• An Overview of Taiwan’s Book Market 2022 (II)
    Jan 03, 2023 / By Su Shin

    Read previous part: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=218


    Returning now to publicity and rights licensing news, Chen Yuhong (陳育虹), close friend of the late Yang Mu and translator of both Anne Carson and Nobel Laureate Louise Glück, is herself an important poet; translations of her work exist in English, French, and Japanese, and she was awarded the prestigious Cikada Prize in Sweden this September.


    Booker-prize longlist author Wu Ming Yi (吳明益) visited Europe to promote the German edition of The Man with the Compound Eyes (Der Mann mit den Facettenaugen). There, he attended the Climate Culture Festival, the Internationales Literaturfestival Berlin, and gave a talk at the University of Zurich.


    Writer of Ocean literature and one of the most well-known Indigenous authors, Syaman Rapongan (夏曼.藍波安), visited France to promote the publication of Les Yeux de l'océan, Mata nu Wawa (大海之眼), the second of his books to be published in French. He met readers and joined academics at universities in Bordeaux, Paris, and Lyon. Rapongan’s unique perspective and narrative style have left strong impressions on foreign readers, and his works have been translated into English, Russian, Czech, Italian, Japanese, Korean, and other languages.


    Puppet Flower (傀儡花), a piece of well-received historical fiction written by part-time novelist and full-time medical specialist Yao-Chang Chen (陳耀昌), was made into a TV miniseries (Seqalu: Formosa 1867) and is to be published in English by Columbia University Press in 2023.


    Gold Leaf (茶金) is another book-to-screen success story. What began as a self-published biography documenting the rise and fall of a tea-exporting Hakka family was adapted into a 10-part television series broadcast in 2021.


    In conversation, several international publishers have remarked to me on the steady demand for children’s books in the Taiwanese market. One might wonder what is driving the demand, and some may be surprised to hear it attributed to our low childbirth rate. Indeed, even if the absolute number of children is smaller, parents often have more resources available, both in terms of finance and time, to spend on the children they do have.


    Twenty years ago, cheap story books such as The Fairy Tales of Grimm and Andersen, published with small, low-quality illustrations throughout, were the go-to choice for parents; but now high-value picture books are just as popular. However, the continuing decline in the total fertility rate is nevertheless alarming for our industry, and we have seen school and university closures due to the significant reduction in pupil numbers. The other drive for children’s books is likely to come from millennial, trend-conscious parents, known in Mandarin as wenqing parents (文青家長). These consumers are drawn to well-crafted and beautifully illustrated books, and they tend to purchase books that they themselves would like to read. This is a trend we see across the world, with the rise of imprints such as Big Picture Press from Templar, or new publishers such as Magic Cat Publishing in the UK. 


    Many illustrated books, where genre boundaries can be quite blurred—as is the case with picture books, graphic novels, and independently produced manga—enjoy a wide readership that ranges from children to adults. We also see illustrators choosing to work in multiple genres, for example Pei-Hsiu Chen (陳沛珛), Yi-Wen Huang (黃一文), and Zhou JianXin (周見信), to name but a few. Although the presence and enduring cultural influence of manga has deep roots in Taiwan, graphic novels have often been seen as a niche and difficult-to-sell product category. Pei-Shan Huang, founder of Slowork, who has been on a mission to publish graphic novels by local authors and illustrators (for which she has received great critical success), shared that she is pleased that her books have performed well in Japan but is disappointed that sales have remained sluggish in Taiwan. Though progress might feel frustratingly slow, acceptance of graphic novels is increasing, and the market is slowly expanding; classic, award-winning examples such as Maus by Art Spiegelman, Understanding Comics and Making Comics by Scott McCloud, and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, have all been translated and published in Taiwan within the past five years.


    As I re-read various materials in preparation for this post, I began thinking about how the hybridity of our books and our heterogeneous readership exist as reflections of a national sensitivity; Taiwan is the in-betweener inhabiting divergent identities that cannot be neatly categorized. But there is an irony here too: despite their genre-straddling nature, many publications from recent years have had a strong focus on the local. Be they community histories, picture books dripping with nostalgia, or novels written in the gradually fading Taiwanese language, although some publications possess universal qualities that transcend their setting, much of their content can appear as targeting a specifically Taiwanese readership.


