With nearly 100 Chinese publishers and at least half that many illustrators attending the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in March, a big contingent will be representing the land of 1.38 billion people. Most of the publications they are bringing to the fair focus on common themes and age-old plots expressed through the best and most unique of China’s traditional art styles. The result is original works that are quintessentially Chinese but also universal, contemporary, and engaging.

The ever-popular fairy and folk stories aside, realism is poised to enter the Chinese children’s book industry. Paying homage to the country’s character, culture, and arts also involves explaining what is happening domestically, such as the challenges faced by children left in rural areas by migrant parents working in the cities, by only children, and by siblings (now that the second-child policy is in effect). The story may not always be pretty, but this is about communicating to the rest of the world present-day realities in China and how Chinese children live.

Also important is the appearance of more bilingual Chinese-English editions and audiobooks, which reflects a market driven by parents and educators who want children to master English, the indisputable language of international commerce and many workplaces.

As for innovative ideas and creativity, there is no lack of either in the world’s most populous country. But the challenge lies in getting these talents to come forward with their works. This remains quite a task in a society that largely shuns self-promotion and in which artists often exist in near-seclusion. The Key Colours Competition China (see p. 41) and the illustration platform IlluSalon (see p. 44) are actively seeking and nurturing talents and promoting them in the international arena. Their goal is not to catch the next bestseller but to inspire the next generation of authors and illustrators.

The following pages contain a selective listing of original Chinese children’s and YA titles on offer from the 15 publishers profiled in this special report. The publishers have provided the descriptions.

Beijing Baby Cube Children Brand Management Company

The Cat Without a Nose by Zhang Tianmu: In an old tailor’s house, there is a cat without a nose. Nobody likes him except for the old tailor. The cat thinks that his life is hopeless. But one day, something changes his mind. (Ages 3–6.)

Who Lives… by Ha Feng: Momo is taking you to look for new friends above and under the ground. There are many surprises under the lift-the-flap pages! With warm illustrations and rich colors, it is easy for children to understand the characteristics of these animals and their habitats. (Two titles; up to age 3.)

Beijing Bright Culture Development Company

Little Heart series by Cao Wenfang: These five picture books from Cao (sister of Cao Wenxuan, the first Chinese author to win the Hans Christian Andersen Award) were selected by kindergartners as her most popular works. Beautifully illustrated, the stories are both heartwarming and captivating. (Five titles; ages 3–5)

Draw a Chinese Painging; Chinese Doll and the Zodiac by Yang Tingying: Taking the Chinese doll as its focal point, this picture book strives to convey the traditional Chinese culture and beauty. Readers get an introduction to Chinese folk art and history while learning how to create a Chinese painting. (Ages 6–12.)

Dandelion Children’s Book House

Big Feet Girl by Wan Wan: In a village where foot-binding is practiced, one big-footed girl becomes a laughingstock. However, after she saves several fishermen during a storm, someone starts appreciating her big feet. (Ages 3–6.)

Granny Xiu and Peach Blossom Fish by PEng Xuejun: Granny Xiu makes a tasty dish using peach-blossom fish, and children love to eat it. But some villagers say Granny Xiu is a witch and visiting her is dangerous. One day, Granny Xiu intervenes when the children encounter a wild boar. Now the boar is dead. But where is Granny Xiu? (Ages 3–6.)

Beijing Yutian Hanfeng Books Company

Hei He series by Hei He: Animal-focused novelist Hei from Mongolia uses animals as protagonists in his books. He tells stories about the harmonic coexistence between humans and nature, the wonders of the wild, and the need for a new brand of eco-consciousness. (Eight titles; ages 6–14.)

Mr. Cat and Little Fairy by Wang Yuwei: Mr. Cat finds a naughty and witty fairy who is curious about everything, and she brightens up his life. One day, he discovers that the fairy has the magical ability to make plants grow, and that his little fairy friend has only one year to live. (Ages 3–6.)

The Rat-a-Tat Bear by Tian Yu: When children are eager to explore the world, they just might behave like cute Rat-a-Tat Bear, who learns about his world by knocking on different doors… This “Youth of China” recommended title is also a Children’s Book Laurel Award winner. (Ages 3–6.)

Xiao Xianggu series by Qin Wenjun: Written by popular contemporary YA author Qin, this series touches on a variety of topics, including determination, self-assurance, and familial love. The message of optimism and kindness is succinctly woven throughout the stories and unfolding pages. (20 titles; ages 6–14.)

