coming out later this year and next spring). Probably because I translated more books for adults – and there’s so much more text in those books! But translating picture books is difficult, precisely becuse the’re so little text in them. Every single word matters, in a different way than in a 700-page novel for adults.

In some sense, it’s strange that I haven’t translated more Chinese children’s books. I did in fact sort of start a publishing house for translated literature for children and young adults back in 2005, but we didn’t put out any Chinese books until this year, when I translated Xiong Liang’s 熊亮 Drakjägarna (屠龙族/The Dragon Tribe).

In 2005, I was still working as a librarian at the International Library in Stockholm, surrounded every day by gorgeus picture books and interesting YA novels from all over the world. Swedes are not averse to reading translated literature, but most translated books are originally written in English, and when it comes to books for children there’s not that much translated at all from Africa, Asia and Latin America, not even from smaller countries in Europe. I did my best to promote these books to Swedish publishers, but they weren’t that interested. In the end, I contacted a publisher who was focusing on “world literature” but for adults, and asked him if he shouldn’t start an imprint for children’s books. It turned out a colleague of mine, Matilda Wallin, had asked him the same thing just a few days earlier, so he said yes. We did some of the work and he invested the money. At that time, everyone immediately assumed that I would only try to push for Chinese books, and that annoyed me so much (I like to believe that I’m not that biased!) so to start with we focused on literature from other languages. We’ve published 26 titles so far (we took a break for a couple of years when we simply didn’t have the time to work with this, but we’re back on track again).

I’ve translated more picture books from Taiwan than from mainland China: four books by Jimmy Liao 几米 and two by Liu Hsu-kung 刘旭恭. I really love them! I’m also a great admirer of Xiong Liang’s work and hope to get to translate more of his books in the future. And I hope I’ll get to translate some Chinese books for middle grade readers and young adults as well, but most publishers seem to believe there’s no market for them here. There are books that work for young adults but have been classified as books for adults in Sweden, for instance Chun Sue’s 春树 Beijing Doll (北京娃娃) and Qin Wenjun’s 秦文君 När jag var sexton år (十六岁少女/A Sixteen Year Old Girl). I guess one way to get more YA books translated is to market them as books for adults – that way the publishers won’t be scared off and young people will find them, since they’re not afraid of reading books for adults anyway.

Chinese children’s books in Swedish (2010-2020)