    I write this without judgement; a complicated history means many of us are experiencing shifts within the collective self. Martial law was lifted only in the late 1980s, and eerie feelings of the authoritarian linger still. Those of the White-Terror generation might, whether consciously or subconsciously, have forgotten the worst of what they went through, a forgetting that in some instances amounts to an omission.


    But the rise of the internet brought with it access to information previously unavailable, and the 2014 Sunflower Movement instilled a new generation with the means and motivation to become politically minded. Some of us began to question what it meant to be Taiwanese. Were we heirs to Chinese culture? Were we a neo-colonial vassal to the USA? Or could we in fact become something else?


    Alongside this venturing outward into the unknown universe, some have chosen introspection; they have looked at what has been lost or at what is in danger of disappearing. Depending on one’s perspective, this could be viewed either as resistance or as naïveté. But whatever it is, we are seeing the rise of authors and illustrators whose artistic impulse is local to Taiwan. Despite the occasional difficulty in translocating a hyper-specific cultural reference, the steady accumulation of international awards, rights sales, and domestic content licensing have helped the industry gain confidence and momentum. With that in mind, we very much look forward to reading new works and to introducing them to our readers around the world.


    For more information on the latest updates surrounding our creative industry and international book fair, please visit:

    Taiwan Creative Content Agency (TAICCA) English official website

    TiBE 台北國際書展


    For more information on translation grants, please visit:

    Books From Taiwan | Grant

  • An Overview of Taiwan’s Book Market 2022 (I)
    Jan 03, 2023 / By Su Shin

    Many of us have already begun planning for the 2023 Taipei International Book Exhibition. While these preparations are underway, it seems an appropriate time to review the 2021 publishing industry’s figures and share the latest insights and highlights.


    The total sales revenue from the publishing industry in 2021 was USD718 million (+5% YoY), compared with USD680 million in 2020. The revenue increase is widely attributed to the effect of the VAT-exemption policy that came into force in 2021, and it is therefore not viewed as real growth. However, one definite increase has been the surge of new ISBN applications, which rose by nearly 60% YoY, with over 54,000 numbers being issued in 2021. One factor behind this rise could be the significant growth in the eBook segment. Delayed consumer interest—when compared with other international markets—combined with 2021’s elevated Covid restrictions to produce marked changes in consumer habits.


    Readmoo, one of the major eBook platforms, saw revenue growth of +160% in 2021. It is worth noting that although Readmoo is based in Taiwan, approximately 40% of their readership is located overseas, in places such as the USA and Hong Kong. The growth in Hong Kong is perhaps to be expected, as in the present political climate it might be seen as easier (and safer) to purchase certain titles as eBooks, rather than visiting physical bookstores.


    Another growth area was in audiobooks and podcasts. MirrorFiction, who launched their audio platform in 2021, has seen great success; they distribute a wide range of audiobooks, using a subscription model similar to Audible, and offer a curated selection of podcasts, produced in collaboration with major authors, critics, and academics.


    In terms of marketing and publicity, social media outlets such as Facebook and Youtube continue to be important platforms for the promotion of books. TikTok is widely used in Taiwan, but we have yet to see domestic BookToker sensations.


    During October’s Taiwan Story Salon at Frankfurt Book Fair, Porter Anderson from Publishing Perspectives engaged in a stimulating discussion with Kim Pai from Paisha Agency; they spoke about the trends in fiction and non-fiction, in particular from a feminist perspective. Kim shared that many of our bestselling authors of recent years have been women and that (relative to other markets) there hasn’t been such a pressing need to address gender representation in our industry. Female authors in their 30s and 40s write on various topics, including LGBT issues, #MeToo, and identity topics such as living as a career-woman or being a mother or a daughter. It is difficult to pinpoint reasons for the wide acceptance of female writers or matriarchal figures in our society, but ever since the 1950s, Eileen Chang (張愛玲), San Mao (三毛), Chiung Yao (瓊瑤), and numerous other female authors have sold millions of books across different genres.


