Illustrators and Promoters of Children’s Books in China

And Yet, The Books is a five-episode documentary on books and the stories behind books in China co-produced by bilibili, a video website, and Beijing Xiaohe Culture Media Co. Ltd. Each episode is about twenty-five to thirty minutes long with a different theme. The themes include the work of editors and translators in China, the journey of secondhand books and bookstores in the mainland and Taiwan, the world within children’s books, the design of books and book covers, and the reading experience in a fast-changing society. The third episode features three people behind children’s books—Cai Gao, Xiong Liang, and Can Ran—and how they build a bridge between adults and children.

Cai Gao is an expert at capturing nature in her illustrations, and she said in the documentary that nature nurtures her. She is good at ruminating on ideas she gets from her observations and putting them on paper by drawing. She worked as a countryside teacher for six years in the 1960s, and she could draw the field and woods where she did a lot of labor with her eyes closed. Cai Gao won the Golden Apple Prize in the Biennial of Illustration Bratislava in the 1970s. Her work focuses on folk stories and children’s songs, and she believes dialects are the origin and the home of people and languages. The peaceful and joyful life is the main theme in her work since she intends to provide as much joy as possible.

Xiong Liang, one of the best-known illustrators in mainland China, has been exploring a way to combine modern children’s picture books with Indigenous tradition. His works are based on oriental traditions and philosophy with innovative narrative structures and expressions. He began to create children’s books after his daughter was born. In his words, he is “using images to create poems and prose,” and his secret is to show the emotions behind the images and to interact with the little readers. In one of his works, he tried to create a forest world full of adventures where children are encouraged to be curious about every creature along the journey.

Can Ran is a well-known promoter of children’s books. Reading is important in the school she founded for children. She believes a book acts as a boat, sailing to the inner world of a child, and that reading can help children become sensitive to this world and use their own language to describe their feelings. There is a library of more than ten thousand children’s books in her school. One of the activities there is to invite the children’s toys to spend a night in the library. The toys would climb onto the shelves to find books and read together before they go to bed. The next morning, the children would receive letters from their toys recommending a new book especially for each toy owner. Of course, each recommended book is chosen by Can Ran according to each child’s personality so that the book can sail to the inner world of the child.