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Jan 15, 2019
When Two Worlds Collide: The Representation of Taiwan in International Collaborations of Picturebook Productions (II)
By Liu Meng-ying

International collaborations in picturebook creations about Taiwan are not few, and HongFei Cultures in France and Grimm Press in Taiwan are two of the most well-known publishing houses that dedicate in combining illustrators and writers from different cultures to create picturebooks. Both publishers provide fruitful creations of picturebooks of my interest.

Some of the stories are adaptations of ancient texts, some of them are original creations that are drawn from the authors’ own experiences, some of them are new creations of fictional stories set in ancient time, and some are with cultural neutral backgrounds that can be located in anytime, anywhere. As the main focus of this article is intercultural collaborations, I first targeted on texts with strong cultural reference.

After careful examinations, I narrowed down to one picturebook from each publisher, The Other End of the World (L’autre bout du monde, 2011) and Grandpa’s Toy Kingdom (爺爺的玩具王國, 2018). They are both written by the publishers themselves, illustrated by European artists, with realistic Taiwanese backgrounds, and have similar themes concerning the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.

The Other End of the World

Written by Taiwanese author Yeh Chun-Liang and illustrated by French artist Sophie Roze, The Other End of the World is based on the writer’s own experience of childhood and his relationship with his grandma (Yeh, 2017). Langlang rides on a cruise with his mom to visit Grandma on a small island because she wants to give him a special gift for his first day of school.

During the visit, Grandma plays games with Langlang and tells him lots of stories of the past. When Grandma was young, she learns from a teacher and has bounded feet like most young ladies from good families, but Fangfang couldn’t receive education and have bounded feet like everyone else because she needs to help her dad at work. Nevertheless, with the words learned from Grandma, she is able to travel to many cities, which makes Grandma envious. At the end of Langlang’s visit, Grandma gives him a pair of shoes with wings on the sides and tells him to go far and explore.

Grandpa's Toy Kingdom

Grandpa’s Toy Kingdom is written by Taiwanese author Hao Kuang-Tsa and illustrated by Italian artist Monica Barengo. The story talks about the relationship between a grandpa and his grandson. Xiao-Yu’s grandpa is an expert in toy-making, and Xiao-Yu enjoys his time with him. Among all these toys, Xiao-Yu loves spinning tops the most.

When Xiao-Yu grows up and needs to leave home for his studies, he and Grandpa exchange the gifts of memory, which is—the spinning tops! As time goes by, Grandpa grows more and more forgetful and gradually forgets about his family. But he never forgets about the toys. Understanding his memories won’t serve him anymore, he tries to write down all that was left in his mind.

However, as Xiao-Yu comes back and starts to make spinning top with Grandpa, the old Grandpa seems to be back. Grandpa then hands in the notebook he has been scribbling down to Xiao-Yu and says, ‘I know, by the time when Xiao-Yu comes back to see me, I might not be able to recognise him anymore. By the time when he comes back, please hand him my notebook. With these notes, Xiao-Yu would always see the old grandpa as he was!’