    Veteran publishers and editors in Taiwan often refer to the 1970s & 80s as the ‘golden age’ of our publishing industry. It was during this time that the influential Small Fives (五小) were established. These were independently founded highbrow literary publishers that acted as a collective with regards to sales and distribution. Their authors included essayist and translator Lin Wen-yueh (林文月), modernist literary author Kenneth Hsien-yung Pai (白先勇), feminist author Li Ang (李昂), celebrated poet, essayist, and publisher Yang Mu (楊牧), and numerous other authors now present in the Taiwanese literary canon. Two of the Small Five founders, who were also acclaimed authors in their own right, were women: Lin Haiyin (林海音) founded Belle-Lettres Publishing House (純文學出版社), and Yao Yni Ying (姚宜瑛) founded Vast Plain Publishing House (大地出版社).


    Read on: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=219

  • The Key to Making Math Fun
    Dec 27, 2022 / By Anting Lu ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    When most people think about math, the first thing that comes to mind tends to be the complicated problems that are difficult to solve, as well as the painful memories of studying math without really knowing why. However, according to Lai I-Wei, author of Numeracy Lab: 12 Real-Life Math Experiments, it doesn’t need to be this way! Lai has been promoting math education for over ten years and in 2016 he co-founded “Numeracy Lab” with his wife Liao Pei-yu which is all about turning math into something fun, whether it be by putting on camps or making interesting videos, and, of course, by publishing books.


    Why Make Math Fun? Because That’s How You Learn It!

    Numeracy Lab: 12 Real-Life Math Experiments consists of 12 mathematical experiments to get children to work closely with math in a practical, hands-on way. The biggest difference between this style of teaching and traditional lessons, books, and math problems is that children can actively participate in the process.

    Lai notes that the issue has been particularly exacerbated by remote classes during the pandemic when children lost the spatial boundary of the classroom and the sense of routine that came with the start and end of lessons, meaning that they were even more distracted and would often do other things while they were listening in class. For a new generation of teachers, their competitors aren’t just other teachers at their schools but also famous YouTubers and popular online games etc., so the most important thing is to hold the attention of their students by making class fun.

    He firmly believes: “We want to nurture an interest in math and motivate children to learn so that they’re willing to take the initiative and master those lessons, then when they come across harder math in the future, they’re more likely to persevere with it.”


    We’ve Made It Fun, Now What? Practical Uses for Math in Everyday Life

    In addition to helping motivate children to study and making it fun, there’s another benefit of keeping children exposed to math: it helps them develop numeracy skills. We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of numeracy in ordinary life. Lai cited popular astrology as an example. He saw a news report which revealed that among the nearly 200 heads of state across the world, Scorpios were the most represented star sign. Meanwhile, a different news source revealed that in Taiwan over the years, Scorpios had been defrauded more than any other star sign. The average person might laugh and guess that this somehow makes Scorpios too clever for their own good. However, someone with strong numeracy skills would immediately think: “The population isn’t evenly distributed across the 12 astrological signs!” and from there they would explore whether these statistics are the result of Scorpios being the largest portion of the population.

    “Modern news includes more and more statistics, but we need to be careful about how we interpret this data. Numeracy can help us grasp the actual meaning behind data,” says Lai, adding: “If you have an acute understanding of numbers, you’ll be better at distinguishing whether information is true or not.”


    How Do We Make Math Fun? Share Real First-Hand Examples

    For Numeracy Lab: 12 Real-Life Math Experiments, Lai actually had children do each of the math experiments in the book for themselves. During our interview, he shared some of the interesting anecdotes that occurred along the way.

    One of the experiments illustrates the math behind the golden ratio and how it applies to flower arranging, since artistic works that use the ratio are more likely to appeal to popular tastes. Lai found some flowers and got the students to arrange them, some used the golden ratio while others didn’t. Although some of the arrangements that didn’t use the golden ratio were quite eye-catching, a lot of them were creative in a way that wouldn’t be considered conventionally attractive. By contrast, the arrangements that did use the ratio felt more like they’d been made in a factory as they were all equally attractive and shared a sense of consistency.

            Through this experiment, Lai didn’t just share with the children what the golden ratio was but also let them feel the difference between using mathematical thinking and using creativity or intuition, which also allowed them to experience the different beauty of each.

    Lai also encourages parents to let their children experience the math experiments for themselves. In addition to the flower arranging example above, other experiments such as calculating the ratio of different colors in a packet of chocolate M&Ms and examining the mathematical pattern on the outer skin of a pineapple, are very easy for parents to do with their children.


