What Is Books from Taiwan Doing? An Interview with Chinese Books for Young Readers
By Helen Wang
Jan 08, 2019

First published on March 21, 2018 by Chinese Books for Young Readers

Q: Could you tell us about Books from Taiwan? How does it work? What are your aims and goals?

Books from Taiwan (BFT) is a project sponsored and hosted by Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture, and it aims to introduce Taiwanese books to overseas publishers and promote overseas rights. BFT produces a printed catalogue and a website. The printed catalogue, published twice a year, selects 20-30 books with international  potential, including fiction, non-fiction, picture books and graphic novels. It is edited by native speakers of English, who translate sample chapters and information about the books and authors. It is mainly for display and distribution at the Taiwan Pavilions at book fairs, or sent directly to rights people overseas. A full PDF of the catalogue can also be found on the website, together with regular columns about rights  and publishers in Taiwan, a database of translators, information about Taiwan’s main literary awards, and application forms for funding for translation. It’s a one-stop shop promoting publishing rights from Taiwan!

BFT in Seoul

Books from Taiwan, at the Bangkok and Bologna book fairs, 2017

BFT in FBF 2017

Books from Taiwan at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2017

Q: We’re particularly interested in the children’s/YA section. Does this work in the same way as other BFT books? Or is it very separate? How do you select the books?

In the first half of every year, we produce a catalogue devoted to children’s books and picture books. We select about ten books, mostly picture books, but also a small number of middle grade and YA novels. We have a small selection team, who meet 4-5 times a year to evaluate, discuss, and select books with sales potential. The members of this team read all the books on their lists before each meeting and introduce their personal favourites in turn, then they discuss which books should be selected, discussing for example, the universality of the content, the style of writing, the visual appeal and so on.

BFT brochure

Books from Taiwan brochure

Q: Could you tell us about the world of children’s/YA books in Taiwan? (Please assume we and our readers know nothing! And perhaps recommend some journals, websites, bookstores etc where we can find out more about children’s/YA books in Taiwan?)

The children’s book market in Taiwan has become more active, particularly since the shift to having fewer children. Parents are paying more and more attention to their children’s education, and for three consecutive years there has been double digit growth in children’s book sales. Most of the picture books in Taiwan are translations of books from overseas, however, in recent years more and more publishers are starting to develop Taiwanese authors, and promoting their own excellent books. Take a look at the children’s book pages on our website!

You might also like this blog (The Fur Seal Landlord’s Picture Book Shelves) which introduces children’s books from Taiwan.

Q: A practical question – in Taiwan books are published in full-form traditional characters. If our readers would like to read books from Taiwan but are more comfortable reading simplified characters, can they also find editions with simplified characters?

Publishing houses in Taiwan do not publish editions with simplified characters. But, there’s thriving exchange between the copyright markets on both sides of the straits, and if readers are interested in children’s books from Taiwan, they should be able to find them with simplified characters on the mainland. And you can buy children’s books from the mainland with simplified characters from online bookstores in Taiwan.

Q: Who are the current favourite children’s/YA authors in Taiwan – could you say why?

Japanese writers, such as Toshio Iwai 岩井俊雄, Kiko Kudo 工藤紀子and Yuka Shimada 島田由佳, have been very popular in recent years. Their illustrations are quite childlike, and whether their stories are close to a child’s real life, or highly imaginative, they appeal to children and to parents. Eric Carle’s classics continue to do well.  Hervé Tullet’s Little Yellow Dot book  (赫威.托雷/圖文:《小黃點》) led to a wave of interactive books. In recent years, picture books teaching children how to protect themselves and understand emotions have been popular. The works of Taiwanese writers Lai Ma 賴馬 and Liu Hsu-Kung 劉旭恭, and A River by cutting-edge Australian illustrator Marc Martin (馬可馬汀: 《河流》) are also popular.