At the Children’s Book Fair in Bologna beginning of April, Cao Wenxuan 曹文轩, a Professor of Children’s Literature at Beijing University (see the Wikipedia entry and the longer baike entry), received the biennal Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest international award for children’s literature: “His fluid, poetic prose depicts honest, sometimes raw and often melancholy moments of life.” (see also the BBC announcement). Among the jury members was one Chinese woman, Wu Qing, daughter of the, at least in China, famous children’s book author Bing Xin.
These news were quite surprising to me as Chinese children’s literature does not seem well-visible and well-regarded in China. Translated picture and young adult books are increasingly published, though, and there are a number of magazines dedicated to children’s literature. The writings in those display, however, mostly an educative character, and the illustrations are not quite inspiring – although readers are nevertheless excited about the magazine (see e.g. these pictures from the magazine A World of Children’s Fairy Tales). The reason for this neglect of picture and other children’s book genres is not yet entirely clear to me, as some of the children whose blogs I read show keen interest in writing their own stories, and mothers discuss the newest picture and children’s books on the market.
Hopefully with Cao Wenxuan receiving this prestigious award, interest in children’s literature will increase and also it’s visibility and recognition as a form of literature that can be taken as serious as The Journey to the West and other classics which, along many meters of bookshelves filled with study books, can still be found in the Children’s Books departments of bookstores (he is, however, not unanimously accepted in China and criticised for misogyny in his stories).
Although this blog does not deal with digital media, I found these news noteworthy in this space nevertheless, as the intermingling of printed stories and discussions about them on the internet has an impact on the latter. Interest in printed stories thus might not diminish due to digital media (see also this Guardian article about the question: Can the web save the press from oblivion?).