    No Matter Where You’re From, You’ll Have a Reason to Enjoy This Book

    When asked how Numeracy Lab: 12 Real-Life Math Experiments could grow internationally, Lai says he believes that mathematics is like a language that is spoken all over the world. People from different countries all study the same subject from a young age, we all use the same Arabic numerals and basic functions of arithmetic (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) to express mathematical concepts. Given the lack of cultural differences, Lai hopes that everyone can experience the interesting mathematical content in this book for themselves.

    There are also some surprising Eastern elements in book, such as the probability question about a traditional Chinese divination method used in temples and the auspicious number phrases that Taiwanese people use when celebrating Lunar New Year. These elements simultaneously make math even more fun to study and let overseas readers gain new cultural knowledge as part of their reading experience.

  • A True Team Effort
    Dec 27, 2022 / By Chang Yu-Jung ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    During the period at the end of 2019 when people still weren’t sure what was happening, COVID-19 quietly entered our lives before violently spreading to every corner of the world. What followed was panic, derision, and anxiety for a lot of people, while at the same time each country’s government and public health organizations started working together to put epidemic prevention measures in place.

    Our lives completely changed. Suddenly, everyone was paying attention to their own hygiene habits, and health-related information about disease prevention was repeated constantly across the news, adverts, and online videos. For example, there were stories about wearing a mask to protect yourself and others, or how to wash your hands to make sure they were clean, or what concentration of alcohol to use to disinfect your surroundings and so on. We also discovered that even though the necessary actions were very simple and easy, there were still a lot of people who fundamentally questioned why we were taking these measures. At the same time, there was also a lot of disinformation flooding the internet, with people spreading fake news on social media because they were worried that their friends and relatives would miss out on important information.

    This was all happening in the adult world, and surely if we grown-ups couldn’t understand it, then children would have absolutely no idea what was going on. Those of us in book publishing quietly continued working but we also wondered whether there was anything we could do. We wanted children to know that countries all over the world were changing, and now everyone needed to follow compulsory regulations which were based on science and were there to protect everyone’s lives. We wanted children to know why we needed to wear masks and stay socially distanced from other people, why we needed to isolate if we caught the disease, and why we definitely needed to get vaccinated even if we felt uncomfortable. Furthermore, we also hoped that in this era of information overload, children would slowly develop the ability to interpret evidence.

    We started by looking to see if any other countries had written suitable books that we could publish. We discovered a lot of single-issue books that introduced subjects such as what a virus was, what bacteria were; or other books that were basic introductions to understanding health or discussed the history of how humans have fought pandemics in the past. There weren’t any children’s titles we could find that were a comprehensive overview of the past, present, and future, so we decided to publish the book ourselves. We approached internationally renowned epidemiologist Chen Chien-Jen (who was also Vice President of Taiwan between 2016 and 2020) and the extremely popular children’s science writer Ami Hu, to collaborate on what we believed would be an excellent book for children to read.

    In terms of division of labor, Chen Chien-Jen provided the knowledge, content, and framework, then Ami Hu “translated” it into a writing style that would be fun for children to read. Inevitably, there was a lot of back and forth between the authors and the editor, whether it was about drafting the outline or writing the text for each page: How can we present this point in a way that’s easier for children to understand? This concept is important but is it something children need to know at this stage? This point needs to be written in short, simple text but have we lost some of the accuracy? There were a lot of details that we needed to consider so we took the reader as the starting point and ensured that they would be able to fully absorb the information.

    Of course, there was another vital contributor to the book: our exceptional illustrator, Hui. After the authors had agreed on the final text and sent it to the editor, it was then down to the editor to finalize the text and communicate the image brief and initial ideas to the illustrator, which is a moment that is seared into Hui’s brain! An illustrator needs to be like a preliminary reader and absorb the author’s text and before reading around on the topic to get a comprehensive understanding of it. Then, she needs to examine the image brief from the authors and the editor, consider the scope of the text and illustrations, check the accuracy of the scientific images, etc. Even within these various limitations, Hui used her creativity to draw beautiful, entertaining images that could be understood by adults and children alike. The authors’ warm words and the artist’s rich, varied illustrations come together to convey the ideas to reader in a way that is multi-faceted and three-dimensional.