China Children’s Press Publication Group

The Happy Milly, Molly, and Lily series by Jill Pitta Gao Hongbo: “Being with Milly and Molly, that can make you happy” is the premise of this educational series that has sold in 110 countries and regions around the world. It provides children with the necessary skills to grow and deal with life’s challenges. (70 titles; ages 6–up.)

Let’s Read Mao Zedong by Han Yuhai: This book focuses on 14 key issues related to Mao Zedong, and in simple terms, presents his life and thinking. Full of exquisite illustrations and details it offers an objective perspective on Mao. (Ages 10–up.)

Pandy Plays with Her Ball by Bai Bing: This picture book, illustrated by Manola Caprini, is about little pandas losing their balls in the bamboo forest. But who needs a ball when rolling down the hill is much more fun? The whole family can join in the fun now! (Ages 3–6.)

Red Kangaroo Physical Quiz series by Chris Ferrie: This set of books explains, in simple terms, the theories of classical, mechanical, optical, and quantum physics. An abundance of illustrations makes learning physics fun and easy for children, and not-so-daunting for parents, too. (10 titles; ages 8–up.)

Everafter Books Publishing House

24 Hours, 24 Professions, One World by Echo Zhang: This nonfiction picture book, illustrates what happens in 24 hours for 24 people, each of whom has a different profession. The people live very different lives, but they work together to build this wonderful world. (Ages 7–10.)

Andersen’s Fairy Tales by Ye Junjian: This well-crafted collection contains 25 of Hans Christian Andersen’s magnificent stories, translated into simplified Chinese by Ye, a highly respected translator from China, and dozens of brilliant tempera illustrations by Bulgarian illustrator Lyuben Zidarov. (Ages 7–up.)

Dodo and Auntie Magic by Hong Zhang: If you had an aunt with magical powers, what would your life look like? Written by award-winning children’s author Hong, this book is dedicated to her niece, who inspired her to create these magical, imaginative, and fun stories. (Three titles; ages 5–8.)

My Friend at the North Pole by Echo Zhang: One little polar bear identifies his shadow as a close and faithful friend, but lose it after polar nights arrive. He is determined to find his friend again, and thus begins his adventurous journey. This story is a warm and lively read that combines science and creativity. (Ages 3–6.)

Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press

Black Cat Detective series by Zhu Zhixiang: Every Chinese family knows these stories, which are adapted from classic animated features produced by China’s top animation studio. Black Cat Detective is the Eastern version of Sherlock Holmes. He solves crimes and safeguards other animals in the forest. (Five titles; ages 4–8.)

The Calabash Brothers series edited by Shanghai Animation Film Studio: A long time ago, there were seven super-brothers born in seven calabashes with different colors. They were brave and kind, and had different magical powers, which they used to fight evil and save the world. (13 titles; ages 4–8.)

Guangdong New Century Publishing House

Chinese Poetry in Ink-and-Wash Paintings for Children by Lin Liang et al.: The winner of China’s national award for the most beautiful book in 2017, Chinese Poetry is illustrated by Liang Peilong and contains poems written by six renowned poets (Lin Liang, Lin Huanzhang, Jin Bo, Fan Fajia, Gao Hongbo, and Xu Lu). It showcases the rural life with optimism, humor, and wisdom. (Six titles; ages 6–12.)

Yuon Bo Animal Fiction by Yuan Bo: In this series, Yuan entertains with magnificent animal stories such as The Legend of the Little Elephant and The Dream of Wild Water Buffalo. Through concise and vigorous language, the author provides insights into life and nature. (Six titles; ages 8–13.)

Hunan Juvenile Children’s Publishing House

The Legend of the South Village by Tang Sulan: This latest fairy tale by Tang is set in the South Village. It depicts a beautiful idyllic hideaway for children and conveys the yearning for a better life and the pursuit of beauty. (Ages 7–13.)

Where Are You Going, Big Rat and Little Cat? series by Zhou Rui: This series of books is not just a fairy tale, an encyclopedia, and a work of fiction. It is also a fantastic travel journal that covers splendid cultures, folk customs, the geographies of various countries, and much more. (Four titles; ages 6–10.)

Jieli Publishing House

The Dream Makers series by Chen Jiatong: The author conjures a dreamworld to showcase true human nature. Here, Qiqi and other dream makers use their imaginations to build dreams, help other people’s dreams come true, and fight against desire and evil. They want to protect the world of dreams and resurrect lost imaginations. (Four titles; ages 7–12.)

