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  • How Children’s Book Publishers in Asia Are Fighting the Pandemic (II)
    Dec 23, 2021 / By Alice (Readmoo) ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    Read Previous Part: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=174

     

    Children’s Book Markets by Country: The Proportion of Local vs Foreign Titles

    At the moment it seems like most children’s books in Taiwan are translated titles, but Su Shin also wanted to note that in the last five years there has been a steady increase in the number of local children’s book authors and illustrators. In 2019, nine Taiwanese illustrators were selected to display their work at the Illustrator’s Exhibition at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, which was a new record for Taiwan. This year, Lin Lian-En’s picture book Home won the 2021 Bologna Ragazzi Award for Fiction, and Animo Chen’s picture book Love Letter which was written in Taiwanese received a special mention for the 2021 Bologna Ragazzi Award for Poetry. These internationally recognised awards are not only a boost for Taiwanese creators but also bring increased visibility and publishing opportunities. Su Shin also candidly acknowledges that in reality these awards might not necessarily translate into sales: “Ultimately, is it more important for a book to be a bestseller or to be publicly lauded? Even at this stage, we still can’t avoid that struggle between critical acclaim and book sales.”

    In Thailand and Vietnam, the majority of children’s titles are translated books. “The proportion of original Vietnamese books is about 20-30%, with translated books accounting for nearly 70% of the market. The main reason is that it’s hard to find professional Vietnamese children’s writers.” Take picture books for example, the author has to co-create with an illustrator but since most illustrators in Vietnam work part-time or are moonlighting: “It takes a long time to create children’s books and it doesn’t generate much income.” Therefore, most children’s books in Vietnam tend to be translations of foreign titles. The same is true in Thailand, where over 80% of children’s books are translated titles. In the past, they have been published in co-edition with European publishers which not only reduced production costs but also served as professional guidance for Thai publishers by giving them the chance to collaborate with a lot of highly-skilled children’s book printing specialists.

    By contrast, translated books account for a smaller proportion of Indonesia’s publishing market, and the number of translated children’s titles is even smaller still. “Many local authors are very keen to interact with fans on the internet which makes marketing and publicising their books relatively easy, whereas translated works are never quite as effective at achieving this as their local counterparts.” Editors at Indonesian publishing houses often find picture book creators who have already a certain number of fans on social media and invite them to publish a physical book. Generally speaking, the market response is pretty good. Adapting books for the screen and selling the rights to streaming platforms is one of the ways they can promote local Indonesian books. “We actively contact domestic production companies as well as trying to sell international translation rights, but for the most part we tend to sell them to domestic production teams.” Filming brings the text to life on screen, making it more vivid with new layers of storytelling. In addition to Netflix, there are local Indonesian streaming platforms that bring great stories to readers.

    The children’s publishing market in South Korea is also dominated by local books. “In the past, domestic and foreign titles used to be a 50/50 or 60/40 split, but recently over 90% of books have been written by local authors.” There are two South Korean organisations that are investing resources in local authors, in particular the Publication Industry Promotion Agency of Korea (KPIPA) is there to assist translators, plan book fairs, and contact foreign publishing houses. They are one of the most important advocates for selling South Korean works overseas, and readers from neighbouring countries such as Japan, Taiwan, China and Vietnam are all very fond of Korean children’s books. Within South Korean children’s books, young adult novels have sold especially well and in recent years there has also been a significant increase in sales of Japanese books about economics targeted at middle school students. “Soaring stock prices, Bitcoin and so on have become hot topics in the last few years which has made parents hope that their children can learn how to use money from an early age.” It might seem unfathomable that middle school students would be studying economics but financial investment has been a popular subject in general over the last few years. For example, 25% of the books on Taiwan’s bestseller charts last year were related to personal finance.

     

    How Do You Detect Trends and Decide When to Follow Them?

    By chance, all eight publishers agreed that social trends and readers’ needs were their main points of reference when publishing a book. “Often, readers are hoping that a book will help them solve their problems, so it’s absolutely crucial to understand the difficulties people are facing.” For example, at the beginning of this year Thai publishers found that popular science books were doing very well. Meanwhile in Vietnam, publishers feel that the “loneliness economy” is an area that can developed further given that industry has already seen readers gravitate towards loneliness-related books about managing moods and healing anxiety. Brick-and-mortar bookshops, book reviews and the fluctuations of online bestseller lists are all equally important observation points, while social media is a crucial tool for grasping popular societal trends. As the various forms of book promotion become more and more diverse, “It’s imperative that publishers keep observing trends, and that they create new trends of their own.”