    Over the last ten years, there has been a lot of progress in children’s non-fiction both at home and abroad, but due to the pandemic, creativity seems to have stalled in the last couple of years which is something that the publishing industry needs to be aware of. I hope that as an industry we will all continue to strive and that I can be a small linchpin as we continue to provide children with high-quality non-fiction books.

  • A Journey Towards Self-Discovery
    Dec 27, 2022 / by Huang Yachun ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    This is a book where the author has consciously made it her mission to write a children’s novel that also serves as a form of feminist literature. The story begins with the disappearance of a group of grandmothers and is narrated by eleven-year-old Kai-ting (granddaughter of Su-ying) who accompanies them on their journey towards self-discovery. We see the whole thing unfold through Kai-ting’s precocious but childish perspective and her witty, eccentric descriptions.


    Let’s Hit the Road!

    For Eastern women, the process of individualization is extremely challenging because a lot of women absorb the cultural values recognized by their families and societies as they grow up, so their appearance and sense of self is built on the idea of being a “good woman”. Once a woman begins to listen to her inner voice, she starts to face resistance from her family and society, experiencing a mixture of inner conflict and self-doubt. In this book, the author draws on female consciousness and considerations about life to create a story about a group of grandmothers who run away for nine days, and I personally see it as a journey of self-discovery with Su-ying’s transformation at its core.

    While each of the four grandmothers might have their own reasons for joining the secret plan to visit Taitung, the main cause is that Achu has discovered something bad in her breasts. This news shocks the group of elderly female friends and the leader, Granny Ten Yuan, thinks to herself that she’s turning seventy and isn’t sure if she’ll live another decade, so she decides to put her innermost thoughts into action. Achu’s life-threatening news is what gives the whole group the chance to change.


    Breasts: Thank You and Farewell

    From a narrative standpoint, the story involving Achu’s suspected breast cancer isn’t just the catalyst for the plot development but also serves as the core function of the text. How women perceive their breasts can hold a lot of psychological meaning in terms of how they perceive their own value. The characters in the novel range from a young girl going through puberty to a group of elderly married women, which the author deliberately uses to explore the physical experience of being a woman.

    At the end of the book, the grandmothers are all wearing bikinis as they perform a “Thank You and Farewell Ceremony” for Achu’s breasts on the beach in Taitung and the ritual symbolizes how the women have freed themselves from their inner prejudices. Kai-ting helps Achu write a letter to her breasts thanking them for a lifetime together. In the letter, Achu expresses how her breasts once represented love and her ability to nurture, but now that they’re sick it’s time to say goodbye. Then they burn the letter in a fire on the beach.

    While Achu is melancholy on the eve of her mastectomy and there’s a sense of regret at the loss of her female body, from here on she can let go of the attachment she feels towards the “beautiful, God-given gifts” of her breasts. The ceremony marks the women’s rediscovery of their own inner strength as it allows them let go of their identities as mothers and wives.

    The bikinis in the title of the novel are also an important symbol in the book. Different clothes can often represent different identities, and we can use them to decorate or hide ourselves. Fearless under the gaze of others, they no longer hide their bodies which have become stout over the years, instead they wear the most revealing item of clothing possible: bikinis. This can be seen as a brave declaration that they have peeled away their outer selves and faced their true selves.

    The group of women relinquish their attachment to the idea of a perfect female body and let go of their old roles and identities as they run wildly towards the vast ocean together, brimming with the joy of rebirth and also symbolizing the freedom of spiritual liberation. That moment shows the grandmothers becoming the people they didn’t get to be and that they now finally get to become themselves.


    We Are Not Alone on the Road to Growth

    The main characters in the book all have certain traits that we might see reflected in our own personalities. Maybe we’re like the young girl Kai-ting who’s embarrassed about her round figure and well-developed breasts; or her grandmother Su-ying who is always making sure that her husband and family are satisfied but suppressing her own true inner voice in the process; or Achu who has to play the role of mother and wife to find the central core of her life; or the elegant grandma Shu-nu who places too much value on her image and physique, hiding her lonely, hollow heart behind a veil of bravado; or maybe we’re like the seemingly confident, decisive and sharp-tongued Granny Ten Yuan who’s actually holding onto some complicated unresolved issues. In this way, these women’s stories become our stories, as different readers apply the characters’ insights and realizations to their own life experiences.