  • Min pappa kan trolla (会魔法的爸爸) by Xiao Dingli 肖定丽 (text), Zhu Dandan 朱丹丹 (ill.), transl. Bengt Petterson (JH Publishers, 2010)
  • Hitta hem (回家/Going home) by Du Du 杜杜 (text), Luo Yin 罗殷 (ill.), transl. Catarina Edelsvärd (JH Publishers, 2010)
  • En ovanlig prinsessa (不寻常的女孩/An unusual princess) by Wu Meizhen 伍美珍, transl. Olle Sahlin & Karolina Sahlin (Egmont Kärnan, 2011)
  • Sjakalen och vargen (红豺/Jackal and Wolf) by Shen Shixi 沈石溪, transl. Olle Sahlin & Karolina Sahlin (Egmont Kärnan, 2012)
  • Flykten (出逃/Escape) by Yin Jianling 殷健灵, transl. Göran Sommardal (JH Publishers, 2013)
  • Stjärnenatt (星空/Starry Starry Night) by Jimmy Liao 几米, transl. Anna Gustafsson Chen (Mirando, 2013)
  • Koppen som försvann (失踪的婷婷/The Missing Cup) by Cao Wenxuan 曹文轩, transl. Eva Ekeroth (Bonnier Carlsen, 2013)
  • Molnfågel (朵云一样的八哥/Free as a Cloud) by Yu Rong 郁蓉 (ill.) and Bai Bing 白冰 (text), transl. Philip Mattsson (Vombat, 2014)
  • Skogens hemligheter (森林里的秘密/Secrets in the Woods) by Jimmy Liao, transl. Anna Gustafsson Chen (Mirando, 2014)
  • Guji-guji (Guji Guji) by Chih-Yuan Chen 陳致元, transl. Marianne Lindfors (Hippo, 2014)
  • Fjäderns resa (羽毛/Feather) by Cao Wenxuan (text) and Roger Mello (ill.) transl. Anna Gustafsson Chen (Hjulet, 2014)
  • Jordnötsprutten (花生米养的屁/The Peanut Fart) by Wang Xiaoming 王晓明, transl. Lilly Xie, (ChinLit, 2015)
  • Vem ska musen gifta sig med? (老鼠嫁女/The Mouse Bride) by Lu Feng 鲁风 (text) and Darlingface 许玉安, transl. Lilly Xie (ChinLit, 2015)
  • Rök (烟/Smoke) by Cao Wenxuan (text) and Yu Rong (ill.), transl. Philip Mattson (Vombat, 2015)
  • Räven, farfar och jag (爷爷的打火匣/火焰/Flame) by Xu Lu 徐鲁 (text) and Zhu Chengliang 朱成梁 (ill.), transl. Eva Ekeroth (Natur & Kultur, 2016)
  • Färgernas ljud (地下铁/The Sound of Colors) by Jimmy Liao, transl. Anna Gustafsson Chen (Mirando, 2016)
  • Tuppens nya kläder (沒毛雞/The Featherless Chicken) by Chi-Yuan Chen, transl. Marianne Lindfors (Hippo, 2016)
  • Jordnötshunden (花生米样的狗/The Peanut Dog) by Wang Xiaoming (text) and Wang Didi 王菂菂 (ill.), transl. Lilly Xie (ChinLit, 2017)
  • Sommar (夏/Summer) by Cao Wenxuan (text) and Yu Rong (ill.), transl. Marta Östborn (Vombat, 2017)
  • Familjen Sköldpadda tar sig till havet (乌龟一家去看海/The Tortoise Family Goes to the Sea) by Zhang Ning 张宁, transl. Eva Ekeroth (ChinLit, 2018)
  • Är du min bror? (橘色的马/The Orange Horse) by Liu Hsu-kung 刘旭恭, transl. Anna Gustafsson Chen (Natur & Kultur, 2018)
  • Blinda Rödluvan och vargen (走出森林的小红帽/Little Red Riding Hood Out of the Wood) by Han Xu 韩煦, transl. Lilly Xie (ChinLit, 2018)
  • Jag heter Maximilian och är 900 år (我是夏蛋蛋/My name is Xia Dandan), by Peng Yi 彭懿 (text) and Zao Dao 早稻 (ill.), transl. Heshan (ChinLit, 2019)
  • Drakjägarna (屠龙族/The Dragon Tribe) by Xiong Liang 熊亮, transl. Anna Gustafsson Chen (Trasten, 2020)

Forthcoming

  • Jag är Hua Mulan (我是花木兰/I am Hua Mulan) by Qin Wenjun 秦文君 (text) and Yu Rong (ill.), transl. Anna Gustafsson Chen (Hjulet, 2020)
  • Swedish title unknown (鄂温克的驼鹿/The Moose of Ewenki) by Gerelchimeg Blackcrane 黑鹤 (text) and Jiu Er 九儿 (ill.), transl. Marta Östborn (Vombat, 2020)
  • Till Sköldpaddslandet (到乌龟国去/To Turtle Land) by Liu Hsu-kung, transl. Anna Gustafsson Chen (Natur & Kultur, 2021)
  • Swedish title unknown (永不停止的奔跑/The Unstoppable Trek) by Cao Wenxuan (text) and Igor Olyenikov (ill.), transl. Anna Gustafsson Chen (Vombat, 2021)

Chinese children’s books translated by Anna

It’s interesting to see what happens to book covers in translation – and as Anna frequently posts images of Chinese book covers on her social media (“book cover of the week”), we’ve placed side by side for comparison the Chinese, Swedish and English covers of some of the Chinese children’s books that Anna has translated.

Är du min bror? (橘色的馬/The Orange Horse), by Liu Hsu-Kung 劉旭恭 (Natur & Kultur Allmänlitteratur, 2018) and into English, translator unknown (Reycraft Books, 2019)

Fjäderns resa (羽毛/Feather), by Cao Wenxuan 曹文軒 and Roger Mello (illus.) (Hjulet, 2014) and into English by Chloe Garcia Roberts (Elsewhere Editions, 2017)

Flickan med den röda halsduken (Red Scarf Girl), by Jili Jiang (Bergh, 1999) and in English (Harper Collins)

Stjärnenatt (星空/The Starry Starry Night), by Jimmy Liao 几米 (Mirando, 2013) 

Skogens hemligheter (森林里的秘密/The Secrets of the Forest), by Jimmy Liao 几米 (Mirando, 2014) 

Färgernas ljud (地下鐵/The Sound of Colours), by Jimmy Liao 幾米 (Bokförlaget Mirando, 2016)  and into English, translator unknown (Little Brown, 2006)

När månen glömde (月亮忘記了/When the Moon Forgot), by Jimmy Liao 幾米 (Bokförlaget Mirando, 2019) and into English, translator unknown (Little Brown, 2009)

Drakjägarna (屠龙族/The Dragon Tribe) by Xiong Liang 熊亮, transl. Anna Gustafsson Chen (Trasten, 2020), and into English by Clarissa Yu Shen (Better Chinese, 2008).

