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  • Dec 19, 2014
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Chinese picture book award sparks hope for genre

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 September, 2013, 9:38am

Yu Liqiong's A New Year's Reunion carries the distinction of being a Chinese-language picture book that won accolades before and after its translation into English.

The Chinese-language version was winner of the Feng Zikai Chinese Children's Picture Book Award in 2009. Its English translation won The New York Times Top Ten Children's Books Award in 2012.

The Feng Zikai Award is important as it encourages authors, illustrators and publishers to create Chinese language children's books of a high standard, that are originally written in Chinese, rather than translated from English.

The vision of the award is to improve childhood literacy for the Chinese reading public.

From my perspective as a mother raising bilingual children in Hong Kong, I also appreciate this ready-made book list. Knowing that this selection comes from a panel of experts means I don't need to sift through the countless titles myself.

This year's award winners were announced last month. The winner and four honoured books were selected from 27 shortlisted works that were culled from hundreds of entries.

Liu Bole's I See a Bird (pictured) won the top prize for its meticulous illustration of a variety of species. Interestingly, this winning choice is completely unlike A New Year's Reunion, with its patriotic theme of how a modern family celebrates Lunar New Year.

In I See a Bird, a mother tries to guess the identity of a new bird her daughter saw for the first time. This story encourages children to get closer to nature and teaches them how to observe birds in their natural environment.

According to one of the judges, esteemed children's book editor Tang Ya Ming, texts such as these are especially relevant in today's world, where children increasingly live in urban settings where learning comes from electronic devices.

In the judges' notes, Tang says of creating quality picture books: "Illustrating a book is not about self-expression. It is not like creating a painting.

"Rather, it is a tool with which the artist can bring joy to children and allow them to discuss and connect with their feelings."

Keeping the child in mind is the essence of creating a good picture book. Furthermore, the greatest picture books transcend cultures and eras.

How exciting it is to create Chinese language picture books with timeless appeal that can be loved by children around the world. I hope that I See a Bird will follow the footsteps of A New Year's Reunion and have an English version published soon.

A full list of 2013 Feng Zikai Book Award winners and runners-up can be found at fengzikaibookaward.org

Annie Ho is board chairwoman of Bring Me a Book Hong Kong, a non-profit organisation dedicated to improving children's literacy by reading aloud to them bringmeabook.org.hk

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