    Through these characters, I can see that we’re all still just stumbling along the road crying, laughing, feeling frightened but continuing to grow. We make mistakes and constantly doubt ourselves or feel useless or occasionally even hurt other people. While these might not be traits that we are fond of, they are part of our true selves and I am willing to cherish and accept them. Even if we grieve and blame ourselves, we still need to be willing to welcome life’s challenges and let our wounded souls choose to live a second life.

    The real, three-dimensional female characters in books like this make us see that we are not alone, that we have so many sisters with us as we embark on the journey towards becoming ourselves.

  • A Landmark for Sinophone Children’s Fantasy Fiction
    Dec 27, 2022 / By Duh Ming-Cheng ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    Ever since Harry Potter first took the book world by storm, there’s been a huge surge in Western fantasy novels which have been able to further dominate children’s literature and popular fiction through screen adaptations. First, we saw a spectacular resurgence of the classics such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, and Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series, then a dizzying array of new works like His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan, and so on.

    We’ve had wave after wave of these tomes, but the subject keeps shifting. We’ve had books set in imaginary versions of the Middle Ages, or in the kingdom of Christ, or on distant islands, or in dystopian futures, as well as others that draw on traditional lore involving vampires, while others turned to Greek gods and Ancient Egypt.


    A Wide-Open Creative Landscape

    Given all the above, we couldn’t help but wonder whether our own literary and cultural traditions might have a similar wealth of fantasy novels brewing somewhere beneath the surface. First, Attack of the Sinograph Army by Chang Chih-lu garnered a lot of attention, then readers were even more enthusiastic about Record of the Tomb Pen by Ma Boyong, but both books seemed to be anomalies among those writers’ other works. It wasn’t until Chen Yu-Ju came along that we finally got a taste of fantasy novels that were built on Chinese cultural traditions, it was as if she’d woven various patchwork pieces together into an ornate dress.

    Chen’s works have emerged to really satisfy the inner demands of sinophone readers who found that no matter how great Western fantasy novels might be, there was always a slight language barrier, whereas books about distant, ancient China like Record of Heretofore Lost Works and The Classic of Mountains and Seas still always felt familiar.

    Chen is extremely good at drawing on different materials, as can be seen in her young adult series Cultivation which is visibly influenced by Western fantasy novels but expertly blends Chinese cultural elements in a way that quickly drew in readers and immediately became a sensation among people of all ages. It was followed by the Legend of the Immortals series where you can see the full breadth and depth of Chen’s creative landscape across the four books: The Soul of Poetry, The Guardian of Poems, The Immortal Painter and The Demon Among Pottery. Her works feel so familiar and don’t go out of their way to seem highbrow, making them fun and engaging for children. She’s constantly innovating when it comes to the subject matters for her books, and it seems like she has an endless supply of creative inspiration.


    Continuously Evolving Artistic Expression

    Chen doesn’t just set the tone for the fantasy genre but is also a pioneer, demonstrating how artistic expression can continuously evolve.

    Guardian of the Everlasting Stone undoubtedly surpasses all of Chen’s previous works and is far more elaborate but natural in terms of plot. Her imagination leads us through a collection of Bronze Age relics in the National Palace Museum from the Shang Dynasty, shuttling between past and present without feeling the slightest bit far-fetched. One moment we’re searching for things on Google, the next we’re in a mythical era of dueling sorcerers. As readers solve the antiques’ various riddles, they are drawn layer by layer into the core of the story in a way that’s like an engrossing mystery novel. The foreshadowing leaves even less of a trace here than it did in her previous novels. It is clear when reading Chen’s books that she does extensive research before putting pen to paper. The historical knowledge enriches the plot in the reader’s imagination, which is a reflection of how Chen’s writing is entertaining and educational at the same time.

    In my opinion, Guardian of the Everlasting Stone is a new milestone for Chen’s work, and it has left me eagerly anticipating what she does next as an author, I am convinced that further stages of artistic evolution are in the works. Who knows, perhaps her book series will become a catalyst and spark a literary sensation of fantasy novels rooted in Chinese culture.

  • The Art of Saying Farewell
    Dec 27, 2022 / By Bei Lynn ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    There are so many different aspects and feelings involved in final farewells, so in Practicing Goodbye I wanted to tell the story of two experiences: one where there was no chance to say goodbye, and one where it was possible to say a proper farewell.