104. Chinese children’s literature in Italy – interview with Paolo Magagnin

Paolo Magagnin is Professor of Chinese at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. He is also a translator and promoter of Chinese children’s literature. We’re delighted that he agreed to be interviewed, to tell us about his work, his experiences as a translator, and the expanding world of Chinese children’s books in Italy! We’re also pleased to post this interview in September, which is #WorldKidLitMonth.

HW: Please tell us about yourself. What would you like our readers to know about you?

PM: I am a professor of Chinese at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, where I have been teaching for a decade. I am lucky enough to be able to translate Chinese fiction, however occasionally, as a way to take a break from my teaching duties and to “stay in shape” as a translator. I have translated a few novels, short stories, and novellas by Xiao Bai 小白, Xu Zechen 徐则臣, Chen He 陈河, A Yi 阿乙, Zhu Wen 朱文 and a few other contemporary fiction writers. Unfortunately, translation is not highly valued in the Italian academia, where it is often seen as little more than a pastime – or worse, a distraction from “serious” research. Because of this, I do not translate as much as I used to or would like to anymore, but still jump at the opportunity whenever I can. I am currently working on the translation of Shuang Xuetao’s 双雪涛 short story collection “Moses on the Plain” 《平原上的摩西》. However, what may be of most interest to the readers of the blog is the fact that I have translated two of Cao Wenxuan’s 曹文轩 most successful books, Bronze and Sunflower 《青铜葵花》and The Straw House 《草房子》。

Girasole and La Scuola dal Tetto di Paglia, the Italian editions of Bronze and Sunflower, and The Straw House, both by Cao Wenxuan, translated by Paolo Magagnin (image source: Giunti)

HW: How did you come to translate Cao Wenxuan’s Bronze and Sunflower?

PM: I reckon this is one of those mysteries that often occur in the translation world. In September 2014, totally out of the blue, I received an email from the director of the children’s series of Giunti, one of the top publishing houses in Italy, and surely the biggest in terms of literature for children and young adults. She told me they had recently purchased the rights to the book, and that “my name had come up” while they were looking for a translator. She asked me if I was interested in taking the job, and I quickly said yes despite the tight deadline – only 4 months – which fell right in the middle of a busy semester and a research trip to Beijing. I had only translated three novels by then, and I was anything but an established translator from Chinese. To this day, I do not know in what circumstances and thanks to whom “my name had come up”, but it was the beginning of an extraordinary, and sometimes rocky, journey. As far as I know, no Chinese-language children’s book had been previously translated into Italian at that time, so Cao’s novel was a first. I think that, by choosing to embark on this project, the publisher took a leap into the (almost) unknown. A French edition, Bronze et Tournesol, tr. Brigitte Guilbaud, was available (Giunti sent it to me as a reference, naively hoping I would base my own translation on it). The rumour mill had probably been running for a while in the international publishing world, and your English translation  was probably already in the works. Moreover, Cao’s reputation was already growing as a  candidate for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, which he eventually won in 2016. So this whole thing was the result of a mix of fortunate conditions. I am happy I was at the right place at the right time – although totally unsuspectingly.

Bronze et Tournesol (French) and Bronze and Sunflower, by Cao Wenxuan, translated by Brigitte Guilbaud (French) and Helen Wang (English)

If I can spend a few words on the translation itself, I will point out that translating Cao was a great training ground. Before that, in my brief experience as a translator, I had never fully realized what was at stake, or had to discuss or justify my choices, or been required to work with a very specific model reader in mind. But then, especially with Bronze and Sunflower, I had to outline an extremely detailed translation project. Most importantly, I was confronted with all the constraints that are inherent in the genre. Some of these constraints were objective, as I had to ponder my lexical and syntactic choices so as to fit the age group that the publisher wished to address – I was told at the outset that my readers were expected to be between 10 and a very optimistic 15, but Giunti eventually settled for 11 (as marked on the book’s webpage). Some other constraints I felt were simply made up and preposterous, which caused me to start more than one fight with the series director and the editor. For instance, I fiercely objected to the choice to delete some of the numerous lyrical, bucolic passages (which, I was told, were unusual and would cause young Italian readers to lose interest), as well as the postface, and to systematically replace my colourful expressions and idioms (which I inserted for the sake of both the pleasure of reading and the readers’ stylistic education) with more commonplace (borderline dull) ones. A few of my demands were met, many others were not. I had my fair share of distress, but all in all, the whole process really helped me grow as a translator and become more fully aware of my role, of my power and of its limits.

