Chinese stories win publishers' hearts at children's book fair in Italy

People visit an exhibition booth of China Science and Technology Press at the Bologna Children's Book Fair in Bologna, Italy, March 7, 2023. (Photo: Xinhua)

BOLOGNA, Italy, March 9 (Xinhua) -- A picture book series titled "Palace Cats," depicting a few of the furry occupants of the Palace Museum, the huge national museum complex housed in the Forbidden City in the heart of Beijing, caught the eyes of nearly all visitors to the exhibition area of a Chinese publishing house at the Bologna Children's Book Fair, which ran from March 6 to March 9 in the central Italian city.

In its 60th edition, the annual book fair is a major international forum for publishers, authors and illustrators of children's literature to exchange ideas, forge bonds and select partners.

At the 32-square-meter stand of China Science and Technology Press, hundreds of Chinese story books and science books for children were on display. Audrey Lorenzini, an independent publisher from Padova, Italy, discussed copyright issues with the Chinese exhibitors.

"It's very difficult for children in Italy to access books about Chinese culture," she said while she was looking for books for Italians who want to learn about China.

Publishers and licensing professionals were also drawn to the exhibition booths of other Chinese publishers, such as Beijing-based UTOP publishing house and China Children's Press and Publication Group, to seek deals for cooperation.

Popular selections from these industry insiders included "Palace Cats," which tactfully integrates information about the 24 solar terms in the Chinese lunar calendar and the imperial palace into the stories, as well as "My Hillside, My Fallen Leaves," an educational story.

"I like the style of the illustration. It's bright, simple but impressive," Christina Wu, principal consultant with Wellread & Boekenreis Agency commented. She said she wants to publish "My Hillside, My Fallen Leaves" in Dutch for Dutch readers. "I am also impressed by the core message the book conveys -- support and help between friends foster their mental growth."

Zhu Weina, senior project manager with the book fair organizer's Chinese subsidiary Ronbo BolognaFiere Shanghai Ltd., said three works from China won major awards at this year's Bologna fair -- "the best performance Chinese original stories achieved at the book fair in recent years."

"This is an important signal to the world that Chinese original stories are becoming more and more competitive," she said. "In the past, China was generally seen by industry insiders as a major buyer of content and copyright in the global market. Now that China is growing in content creation, it is attracting more buyers worldwide."

At the Bologna fair, China Science and Technology Press inked cooperation deals with Brazilian and Russian publishing houses to publish 10 sets of Chinese works in their countries.

Praising the way Chinese history was presented in the books and the illustrations, Carlos Eduardo Cavalheiro Filho, chief executive of Bom Bom Book's LTDA of Brazil, said he and his whole team are excited about the cooperation with the Chinese press.

"Many (book) contents we translated are already famous in Brazil," he said. "We're looking forward to publishing these works in Portuguese and selling them in the country."

Slava Fedorov, chief executive of Russia's IRSI Publishing House, said many Russians have a basic understanding of traditional Chinese culture but are not familiar with modern Chinese literature, especially children's literature. "We are in the very beginning to open this market to introduce modern Chinese literature to Russia, and we see the interest from our readers," he told Xinhua.

Over 1,400 exhibitors from 90 countries and regions attended the fair, including world-renowned publishers, such as Penguin Random House and HarperCollins Publishers.