    At the end of the roundtable discussion, the publishers couldn’t help reminiscing about the warmth of talking in-person at physical book fairs. In particular, Taiwan and Indonesia both felt as though they lacked a unified central platform like South Korea’s which serves as a channel for fielding inquiries. For many of the local children’s books that have already been translated, it feels like the only way for people to find out about them is at or around the book fairs, and a lot of books are difficult to promote without physical book fairs. For the Summer Edition of this year’s Taipei Rights Workshop, The Grayhawk Agency used Gather Town to build a virtual space which international delegates could “visit”. Some of the publishers candidly stated that it was much easier to use and far more interesting than Frankfurt Book Fair’s digital rights portal, but it’s only natural that as publishers around the world continue to solider through this pandemic with no end in sight, we still look forward to a future where we can meet in person to listen and talk about all the great stories that deserve to be read.

  • How Children’s Book Publishers in Asia Are Fighting the Pandemic (I)
    Dec 23, 2021 / By Alice (Readmoo) ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    (This article is a condensed version of one originally published at Readmoo: https://news.readmoo.com/2021/07/20/taipei-rights-workshop-2021/)

     

    “Over the last few months, I think children’s books have been something of a survival tool for parents stuck at home and a major way for them to connect with their children,” says Gray Tan, founder of The Grayhawk Agency, in his welcome speech for the 2021 Taipei Rights Workshop, Summer Edition, co-hosted by The Grayhawk Agency and Taiwan Creative Content Agency (TAICCA).

    This was the fourth session of the summer edition of Taipei Rights Workshop, but due to the pandemic the roundtable discussion was hosted online for the first time. The eight children’s publishers who were invited to participate had a wealth of industry experience and included: Supawee Supatit, foreign rights executive at Amarin (Thailand); Purichaya Asunee Na Ayuttaya, rights editor at B2S Co. (Thailand); Nguyen Thi Ha, rights executive at Thai Ha (Vitenam); Phan Thanh Lan, rights executive at Kim Dong (Vitenam); Yuliani Liputo, rights executive at Mizan (Indonesia); Shera Sihbudi, rights executive at Noura (Indonesia); Ally Bang, rights executive at Changbi (South Korea); and Su Shin, special assistant to the chairman of B.K. Agency (Taiwan). Together, their frank discussion focused on how the pandemic has impacted their respective book markets, as well as on the proportion of local or translated works in each market and what selling rights is like behind the scenes. Even though the pandemic prevented us from having the chance to get together in person, the children’s book publishers of the Milk Tea Alliance (an online democracy and human rights movement consisting of netizens from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia and South Korea among others) were still able to gather online and share their insight on fighting the pandemic.

     

    Publishers Fighting the Pandemic: The Rise of Shopee, Using Pre-orders to Determine Print Runs, and Curated Livestreams to Interact with Readers

    “As readers turned to purchasing books online, e-commerce site Shopee has started to become more important. Many of the book fairs have also been held online,” said Su Shin. This was a situation that a lot of countries’ book markets faced during the pandemic. Taiwan had the pandemic well under control during its early stages but in mid-May 2021 restrictions were escalated to Level 3 which was a hit to physical bookstores, especially independent bookstores who really bore the brunt of the new rules. Staying home long-term has led to an increase in book sales for certain genres: “Self-help books, books about exercise, and children’s books have responded particularly well, and recently we’ve also seen an increase in sales of colouring books and children’s study aids.”

    “Ultimately, we always have to find something for the children to do.” The same situation occurred in Indonesia where a third wave of the pandemic broke out last month and physical channels for book sales halted business one after the other, forcing publishers to switch to online platforms and hold virtual storytelling workshops to reach readers. “Some publishers have official online stores on Shopee, and they’re finding that children’s board books, story books and picture books are all extremely popular.” However, inevitably most book sales are still suffering and the sales for new titles are so much lower that a lot of publishing houses in Indonesia are starting to offer the book as a pre-order one month before publication and then only print copies after confirming the number of pre-orders.