HW: Could you tell us more about Chinese children’s books that are now available in Italian?

PM: Compared to the French and the Anglo-American market, the Italian publishing world has always been conservative and narrow-minded when it comes to the literature of the Sinosphere, including literature targeted at children and young adults. Since Bronze and Sunflower was published, and especially after Cao won the Andersen Award, however, Italian publishers began to be slightly more alert to Chinese-language children’s books. A couple years after Bronze and Sunflower (2015), Giunti asked me to translate The Straw House (2018) and another very talented colleague was asked to translate Ximi (which will hopefully be available in bookshops soon). Having said this, the Italian situation is still far from satisfying, and interest in this literature has not boomed as it has in other markets. I tried to use what little bargaining power I have to promote a few texts that I considered were worth publishing, but so far to no avail. For example, I tried to interest Giunti in Lin Man-chiu’s 林满秋 The Ventriloquist’s Daughter 《腹语师的女儿》, providing your English translation as reference. But, I was told the story was too dark and disturbing for the audience they had in mind.

However, picture books are an entirely different story. The most striking example is Taiwanese writer and illustrator Jimmy Liao’s 几米 amazing works. Thanks to the tireless and passionate endeavours of translator and agent Silvia Torchio, they have been published in Italian since the early 2010s by a few forward-thinking Italian publishing houses, notably Edizioni Gruppo Abele, Terre di Mezzo, and Camelozampa (incidentally, the latter was awarded the BOP – Bologna Prize for the Best Children’s Publishers of the Year prize at the 2020 BCBF). Jimmy Liao’s latest Italian translation, Gatti come noi (Mi manchi, dove sei?) 《遗失了一只猫》 (A Cat Went Missing), was published a few months ago.

Gatti_come_noi_CVR_500px-1

Gatti come noi (Mi manchi, dove sei?) 《遗失了一只猫》 (A Cat Went Missing) by Jimmy Liao, tr. Silvia Torchio (image source: Terre di mezzo)

One picture book that I was pleasantly surprised to see translated is Xu Lu’s 徐鲁 L’erba magica di Tu Youyou. La scienziata che sconfisse la malaria 《神奇的小草》(Tu Youyou’s Miraculous Herb). The scientist who beat malaria), translated by Beatrice Masini, illustrated by Alice Coppini. The book gives the life story of Tu Youyou 屠呦呦, the first Chinese woman scientist to be awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine in 2015. Indeed, in the Italian market, books popularizing science for young readers are an ever-growing sub-segment.

erba-magica-di-tu-youyou-cop-rgb-1000px---310-310

Xu Lu’s 徐鲁 L’erba magica di Tu Youyou. La scienziata che sconfisse la malaria 《神奇的小草》(Tu Youyou’s Miraculous Herb. The scientist who beat malaria), tr. Beatrice Masini, illus. Alice Coppini  (image source: editorialescienza)

Finally, I’d like to mention a bold experiment made by the publishing house associated with a platform devoted to Chinese-Italian cultural exchange, Cina in Italia. They have recently made available Bai Bing’s 白冰 picture book L’albero di ombrelli 《雨伞树》(The Umbrella Tree), translated by Giulia Carbone and illustrated by Li Hongzhuan 李红专. It is interesting to see this as a partially bilingual edition with an overtly educational twist, as it features a section that encourages children to learn a number of Chinese characters and to practice their writing. There are many other examples of successful and enjoyable Chinese picture books that are currently available in Italian, but I will limit myself to these few examples. As for the relative predominance of this genre, I assume it is generally perceived by publishers as being more easily marketable compared to other forms of children’s literature (especially novels, short stories being sort of taboo in the Italian publishing industry), not to mention that the costs of translation are significantly lower!

Albero-di-Ombrelli

Bai Bing’s 白冰  L’albero di ombrelli 《雨伞树》(The Umbrella Tree), tr. Giulia Carbone, illus. Li Hongzhuan 李红专 [image source: cinainitalia]

Anyway, I do not think the success of picture books lies in the fact that they make for “easy” reading, which seems to be what most publishers look for. If you take Jimmy Liao’s works, for instance, the topics and feelings they portray – loss, death, loneliness etc. – are undeniably as deep and “difficult” – and more often than not, deeper – than those that can be found in more “serious” children’s fiction. Hopefully, in the next future, the growing interest for picture books will boost the introduction and circulation of other works: they could act as a reassuring market foundation for publishers, and as “gateway” books for young readers, once they are ready to move on to more complex and more articulate forms.