    If separation is inevitable but there’s no chance to say goodbye, even though over time we reframe our emotions and get used to the changes in our lives until eventually we just hope that the other party is doing well, it can still weigh heavily on our hearts if we were the one left behind.

    This is a story about a person and a dog called Bibi who are separated then reunited, as well as all the various feelings they experience along the way. Why do we feel such regret and how does it fade with time? And if you’re lucky enough to be given a second chance to meet again and say a proper goodbye, you can turn that regret into a journey and move forward with your life.

    Often when I’ve got an idea and I’m creating a new story for it, I’ll be immersed enough in it that I’ll have a eureka moment with the characters where I suddenly realize something. In this story’s case, I had a few scattered thoughts while I was writing and illustrating, but when everything came together I realized that the first time the characters separate would feel like a practice run. After they’re reunited, if they had the chance to say a proper goodbye before separating again, it would still feel like a heavy blow but that cathartic moment when the rain clears to reveal a blue sky would come a little bit earlier.

    Practicing Goodbye is a story based on a real experience. The second section is different from the other parts of the book with its own tones and color palate to represent how I imagine Bibi’s life was during the time he was lost. When Bibi crosses the physical centerline of the book, he reaches a parallel world where he stays until a voice calls out to him, and he has to cross the line back to his previous owner’s world (where the book continues into the third section). I portrayed it this way because I wanted to give Bibi some initiative in the decision to leave rather than just depicting him as lost. For all we know, it’s a possibility that’s out there.    

    The idea that “disappearing is its own kind of existence” was something that I came to realize over the course of illustrating this book. I planned to use basic pencil sketches to illustrate the story because I thought there was a certain purity to it, like they were the handwritten notes of someone who’d actually been through this experience. Erasers are useful for removing mistakes and redrawing lines, but this story helped me realize that an eraser can also be like a white brush that varies the depth of pencil drawings depending on how tightly you grasp it. As a result, on the book cover we can see Bibi disappearing in a way that makes his existence even more prominent.

    Just as the protagonist is lucky to have a second chance to say goodbye to Bibi, I also feel extremely fortunate to have had the chance to tell this story about a “proper goodbye”.

  • Granting a Midnight Wish
    Dec 27, 2022 / By Lin Ssu-Chen, Lesley Liu ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    Author-Illustrator Lin Ssu-Chen: Creating Beauty and Loneliness

    I actually came up with the story for The Moon Wants to Sleep by chance after seeing a photograph. It was a picture of the moon looking big and round on a dark night, shining very brightly but in a way that seemed lonely and stirred something within me, so since then I’d wanted to write a story based on that image. Then, one night I was out walking my puppy beside the river when I saw the moon and suddenly thought, what if the moon was like a person and wanted to go to sleep at night in the same way everyone else does? That was how naturally the story came up.

    The moon in the story is always hanging alone in the dark night sky, it wants to fall fast asleep at night like everyone else but that won’t work because its light is just too bright against the darkness, in the same way that anyone who has ever experienced loneliness knows how it feels to look on enviously at the beauty and warmth of everyday life around them. By trying to be like everyone else, the moon ends up forgetting its own beauty and how even though sometimes the silence can be lonely, there’s also a lot of beauty in that silence.

    I chose to use charcoal and graphite pencils to create illustrations that were a blend of black, white, and gray. Since there were no other colors, the possibilities between black and white felt endless and there was a gentleness to the shading which was perfect for portraying the soft halo of light around the moon.


    Judge and Author-Illustrator Lesley Liu: The Moon’s Midnight Wish

    “Moon, what’s the matter with you? Isn’t it time for you to go to work? Why do you want to sleep?”

    Doesn’t seeing these questions make you want to ask: “What’s the moon doing out in broad daylight?”

    When the sun is out during the day, the moon is in pitch darkness. Given that the moon’s only friends are the millions of planets and stars who stay fast sleep all year round, what can the moon do during the day besides sleep? Could you imagine if you had to sleep until it was time for work, only to roll out of bed and look down on a cloud-filled sky to see that everyone else was already asleep? It makes total sense for the moon to want to sleep at night! It would even sleep better in the cold, solitary night sky bathed in a soft halo of light! The moon coming out can also symbolize being awake at night when you’re tired and want to sleep, which could make this a good book for people suffering with insomnia.  