    It’s a very similar situation in Vietnam. In response to the pandemic, there has been an increase in sales of health-related titles and children’s books. High school students have been particularly drawn to comic books that come with tasteful free gifts and the students are happy to buy the comics with their own money. Shopee plays an equally important role in both Vietnam and Thailand’s book markets. Thailand’s previous pandemic response meant that the book market remained relatively stable, but sales have declined since a new wave of infections broke out in March and publishers have needed to rely on more diverse forms of online marketing and livestreaming. However, the restriction of physical publicity events has led to reduced visibility for new writers. Literary works have been a favourite of Thai readers during the pandemic and they’ve been particularly keen on romance novels, perhaps as a source of comfort during this period of public anxiety. Children’s books have also been a saving grace and parents have been willing to order them online.

    In South Korea, even though the scale of offline activities has been small, online book fairs have been extremely active. “Kobo, the largest publishing house in South Korea, increased its book fair activities by 17% and saw a 30% increase in online sales, but by contrast they only saw a 0.7% increase in sales from physical bookstores,” said Ally Bang. With children’s books, it can help sales immensely if a teacher includes a book in their recommended reading materials.

     

    Read On: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=175

  • Nativist Literature: the Wish to Know Oneself (II)
    Dec 14, 2021 / By Chu Yuhsun ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    Read Previous Part: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=138

     

    In 1977, debates erupted between officially sanctioned writers who supported the Oppose Communism/Remember the Motherland policy and outsider writers who yearned for a nativist Taiwan literature. This Nativist Literature Debate, the single most important debate in the history of Taiwan literature, validated the nativist writers as an important cultural force, and deeply impacted politics and society in ways that foreshadowed the end of martial law a decade later. During the debates, one of the official writers, Chu Hsi-Ning, made an argument which caused an uproar amongst Taiwanese writers because it made evident the degree to which nativist literature was officially suppressed. “What can be said of loyalty to, or the purity of, national culture after this patch of ‘native soil’ was occupied and managed by Japan for half a century?” Chu asked.

     

    The meaning behind this utterance was clear. As far as the government of the time was concerned, Taiwan was a polluted land, a lowly “patch” of “native soil” not worthy of being written about.

     

    It was only after the lifting of martial law in 1987 that this disdain for nativist culture began to slowly recede. This does not mean, however, that nativist writing was immediately embraced. That would have to wait until the first democratic transition of power took place in 2000, handing the reigns of power to the Democratic Progressive Party. With a more native-conscious political party in power, nativist cultural expression gradually emerged in all artistic fields.

     

    In keeping with these political trends, contemporary nativist works in Taiwan have primarily adopted the third definition of nativist literature, with the first and second definitions being of secondary importance. At least some of the concepts of nativist literature can be identified in most literary works of the past 20 years, including Wu Ming-Yi’s (吳明益) The Stolen Bicycle (單車失竊記), Kan Yao-Ming’s (甘耀明) Killing Ghosts (殺鬼), Tung Wei-Ko’s (童偉格) Summer Downpour (西北雨), Yang Shuang-Tzu’s (楊双子) Blossom Season (花開時節), Xiao Xiang Shen’s (瀟湘神) Yokai Dominate Old Taipei (台北城裡妖魔跋扈), Lien Ming-Wei’s (連明偉) Copper Beetle (青蚨子), and Hung Ming-Tao’s (洪明道) Visitors Bearing Gifts (等路). The aesthetics of these novels differ greatly, spanning modernist experimental, social realist, popular historical fiction, and an increasing number of works that seek to recreate the aesthetics of local language use. But despite these differences there can be no doubt that they are all works that address Taiwanese society in the language of Taiwan.

    The Stolen Bicycle 

     

    “Know thyself” is a famous Greek maxim. However, for most of the first century of modern Taiwan literature, Taiwanese were forbidden from knowing themselves. All too often the price of writing in a native voice was banishment from literary circles and political censure. The culmination of these 100 years of modern literature is that finally we can write our own stories openly and with dignity. Over the course of this century, nativist literature, our most powerful means of “knowing ourselves,” went from being an impossibly remote hope to a fully recognized school of literary practice.

     

    The better we understand the immense difficulty of “knowing ourselves” that informs the background of all works of nativist literature, the better we can appreciate the profound depths of emotion that reside within these distinctively Taiwanese books.