HW: You’ve also examined the translation process in a very professional and scholarly way. However, I (and many of our readers) am not trained in translation studies, theory or linguistics. Could you tell us about what’s involved, what are some of the key things you look for?

PM: When you look at it through the prism of translation, children’s literature is a miniature world that allows you to engage in virtually endless reflection, and to do so from a multitude of different perspectives. In this sense, children’s books are a real treasure trove for us scholars of translation. Of course, the typical aspect one can analyse is the textual level: the translator’s lexical and syntactic choices, the handling of registers, the translation of proper nouns etc. However, if you have an interest in the economics of translation, you can also investigate children’s books as products on a market that possesses a number of distinct characteristics. For example, if you are interested in sociological dynamics, you can examine the complex network of agents, scouts, sponsors, publishers, editors, translators, and institutions that work together – or despite one another – to select the texts to be translated, and which influence the mechanisms of translation. Or you might want to explore the psycho-linguistic aspects of translated children’s literature, its importance for the literacy and literary education of foreign readers, its significance for cross-cultural communication etc. Of course, all these aspects and approaches are by no means unique to children’s literature. However, here they are characterized by a set of unique features and a much higher degree of differentiation, because of the specific nature of the stakeholders involved, the multiple genres that fall within the umbrella category of “children’s books”, the clearly separate age groups of the readers that different books address, and so on.

As for my own work as a scholar, the aspects of children’s literature that intrigue me the most are the same ones that I was – and still am – confronted with as a translation practitioner, with a twofold focus. On the one hand, I carry out research on the manipulation of translation manuscripts by publishers and editors. Textual adaptation in its various, more or less ethically correct forms, is a widespread practice in the translation of children’s books – and, as I said above, I experienced this phenomenon first-hand. More generally, I focus on the linguistic and translational policies, as well as on the ideological factors that govern Chinese children’s literature in translation. On the other hand, I also have a sociological interest in the politics of promotion and reception of children’s books, with an eye to the role of Chinese official and non-official players (governmental bodies and sponsors, critics, and academics), the work of foreign publishers and agents, and the impact of literary awards. In this sense, the “Cao Wenxuan fever” is a textbook example of how literary exchanges can be scrutinised from a sociological perspective, shedding light on the dynamics at play in the circulation of literature – which is not limited to children’s books.

HW: Has your interest in Chinese children’s books influenced your colleagues and students? 

PM: Quite a few of my colleagues were interested in children’s literature, either as translators or scholars, long before I even considered trying my hand at it. If anything, it was their interest that influenced me! But the impact of my work, however limited, is definitely more visible when it comes to my students. When I started using examples from children’s books in my translation courses, and then posting news and articles related to Chinese children’s fiction on my semi-institutional Facebook page, I quickly noticed this struck a chord with them. MA students started contacting me with surprisingly clear ideas about what they wanted to do for their thesis. Unsurprisingly, many of them were interested in Cao Wenxuan, but others were looking for authors and books that were less widely known. Since then, I have supervised some very interesting and well-argued pieces of research: eg, on the narrative of difference in Cao’s Ding ding dang dang 《叮叮当当》series;on the perception of Tang Sulan’s 汤素兰 stories by children of different age groups; on the narratological and semiotic implications of the translation of picture books, and so on. All of these students were very highly motivated. Some of them, driven by a strong desire to undertake a career as professional translators of children’s literature, even started sending out resumes and translation samples to publishing houses. And it was an extremely proud moment when the In Altre Parole translation competition at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2018 – China was the guest of honour country that year – was won by a former student of mine!

HW: It’s wonderful to learn how the interest in Chinese children’s literature in growing in Italy, and I hope we can look forward to featuring some of your colleagues and students in the future!

Follow Paolo Magagnin on:

102. To Catch a Fish – by Zhang Wei and Zhang Honglei

The gorgeous cover of a new picture book caught my eye recently: “To Catch a Fish” 捉鱼去 written by Zhang Wei 张炜, illustrated by Zhang Honglei 张弘蕾, and published by Daylight Publishing House (Tiantian chubanshe 天天出版社). 

fishingbooksnip

“To Catch a Fish” 捉鱼去, by ZHANG Wei 张炜, illus. ZHANG Honglei 张弘蕾, Tomorrow Publishing House 天天出版社, 2020 [image source: amazon.com]

In the book, six young children (5 boys, 1 girl) show us five different ways to catch a fish without a fishing net. They stir up water to make the fish come up for air. They pick long grass and push fish through the water. They dam the stream and catch fish in a basket. They use bait to lure the fish to where they can catch them, and they make holes for the fish to hide in. We learn that fish like to swim in narrow stretches of water, close to the bottom of creeks and streams, and like to hide in holes. At the back of the book three pages give details of six types of fish found in Chinese lakes and rivers.

