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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!’

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

    Children’s texts that work across and between cultures are often seen in film and animations, and the animation Howl's Moving Castle is one obvious example (Bradford, 2011). The mix of culture can be seen ‘not only in terms of financing, producing and the composition of their cast and crew, but also in terms of the reach of their distribution, exhibition and reception’ (Lim, 2007: 39, cited in Bradford, 2011: 27). Similar situations can be seen in the production of the following two publishing houses with Taiwanese connection.

    Yeh, Chun-Liang (葉俊良) & HongFei Cultures (鴻飛文化)

    Born in Taiwan, Yeh went to France to study architecture. He started his publishing house, HongFei Cultures, with Loïc Jacob in 2007, and he first books they published are based on texts directly translated from Taiwanese authors. However, they found that readers with different cultural backgrounds might have different understandings and approaches; thus, Yeh decided to write his own stories for French children and make adaptions of stories from Chinese classics (Yeh, 2017: 54).

    In his most recent book, Yeh provides a detailed outline of his editing work. He describes the role of the editor as a bridge between readers and writers (ibid: 54-59). What’s more, he is aware of his own identity. As an Asian in France, people sometimes question Yeh’s stance in book publishing; he understands how this ignorance comes about and is willing to try to break some walls (ibid: 148-153).

    The publications of HongFei Cultures include the following collections: stories translated directly from Chinese or Taiwanese texts, ancient story adaptations, new stories created by Yeh, stories associated with Eastern culture but with French authors’ perspectives, and stories that have no connections with the East. With such broad topics, the core in Yeh’s publication is the true representation and true feelings (ibid: 65, 101-102).

    Yeh wants Western readers to have a glimpse of what Eastern culture is really like rather than only seeing what they have expected (ibid: 99-102). Moreover, the name ‘HongFei’ means a bird leaving its claw prints on the snow, and then flies away; Yeh doesn’t expect the books to move everyone and to be understood or loved by every reader, but he hopes that the books can make a little difference in the readers’minds just like the claw prints on the snow (ibid: 139).

    Hao Kuang-Tsai (郝廣才) & Grimm Press (格林文化)

    Hao founded his own publishing house, Grimm Press, in 1993 and aims to publish picturebooks that have ‘high artistic values’ (Grimm Press, 2011). He believes the ‘beautiful’ picturebooks can enhance children’s ability to appreciate artworks (ibid). Different from most publishing houses in Taiwan that publish either translated picturebooks or locally created texts, Hao combines foreign illustrations with local or traditional texts, creating picturebooks from different perspectives (ibid).

    Grimm Press was awarded the best children’s book publisher at Bologna Children’s Book Fair in 2014, and with numerous book prizes in Taiwan and globally (ibid). Besides, Hao has been invited as the judge of Bologna Children’s Book Fair, and with the tight connection with international creators and publishers, he is able to create new stories with different point of view (ibid).

    The original picturebooks that Hao publishes are mainly written by him and illustrated by international illustrators. However, only some of the texts have specific cultural references; other fairy-tale-like stories are somehow ‘Western’ with references like prince, princess, and other famous fairy tale characters.

  • Jan 14, 2019
    Jung and Farber: Partners in Crime (II)
    By Liu Chih-Yu ∥ Translated by Roddy Flagg

    A good crime story isn’t just about suspense: it portrays a society. The protagonist in Moses and the Ship of the Dead, which Jung is to publish in 2019, is a thoroughly German chief inspector: well-educated, meticulous, and punctual and polite to the point of being boring. Yet on arrival at a crime scene he is repeatedly mistaken for an assistant – because he is black. And with that particular perspective and an intriguing crime to solve, the novel shows there are subtler forms of racism than violence and abuse.

    Hideo Yokoyama’s 64 sounds like exactly the kind of book Germans aren’t keen on: long, slow and full of foreign names. No other publisher would touch it, but Jung added a stunning cover and sold the book as a window on contemporary Japanese society. In doing so he created a much-discussed success which spent four months on Germany’s crime bestselling list and was hailed by critics as “doing something no other crime novel has done.”

    After the success of 64, many people asking Jung when he’d decided to jump on the Asian crime bandwagon. He struggles to answer – as far as he is concerned, he did no such thing. It was only after the success of 64 that bookstores started to dedicate sections to “Asian Crime Fiction” – the trend didn’t exist when he bought it. “To force books on the public which they don’t want is the publisher’s most important and most wonderful mission,” said Jung, quoting another German publisher.

    And once a publisher decides what type of book to publish, how are the actual books found? Jung stressed again and again the importance of partnerships – in this case, partners in “crime”. It was US literary scout Kelly Farber who first recommended 64.

    Kelly, the All-Knowing Literary Scout

    Kelly Farber, often mentioned by Jung, finally had the opportunity to talk about her own work as a literary scout. It’s not a common job in Taiwan, but she summed it up as a form of consultancy. Her publisher clients, hailing from various time-zones and cultural backgrounds, look to her for the latest intelligence on the US book market, recommendations and market analysis, and help reaching out to rights holders and closing deals.

    The need to stay on top of the latest first-hand info mean literary scouts spend much of their time talking to editors, trying to figure out what manuscripts are being considered. Sometimes an editor will voluntarily send over a manuscript he or she would like a scout’s opinion on, and a nod of approval from a scout can be an important indicator of potential success internationally and help rights sales.

    A literary scout’s job is not, as some people think, to read all day. Most of their working day is spent on the phone and replying to emails. At most they read short outlines of non-fiction books, with novels read at home in the evenings. Four manuscripts a week is the norm.

    Kelly also pointed out that book markets are becoming polarized – well-known authors with a clear political stance are more popular. Fiction is becoming harder to sell, but in Spain fiction sells twice as much as non-fiction. So don’t give up, she says: it’s a tough market, but there can be good news where you least expect it.