     

  • Nativist Literature: the Wish to Know Oneself (I)
    Dec 14, 2021 / By Chu Yuhsun ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    Nativist literature (sometimes translated as “native-soil” literature) is one of the most representative schools of Taiwan literature, and one of the most difficult to categorize. In the 100 years since the birth of modern Taiwan literature in the 1920’s there have been at least three different concepts of what constitutes nativist literature:

     

    1. Literature written in a local Taiwan language. This normally indicates Taiwanese, Hakka, or the language of one of Taiwan’s aboriginal groups. This definition does not include literature written in the languages of the colonizing powers, namely Japanese or Mandarin.

    2. Literature that takes the struggles of the lower classes of society as its subject. This definition carries leftist overtones. Subject matter often focuses on the lives of farmers, fishermen, miners, and urban laborers. Often utilizes the techniques of social realism.

    3. Literature that takes Taiwanese society, environment, and/or customs as its subject. This definition places no limit on language use, nor which classes of society are portrayed, so long as it is local to Taiwan. This is a literature with Taiwanese nationalist overtones, clearly demarcating Taiwan as a separate culture sphere from China.

     

    There is some overlap between these definitions, but each prioritizes different core concerns and values, and forefronts the viewpoints of different authors. The first view emphasizes language. The second emphasizes a critique of class structure. The third emphasizes Taiwanese national identity. Yet, in the final accounting, all of them share the implicit yearning for Taiwanese people to describe their own reality in their own language.

     

    Authors and readers from other countries may have difficulty understanding this yearning. An American or Japanese person might not feel the same kind of yearning to use their own language, or to describe their own society, because these are things that already happen quite naturally for them. Whereas, Taiwan has come under outside rule twice in the last century, and during those times it was unimaginable to do things what would seem perfectly natural in other countries.

     

    From 1895 until 1945, when Taiwan was a colony of the imperial Japan, it was impossible for Taiwanese to write about their own society in their own language. Any literary expression of Taiwanese-ness was viewed as political disloyalty. In 1945, control of Taiwan was passed to the Republic of China. At first, Taiwanese people believed they had been liberated from colonization, and could develop their own literature. They didn’t anticipate that the ruling party, the Kuomintang, would lose the Chinese civil war to the communists and be forced to retreat to Taiwan. As part of their plan to retake the mainland, the Republic of China government initiated a Oppose Communism/Remember the Motherland cultural policy that required authors to primarily write on subjects centered on China and Chinese culture. The government hoped that, through the persuasive power of literature, they could instill in Taiwanese people nationalistic feelings concerning the war effort. If, at this time, Taiwanese writers had “written about their own society in their own language” they would have once again been tagged as disloyal, and criticized for abandoning the goal of a unified China.

     

    Read On: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=139

  • Taiwan’s Yaoguai Literature (II)
    Nov 29, 2021 / By Hsieh Yi-An ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    Read Previous Part: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=136

     

    Within yaoguai lies the hope that the younger generation can find their own way to approach their history and culture. Taiwan’s past, as it appears in yaoguai literature, is not conventional history — it is embellished by illusion. This is because the history passed on by this generation was no longer that of the nativist literature authors of the previous generation. There was no need for social realist representations of our native land. Instead we needed to generate interest in our culture, because we had to compete for the attention of Taiwanese readers who were fans of high-quality entertainment from Japan. These readers were already accustomed to viewing entertainment as something from a foreign source, so there was no particular advantage to being a local product. A book that wasn’t a fantastic read was bound to fail.

     

    Thus, yaoguai literature had to take on two seemingly contradictory objectives: it must simultaneously be aware of the depth of history while also satisfying the demand for entertainment. Yokai Dominate Old Taipei (臺北城裡妖魔跋扈), a series of novels by author Xiao Xiang Shen (瀟湘神) is one outstanding example. Set in a parallel universe version of Taiwan, the series utilizes a struggle between Japanese yokai and Taiwanese folk gods to mirror the dynamics of Taiwan’s colonization by Imperial Japan in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This seminal series perfectly illustrates how Taiwanese yaoguai literature was birthed from the womb of Japanese yokai culture.

     

    The power of the historical consciousness inherent in yaoguai literature has made Taiwan of past eras the default backdrop for storytelling. Xiao Xiang Shen’s The Deadly Magic of the Golden Fiend (金魅殺人魔術), set in early 20th century Taiwan, replicates the multi-ethnic society of a commercial port town. Deftly blending the genres of yaoguai and detective stories, the novel can be viewed as a descendant of Japanese mystery writers like Kyogoku Natsuhiko (京極夏彥) and Mitsuda Shinzo (三津田信三).