     For the book’s illustrations, the image design and composition are all well thought out and skillfully drawn. Although Lin Ssu-Chen only uses variations of black and white, the images still feel warm and the full moon is a soft, plump sphere which feels so cozy that the reader can imagine it snuggling in bed. Lin gives it just the right amount of expressiveness and has added a pair of hands which work well for dramatic purposes. Even better still, when we see the moon from behind as it scuttles between buildings in the city, we discover it has butt cheeks! Never underestimate the power of a single brushstroke! Children really love this kind of humor and it can leave them feeling happier and more relaxed. Believe me, that single brushstroke might just have an influence on how they see the world. I’m someone who absolutely loved funny drawings as a child and that humor ended up shaping my personality to a certain extent.

    Doesn’t the moon always seem aloof in a way that makes you want to approach but you don’t want to disturb it? Lin’s book captures this feeling too. Between the moonlight in the starry sky, the reflections in the water, the shadows and brilliant rays of light rendered solely in black and white, this is a rich picture book filled with a sense of anticipation that makes it a truly enchanting read.

  • A Fun-Filled Story Packed with Surprises
    Dec 27, 2022 / By Wu Jia-Lian ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    What’s in your fridge? By phrasing the title as a question, Who’s in the Fridge? tells the reader right from the get-go that there isn’t just food in this refrigerator! Who could possibly be hiding in there? Readers who have picked up the book are probably just as confused as the little boy on the cover. However, as soon as they turn the page, the midnight adventure of opening the fridge starts to unfold!


    A Story Written from a Child’s Perspective

    The earliest version of the story for Who’s in the Fridge? started to take shape around the time that author-illustrator Severus Lian was in high school, but the concept was based on her real childhood experience of sneaking to the fridge in the middle of the night. Could she make it to the fridge without being discovered? Who would she meet along the way? And what magical creatures would be waiting for her in the fridge? Who’s in the Fridge? combines the thrill of not knowing if you’ll be discovered and the anticipation of not knowing what’s waiting for you in the fridge, which creates a story that the reader can participate in wholeheartedly from start to finish.

    Lian has always loved to draw and was inspired to study illustration by Gaston Klein who was her art teacher while she was on exchange at Fontys University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. From there, she set foot on the path to creating picture books and has never looked back. When it comes to material for her illustrations, Lian likes to combine different themes and try a range of artistic mediums. She is an expert in zany humor and taps into the little details and fun of everyday life. While she was creating Who’s in the Fridge?, Lian held onto the childish innocence of her original concept and deliberately set up lots of scenes that young children could interact with so that they don’t just enjoy the story but also open each page and find it filled with fun surprises.


    Paying Attention to the Humor in Everything

    Who’s in the Fridge? tells the magical story of a little boy who sneaks out in the middle of the night to steal pudding but when he opens the fridge, he’s shocked to find that it contains a seal and a polar bear. The story begins by announcing one rule: you shouldn’t go to the fridge after 10 pm. However, the protagonist has already broken that rule on the title page by tiptoeing to open the kitchen door and starting the chain of events. The text uses different colors to distinguish between the characters which makes things clear on first glance and also lets the reader naturally immerse themselves in the plot and illustrations without being distracted by the narration.

    At first glance, Who’s in the Fridge? is a happy, light-hearted story but it cleverly changes tone into a narrative about protecting the environment and caring for animals. The seal and polar bear eventually escape without a hitch but the happy ending also leaves the reader with a sense of suspense. We might ask young readers: why are the animals hiding in the fridge? Since the earth’s environment is becoming more extreme and the animals don’t have a home or enough to eat, where will they go when they leave the fridge? The author takes the fun, humorous story and ingeniously weaves this mindset of caring for living things in amongst the pages.


    Spreading Laughter Across the World Through a Picture Book

    Lian has created a vivid and hilarious story by combining a simple concept with freeform line drawings and snapshots that feel as though they’re brimming with rhythm. Although Who’s in the Fridge? is written by a Taiwanese author-illustrator, the subject matter isn’t hindered by national boundaries as most households across the world have a refrigerator and the story closely corresponds with children’s mindsets. Lian believes that the book can successfully cross language and cultural barriers to be a hit with readers around the world.