Zhang Wei is an award-winning author, and writes for both adults and young readers. His adult books include The Ancient Ship 《古船》, September’s Fable 《九月寓言》and On the Plateau 《你在高原》. His children’s books include the Life on the Peninsula 半岛哈里哈气 series, The Young Boy and the Sea 少年与海, and In Search of the King of Fish寻找鱼王.

peninsula

 

 

The Life on the Peninsula 半岛哈里哈气 series (2012) is about a boy whose father has been banished to a peninsula, and who describes the noisy wildlife there, [image source: sina.com]

shaonian

 

 

The Young Boys and the Sea 少年与海 (2017) is about three teenagers on the beach, who go to explore the forest to find out whether the monsters in the forest are as bad as the stories they have heard about them. [image source: dongjing.com]

king of fish

 

 

In Search of the King of Fish is a story based on an old folktale and full of traditional Chinese customs. [image source: chinawriter.com.cn]

 

 

Zhang Honglei has illustrated several books including the Chinese edition (2018) of Elena Fernandez Prados’ Economics through Everyday Stories from around the World (2016)

Zhang Honglei (1)

《环游世界读经济》(Economics Through Everyday Stories Around the World), by Elena Fernandez Prados, illustrated by Zhang Honglei, 2018 [image source: Dangdang.com]

When I first saw the cover of “To Catch a Fish”, I immediately thought of the famous Huxian peasant painting 户县农民画  titled “The Commune’s Fishpond” 公社鱼塘 by Dong Zhengyi 董正谊, published by Renmin meishu chubanshe, 1973.

commune's fishpond

The Commune’s Fishpond, painting by Dong Zhengyi, 1973 [image source: Chineseposters.net [BG E13/353 (Landsberger collection)]

An exhibition of Huxian peasant paintings toured Europe in the mid-late 1970s, and this painting was available as a poster and a greetings card in Guang Hwa Bookshop in London (thanks to Mary Hinton, formerly a librarian at the British Museum for this information! She says “I’ve always loved this image for its dynamism and vivid colours. So many fish leaping in the net!”). For more about the touring exhibition and its reception, see Emily Williams,“Exporting the Communist Image: The 1976 Chinese Peasant Painting Exhibition in Britain”, New Global Studies vol. 8 (2014): 279-305.

100. Interview with Maisie Chan

Maisie Chan is a UK-based children’s author. She has written early readers and had short stories published in various books such as Ladybird Tales of Superheroes (Penguin). Her latest book is Stories From Around the World (Scholastic). In 2018, she started the Bubble Tea Writers to support and encourage new British East Asian writers in the UK. She is currently the Dr Gavin Wallace Fellow 2020/2021 at Peter Pan Moat Brae, Dumfries (funded by Creative Scotland). We’re delighted she agreed to an interview with us. Continue reading

97. I Want To Be Good! Nicky Harman tells us about Huang Beijia’s novel

Nicky Harman is one of the most versatile and enthusiastic translators of Chinese literature, and a few months ago we were delighted to hear that she had been commissioned to translate Huang Beijia‘s 黄蓓佳 much-loved novel I Want To Be Good! 《我要做好孩子》. Huang Beijia is a well-known author in China, with many books to her name, and was China’s nominated author for the Hans Christian Andersen Award this year. At long last, she is being translated into English! Thank you, Nicky, for agreeing to be interviewed! Continue reading

95. Interview with Teresa Robeson

teresarobeson-photo
Teresa Robeson; photo by Grant Robeson

We’ve been fortunate enough to make a short interview with the 2020 APALA Picture Book Award winner Teresa Robeson 何顥思, author of Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom. In this book, illustrated by Rebecca Huang, Robeson tells the fascinating story of Wu Chien Shiung 吴健雄, the Chinese physicist whose work on beta decay (the Wu experiment) was instrumental in the research on parity violation that led to a Nobel Prize in Physics for Lee Tsung-Dao 李政道 and Yang Chen-Ning 杨政宁 in 1957. In spite of this (and all her other contributions to physics) Wu is not well known among those outside of her field, so Queen of Physics is a welcome reminder of this remarkable woman. Robeson has also written Two Bicycles in Beijing, which is officially out April 1st of this year. Continue reading