     

    Yaoguai literature is a curious flower grown in a hothouse of cultural anxiety. When you read these books you will find that Taiwanese writers have a deep understanding of cultural dimensions of illusion, which enables them to address Taiwan’s cultural predicament within the medium of yaoguai, and to push the limits to which serious ideas can be developed within a format that also entertains. For example, Taipei Legend Studio’s series Daemon Tales touches on the relationship between yaoguai and contemporary faith. The series includes Chang An’s (長安) The Snake Lord: Bride of the Scalloped Mirror (蛇郎君:蠔鏡窗的新娘), Tien Yeh-Hsiang’s (天野翔) Water Spirit: Red Eyes Beneath the Bridge (水鬼:橋墩下的紅眼睛), and Xiao Xiang Shen’s Mô-sîn-á: The Mesmerized Giant (魔神仔:被牽走的巨人).[1] Each addresses modern resonances within a historical moment from the past century of Taiwan’s history. Xiao Xiang Shen’s Mô-sîn-á further bridges the gap between Taiwan’s yaoguai and Okinawa’s yokai, excavating deep layers of contemporary Taiwanese identity.

     

    Daemon Tales

     

    Visual media have also embraced yaoguai. There are yaoguai picture books from illustrator Chiaos Tseng (角斯), Guardienne (守娘), a graphic novel about a Qing Dynasty ghost by Nownow (小峱峱), and Tiker’s (提克) The Sister of the Bamboo Stool and Other Tales of the Supernatural (婆娑島妖事錄), which combines five yaoguai stories into a single graphic novel. Both of these are conscious responses to Taiwan’s unique history. Yaoguai may sound like a subject of pure fantasy, but in Taiwanese books, it is never separated from the historical past. For this reason, yaoguai is an ideal medium for interpreting Taiwanese history and culture.

     

    Guardienne

     

    [1] Chang An is the pen name of Hsieh Yi-An, author of this article. –trans.

  • Taiwan’s Yaoguai Literature (I)
    Nov 29, 2021 / By Hsieh Yi-An ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    Yaoguai literature primarily refers to the wave of original writing based on supernatural folk stories that has emerged in Taiwan since 2014. The adaptation of folk legends into fiction, of course, has a long history. Examples from the Japanese colonial period include Kho Peng-teng’s (許丙丁) The Lesser Investiture of the Gods (小封神) and Haruo Sato’s (佐藤春夫) The Legend of the Fan (女誡扇綺譚). More recently there has been Wang Chia-Hsiang’s (王家祥) Mô-sîn-á (魔神仔) and Li Ang’s (李昂) Visible Ghosts (看得見的鬼). It is only in recent years, however, that the trend of repackaging these folk tales has gained steam, with source materials ranging from the scary stories we all heard as children — “The Tiger Aunt”, “Mô-sîn-á,” and stories about water spirits — to more obscure stories from ancient texts such as “The Lantern Monkey,” and “The Sister of the Bamboo Stool.”

     

    These legends have been around for ages, so why has this new trend of supernatural literature suddenly taken hold?

     

    The answer can be traced back to the Sunflower Movement. For young people in Taiwan, the Sunflower Movement was not just a political movement — it was a cultural awakening. The generation that grew up after the end of martial law were shocked to discover how little they knew about their own culture. This generation was also anxious about its own lack of cultural impact. They had not yet had any pronounced impact within the cultural sphere, nor did they have any highly successful representatives within mainstream media. As a result, it was a generation that could not recognize its own image in the available media, which compounded the sense of being disconnected from their own culture.

     

    Traditional tales of the supernatural were a medium that just happened to be suited to resolving both of these problems.

     

    The term yaoguai was translated directly from the Japanese yokai, which refers to a class supernatural entities that include spirits and monsters. Originally Taiwan did not have a literary framework for these kinds of stories. Adopting the Japanese terminology connects the genre to a thread that runs throughout Japanese culture. Yokai is one of the deepest roots of Japanese folk tradition, and remains one of the most vital subjects in fiction and manga. Born in the 80’s and 90’s, the Sunflower Movement generation were obsessed with yokai, having grown up reading Japanese manga. By the 2010’s they had matured and developed their creative talents while remaining hardcore fans of manga. Before their cultural awakening they had been content to consume Japanese yokai stories. But after their cultural awakening, they couldn’t help but ask: does Taiwan have its own yokai?