A Maverick Pig adapted by Zhang Ning: Originally written by contemporary Chinese novelist Wang Xiaobo, this story is about a maverick black pig that tries to break free from his restraints and run away. Readers will love the traditional cloth art and painting styles of the Han dynasty. (Ages 4–7.)

Moose by Blackcrane: With poetic words and brilliant illustrations, the author tells a legendary story of a moose and a hunter. Here, human and animal trust each other and live harmoniously. Feel the warmth and love that emanates from every page of this book. (Ages 5–up.)

The Repository of Classic Series for Children by Li Xiaopeng: This series presents classic stories of the natural and social sciences that are specially rewritten for teenagers. Hundreds of lively and vivid illustrations and simple prose make these great reading materials. The latest title, The Capital, has just been released. (Seven titles; ages 8–14.)

Kids Media

The Little Prince edited by Edited by Kids Media: Combining the enchanting story with authorized screenshots from the French film Le Petit Prince (2015), this picture book makes a classic work of literature available to younger readers. More than 200,000 copies have been sold in China. (Ages 5–12.)

You Can’t Miss: Disney Bilingual Classic Movie Stories edited by Kids Media: This is one of China’s bestselling Disney book series from Kids Media. It has sold more than one million copies since its launch in 2016. With beautiful pictures, authentic stories and high-quality audio files, it provides an enjoyable reading, listening, and learning experience for elementary readers. (23 titles; ages 6–9.)

New Buds Publishing House

Stories series by Chang Li: These stories combine traditional Chinese culture with modern twists. The thought-provoking ink-and-wash illustrations function as a cultural showcase of traditional Chinese elements and styles. (Three titles; ages 3–10.)

The Stories of Little Qiao and His Buddies by Mei Zihan: This series of six hilarious stories traces the exploits of Little Qiao and his buddies. The group is loud, yet imaginative, and has a very optimistic outlook on life. They are the Chinese wimpy and funny kids! (Six titles; ages 5–9.)

Thinkingdom Children’s Books

The Beauty of Solar Terms by Zhu Aichao: The solar terms originated in China thousands of years ago. This book presents the wisdom of the ancient Chinese people and their unique understanding of time and space, which exerts great influence on daily routines to this day. It combines the history of Chinese characters, the Song of Solar Terms, and different customs across the country. (Ages 7–up.)

The Creator Raises One Hand by Shanglin Chunman: It is spring and Miss Potato has fallen in love. The snow flutters down while the story is being told. This is a romantic and delightful fairy tale. (Ages 8–up.)

Our First Grade by Tong Xixi: School is starting, the wishes for a new year are put inside a box, and a Mood Tree is planted inside the classroom. Little Tong Xixi charmingly describes her first-grade school’s simple but beautiful life. (Ages 6–up.)

The Pedigree of Chinese Deities by Shen Fuyu: This book opens the door to the 5,000-year history of China through Chinese mythology. Chinese deities originate from fairy tales, and this book presents a portrait of the 20 most influential deities for the Chinese people’s identity and way of thinking. (Ages 10–up.)

Tomorrow Publishing House

The Blue Rabbit-ear Grass by Yang Hongying: This title is from one of Yang’s most successful series, Diary of Smiling Cat. It tells the story of Smiling Cat’s adventurous journey to obtain blue rabbit-ear grass in order to save his beloved wife Tabby Cat. The message in this book is that love is the noblest feeling in the world. (Ages 8–12.)

White Horse and Black Horse by Cao Wenxuan: This picture book by Cao is about a black horse and a white horse born at the same time in a farmhouse, though both have different experiences growing up. Although many things change, what happens to them just shows their deep affection for each other. (Ages 3–8.)

Xinjiang Juvenile Publishing House

Beijing Flavor series by Bao Dongni: Warm and imaginative, these animal and human stories are about coexistence, mutual trust, and environmental awareness with ancient Chinese wisdom woven throughout. Rights sold to France and the U.S. (Three titles; ages 3–6.)

Chinese Stories by Li Jian: Follow elementary school student Xiaoming as he travels back to different historical periods in China, and experiences interesting adventures. Learn about Chinese culture and enjoy the many Chinese historical sites illustrated in traditional ink painting. Rights sold to France and the U.S. (Five titles; ages 3–6.)

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