91. Our first 90 posts!

  1. Chinese books for young readers (Sep 12, 2016)
  2. Gerelchimeg Blackcrane (Sep 13, 2016)
  3. Chinese children’s literature and the UK National Curriculum (Sep 14, 2016)
  4. Happy Mid-Autumn Festival! (Sep 15, 2016)
  5. The Reason for Being Late (Sep 16, 2016)
  6. Why Translations? Don’t We ‘Already Have Chinese Stories in English’? (Sep 27, 2016)
  7. A Brief History of Chinese Literature for Children, What Sells Now, and More (Oct 1, 2016)
  8. The “Warring States” world of picture books … in a big Hangzhou bookshop (Oct 2, 2016)
  9. Poems for Children – selected by Bei Dao (Oct 7, 2016)
  10. Happy Double Ninth (Chongyang) Festival! (Oct 9, 2016)
  11. Literature: Another Form of Housebuilding – Cao Wenxuan’s acceptance speech
    (Oct 14, 2016)
  12. Crossing Cultures: Belle Yang, A Story of Immigration (Oct 16, 2016)
  13. I am a tiger! (Oct 20, 2016)
  14. Bronze and Sunflower shortlisted for the Marsh Award (Oct 24, 2016)
  15. Nami Island International Picture Book Illustration Concours 2017 – shortlist (Nov 2, 2016)
  16. Zhang Xinxin and Little People’s Books (Nov 3, 2016)
  17. Calling them Asian-American books isn’t sufficient… (Nov 8, 2016)
  18. Made in China: 10 picture books you can’t miss (Nov 13, 2016)
  19. A picture’s worth a thousand words… (Nov 14, 2016)
  20. Reflecting Teenagers on a Sichuanese Mirror: Yan Ge and her stories from Pingle Township (Nov 19, 2016)
  21. Context and contradiction in translating Aroma’s Little Garden, by Qin Wenjun (Nov 30, 2016)
  22. Jin Jin (1915-1989) (Dec 27, 2016)
  23. Bing Xin and The Little Orange Lantern (Dec 29, 2016)
  24. Tyrus Wong (1910-2016) and Bambi (Jan 3, 2017)
  25. Yu Rong’s paper cuttings (Jan 11, 2017)
  26. The Good Things That Come out of Collisions (Jan 15, 2017)
  27. Helen Wang Wins the 2017 Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation (Jan 30, 2017)
  28. The Ventriloquist’s Daughter: Between Fantasy and Reality – by Lin Man-chiu (Feb 23, 2017)
  29. One Child: The Story of China’s Most Radical Social Experiment – by Mei Fong (Feb 24, 2017)
  30. St Gregory’s School ‘Reading China’ book group – by Theresa Munford (Feb 25, 2017)
  31. The Story of Ink and Water – by Chun Zhang (Feb 26, 2017)
  32. Sister – by Peng Xuejun (Mar 5, 2017)
  33. I Am Mulan (Mar 13, 2017)
  34. Bronze and Sunflower – now available in the USA and Canada! (Mar 21, 2017)
  35. The King of Hide-and-Seek (Apr 8, 2017)
  36. Bilingual books from Candied Plums (Apr 17, 2017)
  37. Chinese literature festival in London, 12-14 May (May 5, 2017)
  38. The Ventriloquist’s Daughter – now available! (May 25, 2017)
  39. A Tree (Jun 9, 2017)
  40. Stephanie Gou on how Bronze and Sunflower opened a door to her memories (Jun 13, 2017)
  41. Who is Wenzheng Fu? (Jun 18, 2017)
  42. Author-illustrator Lipei Huang (Jun 25, 2017)
  43. Starfish Bay Children’s Books (Jul 10, 2017)
  44. “Plums” for Your Tongue: Chinese Children’s Literature for Language Learners (Jul 21, 2017)
  45. The 10th National Outstanding Children’s Literature Awards, 2017 (Aug 6, 2017)
  46. The Only Child, by Guojing (Aug 11, 2017)
  47. CFP: Asian Festival of Children’s Content (Aug 30, 2017)
  48. Little Soldier Zhang Ga (Sep 30, 2017)
  49. Happy Mid-Autumn Festival 2017 (Oct 4, 2017)
  50. 12 Books for the Holidays (Oct 5, 2017)
  51. David Jacobson’s survey of translations of children’s and YA Literature translated from Chinese, Japanese and Korean (Oct 16, 2017)
  52. List of Chinese-Themed Books for Kids and Teens – by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre (Oct 19, 2017)
  53. A Cross-Cultural Conversation Between Two Master Storytellers at the 2017 USBBY Conference (Oct 27, 2017)