     

    Indeed, Taiwan does have yokai, or, in the Taiwanese context, yaoguai. The current yaoguai craze got started in the area of textual research. Books like Yaoguai-ism by Taipei Legend Studio and Yaoguai Taiwan by Ho Ching-Yao helped to establish that yaoguai not only existed in Taiwan, but that there were quite a lot of them!

     

    From the moment they were published, these first books of yaoguai research were adopted as reference works by Taiwanese youth. Being familiar with yokai culture in Japan, they knew that after research comes creative work. Demonstrating the existence of yaoguai source material in Taiwan was merely the first step. The critical issue was how to use these sources to create outstanding works of yaoguai fiction, thereby bringing Taiwanese culture and history to the attention of more readers.

     

    Read On: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=137

  • CommonWealth Education Media and Publishing: For Better Education, Better Parenting and a Better Generation
    Jan 05, 2021 / By April Chen ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    When CommonWealth Education Media and Publishing was founded, its goal was to serve as an educational community for parents and children, to provide “a knowledgeable support system, a platform for exchanging methods, and a community where people can share their feelings.” Books and magazines are currently one of the most efficient tools for learning, and CommonWealth Education hopes that it will have the flexibility to provide children with everything they need to develop healthy reading habits while simultaneously helping parents and teachers enrich themselves in the process.  

     

    The Early Stages of the Taiwanese Children’s Book Market: The Predicament of Developing Domestically Produced Books

    From a publishing context, the Taiwanese children’s book market was severely dependent on imported works during the early years and it was virtually impossible for Taiwanese authors to make it onto the bookstores’ general bestseller lists. However, right from the beginning CommonWealth Education has insisted that at least 50% of the titles it publishes each year must be by local authors. It’s hoped that the content of these locally-produced works is a reflection of the environment the children grow up in, which helps give young Taiwanese readers a deeper sense of recognition and emotional connection to the place while they’re reading, and in turn this nurtures their growth. It’s also hoped that parents can connect with their children through these reading materials about life and child-rearing, and that they can ultimately be used to resolve all kinds of everyday problems.

    Over the last twenty years, a whole new world of locally-produced works has opened up. Take picture books for example, CommonWealth Education has republished new editions of many of Lai Ma’s classic works including I’m Breathing Fire!, The Day I Got Up Early, The Monster of Palapala Mountain, Mr Hurry and Guess Who I Am? in the hope of bringing these classic stories to a new generation of children. CommonWealth Education has also expanded on Lai Ma’s works and designed lots of spin-off merchandise based on the picture book characters, to help the author go beyond picture books and take their products in a more varied direction. After the success of Lai Ma, CommonWealth Education hopes to continue to create diversified spaces and platforms for other high-quality IP and help Taiwan keep reaching new creative milestones, that by trying more varied and innovative methods it will break through the framework of traditional media and publishing to build a new content industry in the digital age.

    Demand-Based Reading Material Created Exclusively for Children

    In terms of publishing for school-age children, CommonWealth Education uses its existing interest in educational fields to provide age-appropriate books for the child’s reading needs. Reading 123 is a series designed for children in the early years of elementary school who have crossed over into reading chapter books. The series helps children become independent readers by designing the book to have a certain number of words, vocabulary that’s not too difficult, and supplementing the story with lots of illustrations. The books are 100% locally produced and serve as a bridge by developing a space where children can read word-based books unhindered and creating a lot of characters who are beloved by elementary school children, such as the little fire dragon and Captain Fart.

     

     

    CommonWealth Education provides different reading materials for children as they get older. During the critical phases in their reading journeys, it becomes more important to help children connect with guides so that by the time they’re teenagers and entering the rigid life of secondary school, they’ve been able to read a wide range of books which have given them an appetite for reading. CommonWealth is keen to create works which contain Eastern elements so that children can learn about the region’s rich literary history alongside the Western culture they already absorb.  

    In this vein, Jay Yeh’s classic series The Little Deputy of Sun Dynasty guides the reader through the history of traditional Chinese monsters and contains a rich selection of legends and folk tales, as well as interesting stories and poetry. Kevin Cheung’s light martial arts series Young Kitchen Warriors retains the chivalrous spirit of the genre and incorporates the Eight Great Traditions of Chinese Cuisine, introducing the interesting stories behind famous dishes and building important historical bridges which allow children to experience thousands of years of food culture through reading. Chen Yuru is the first female Chinese author of fantasy for younger readers and wrote the Legends of the Immortal Spirits series which uses classical literature to construct a fantasy kingdom. She takes Tang and Song Dynasty poems and converts them into brilliant adventure settings which the protagonists have to travel within to solve mysteries, giving the reader a real sense of the beauty of classical literature. These middle-grade texts capture the depth of the stories without being difficult, which gives children the ability to use their reading to grow.  

     

     

    Laying the Foundation for Children’s Reading Literacy by Integrating Educational Expertise

    As well as publishing children’s books, CommonWealth Education is deeply engaged in publishing titles on education and parenting. This year, the most avidly discussed topics among parents and teachers are the “108 Curriculum (officially called “Master Framework for the 12-year Basic Education Curriculum Guidelines”)” and “Reading Literacy”. Children are facing exam questions that are significantly longer than they were before and with far more complicated narrative context. Every subject now tests for “literacy”, whether it be in Chinese language, mathematics, social sciences, natural sciences and so on. The content is all-encompassing and it’s expected that the school will guide the children towards knowledge, so they can apply it to resolve issues in all areas of their lives.

    However, from a child’s perspective these kinds of “open-ended” literacy questions are extremely testing. They must read the text and have a comprehensive understanding of what the piece is ultimately talking about before they have the chance to use their own knowledge to come up with a corresponding solution. CommonWealth Education plays to its strengths by taking a thematic approach and putting complicated subject-matters in simple terms to provide “digestible” content. In response to this modern societal trend that values literacy, reasoning ability, integrated understanding and practical application, there should be a strong emphasis on children reading “a diverse range of interdisciplinary texts” as part of their daily extracurriculars and they should gradually progress from short stories to longer texts, giving them the opportunity to make up for the deficiencies in classroom learning and textbooks.

    Zeng Shijie’s Comics for Chinese Language and Literature: A Story Collection uses structured, story-like texts and comic-strip reading exercises to help children quickly grasp the key points and structure of an article. The series also gives them the chance to practice reading long texts and increases their ability to understand, repeat and summarise, all of which lays a strong foundation for reading literacy.

     

     

    In the past, CommonWealth Education has watched education and parenting trends then used this information to help Taiwanese educators look at directions for the future. It also put a series of plans in place to assist local creators in developing a supply of diverse content to meet the reading needs of children of all ages. Going forward, CommonWealth Education hopes to use these core goals as the basis for broadening the horizons of Taiwanese education and children’s books.      

  • Taiwanese Comics: A Reflection of Taiwan’s History (II)
    Nov 10, 2020 / By Chi-An Weng ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    Read Previous Part: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=110

     

    Unfortunately, in the long term Taiwan’s comic industry has declined over time and the works by these outstanding creators remain no match for the imported Japanese manga. Regardless of whether it was pirated or approved by the authorities, Japanese manga has always made it difficult for Taiwanese comic creators to find a way to exist in the market and forces them to rise and fall with the tide.

    A TEATIME ADVENTURE

    This difficult environment has by no means hampered Taiwanese comic creators’ participation or perseverance. In recent years, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government has strongly advocated for a new wave of Taiwanese comics and the developments that have begun to arise are very different from those of the past. The first is that we’re seeing works where Taiwanese history or local customs are a key theme, for example A Teatime Adventure by Kiya Chang, Dutchman in Formosa by Kinono, Scrolls of a Northern City by AKRU, Guardienne by Nownow, and 1661 Koxinga Z by Li Lung-Chieh all show a connection between Taiwanese comics and local history. Another new feature we’re seeing is comics taking a European-style “graphic novel” approach, such as the non-fiction periodical Tropical Monsson, and Son of Formosa which tells the story of a young man who became a political prisoner during the White Terror in Taiwan under martial law. Elsewhere on this front, Pam Pam Liu and Elainee have drawn on their family stories and work experiences in their respective comics Good Friend, Cancer and OT Diary. For the Time Being by Chen Pei-Hsiu and Sometimes in the City by 61Chi both employ the slightly experimental methods displayed by a new generation of young creators. Finally, we’re starting to see all kinds of boundary-crossing collaborations. In the same way that previously comics would collaborate with the film and theatre industries on series adaptations, we are now starting to see more engagement between comics and novels. For example, Ruan Guang-Min and Sean Chuang’s illustrated adaptation of Wu Ming-Yi’s novel The Illusionist on the Skywalk really showcased the strengths of both Taiwan’s literature and its comics.