  54. Chinese children’s and YA books, in English, 2017 (Dec 11, 2017)
  55. The 2017 Bai Meigui Translation Competition is now open! (Dec 12, 2017)
  56. What’s the difference between children’s books in China and the US? (Jan 7, 2018)
  57. Dong Yanan’s picture books (Jan 18, 2018)
  58. China Welfare Institute Publishing House: Picture Books from China, with Love & Beauty (Jan 22, 2018)
  59. Interview with Chloe Garcia Roberts, translator of the picture book “Feather” by Cao Wenxuan and Roger Mello (Jan 25, 2018)
  60. Getting to Know Rural Young Chinese Readers and Their World(s) (Jan 29, 2018)
  61. Our first 60 posts! (Feb 4, 2018)
  62. The NCTA Freeman Book Awards (Feb 6, 2018)
  63. Witness China’s New Love: the Changing Landscape of Chinese Children’s Literature (Feb 14, 2018)
  64. Books from Taiwan (Mar 1, 2018)
  65. The Tortoise Family goes to the Sea, and Blind Little Red Riding Hood (Mar 12, 2018)
  66. Children’s Books in China 2018 (and 2017) (Apr 6, 2018)
  67. Chinese Dinosaurs in an English Village (May 20, 2018)
  68. The Cao Wenxuan Children’s Literature Award (Jun 10, 2018)
  69. Teardrops of the Christmas Tree: A Memorable Childhood Reading Experience (Jul 10, 2018)
  70. Vikki Zhang, illustrator with a love of textiles and fashion (Aug 14, 2018)
  71. Let’s Talk to Kids about Sex… in Chinese, Q&A with Minjie Chen (Sep 3, 2018)
  72. People Reading in Chinese Art (Sep 15, 2018)
  73. Our First 72 Posts! (22 Oct 2018)
  74. Theresa Mumford, Chinese Teacher (1 Nov 2018)
  75. Jennie Liu’s Childhood Reading in the USA, 1970s-80s (8 Nov 2018)
  76. Children’s Literature from Hong Kong in English (6 Dec 2018)
  77. Science Fiction for Children – Selected by Liu Cixin and Han Song (10 Dec 2018)
  78. Childhood in a Courtyard House (14 Dec 2018)
  79. Asian Children’s Literature, Film and Animation (special issue of SARE 2018) (3 Jan 2019)
  80. Translator Dong Haiya Studies Children’s Literature at Reading (14 Jan 2019)
  81. Justine Laismith and the Secrets of the Great Fire Tree (31 Mar 2019)
  82. White Horse by Yan Ge (29 Apr 2019)
  83. Interview with Yangsze Choo, author of “The Ghost Bride” (14 May 2019)
  84. Exams, Handwriting and School Stories (20 May 2019)
  85. The Moose of Ewenki (27 Aug 2019)
  86. International Research on Chinese Children’s Literature (IRSCL 2019) (12 Sep 2019)
  87. The 10th Asian Festival of Children’s Content – Sparking New Ideas (15 Sep 2019)
  88. Two Temples, and Two Approaches to Depicting Religions to Children (30 Oct 2018)
  89. “My Favourite Children’s Books” – children in China vote for their Top 30 books of 2019 (3 Nov 2019)
  90. Christmas in China (5 Jan 2019)

Continue reading

83. Interview with Yangsze Choo, author of “The Ghost Bride”

One book leads to another… last November Lin Man-chiu and I were invited to talk about The Ventriloquist’s Daughter at an event at the LSE. The chair of the event, Prof Fang-long Shih, suggested that the story might be linked with ghost brides (on which she is an expert). Lin Man-chiu rejected this idea, but the discussion stuck in my mind, and when I saw Yangsze Choo’s novel The Ghost Bride, I was intrigued. Amy Matthewson devoured The Ventriloquist’s Daughter and Yangsze Choo’s two books The Ghost Bride (2013) and The Night Tiger (2019) in quick succession, and was thrilled when Yangsze Choo 朱洋熹 agreed to an interview. They discussed both of her books, but agreed that while The Ghost Bride is suitable (albeit scary) for young adults, The Night Tiger is more of an adult read. We are very grateful to Yangsze and Amy for this interview! – Helen  Continue reading