    1661 KOXINGA Z

    For every move made by the Taiwanese comic industry you can find a parallel step in Taiwan’s political and economic development, whether it be the shift from foreign imports to locally produced comics, the industry’s striving for rebirth after authoritarian oppression, or the many new possibilities generated despite the testing external environment. This is by no means a coincidence but rather that in the face of any kind of challenge, Taiwan’s national resilience leads it to meet worsening setbacks with increasing bravery. We look forward to seeing this strong force come into play as both Taiwan and Taiwanese comics shine even more brightly on the world stage.  

    SOMETIMES IN THE CITY

  • Taiwanese Comics: A Reflection of Taiwan’s History (I)
    Nov 10, 2020 / By Chi-An Weng ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    The highs and lows of Taiwanese comics can be seen as a microcosm of the island’s history. As is the case with many cultural aspects, Taiwan’s first encounter with comics occurred while it was under Japanese colonial rule. The Taiwan Daily News had a column dedicated to comics which introduced politically satirical cartoons and story-based comics by Japanese cartoonists. It was beloved by the people and gradually nurtured home-grown satirical cartoonists like Mr. Keelong(雞籠生). In addition, young people in Taiwan began to organise their own groups and take distance courses on Japanese manga which planted an important seed in the future development of Taiwanese comics.    

     

    After 1949, when the government of the Republic of China came to Taiwan they brought cartoonists from Mainland China who produced a lot of official illustrations relating to “Anti-Communist and Anti-Russian Aggression” that were a part of the government’s patriotic propaganda campaign. The seed that had been planted among Taiwanese creators under Japanese colonial rule gradually began to grow after the Second World War. Children’s magazines and illustrated periodicals were produced by the people rather than the government and key wuxia comics like Yeh Hong-Jia’s(葉宏甲) Jhuge Shiro made the leap from serialisation to stand-alone volumes and experienced unprecedented commercial success, ushering in the first golden age of Taiwanese comics.   

     

    However, the tension that arose between the patriotic comics produced by the government and the  popular, commercially-successful comics reflected the difference between those who ruled by martial law and the masses who had their own political imaginations and needs. In 1966, Taiwanese comics were hit with a new censorship system requiring all comics to be sent for review and any elements which may “impair the physical or mental wellbeing of children or adolescents” would be removed. Ironically, when the system was introduced it caused local Taiwanese comics to die out and when the principal players were faced with a withering, desolate market they ended up tacitly introducing pirated Japanese works. The dominance of Japanese manga in terms of both quality and quantity together with the low cost of manufacturing pirated works completely changed the landscape of the comics industry in Taiwan. From that point onwards, as far as most Taiwanese people were concerned  the term “comic” made them think of Japanese manga, and comic fans tended to know a lot of Japanese cartoonists inside out but would find it difficult to name a single Taiwanese comic creator.

     

    The central government’s cultural control could never completely suppress the people’s desire for freedom. When the authoritarian control gradually loosened in the 1980s, local Taiwanese comic creators managed to slip through the cracks and find opportunities to shine, Ao You-Hsiang’s(敖幼祥) wuxia series The Wulongyuan appeared, as did Tsai Chih Chung’s(蔡志忠) comic book adaptations of traditional Chinese classics. When Taiwanese martial law was lifted in 1987 after 38 years, Taiwan’s long-suppressed creativity achieved total liberation which prompted a second golden age of comics to arise during the 1990s when creators with many different styles appeared. For example, Richard Metson took an American approach to comics in The Black Book and Wizard and Brat, while in Nine Lives Man and Balezo Push(阿推) experimented with Jean Giraud’s style of science fiction. This range of different themes and illustration styles is a demonstration of the artists’ explosive creativity. Among these creators, perhaps the most dazzling was Chen Uen, who filled his works with traditional ink paintings and reinterpreted the narrative and art of comics. His works have sold at extremely high prices both at home and abroad.

    LEGENDS OF ASSASSINS by Chen Uen

     

    Read on: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=111