Children turn a new page as Shanghai book fair marks 10th anniversary
Shanghai's international children's book fair celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, with over 30,000 new titles from around the world, a special exhibition analyzing non-fiction picture books from the last 15 years, and many children, who enjoyed a variety of different events, over the weekend.
The China Shanghai International Children's Book Fair has become a cultural landmark and a much-anticipated event in the city over the last ten years. The three-day fair closed on Sunday.
This year, a total of 478 children's publishers from 25 countries and regions joined the fair, with 91 international guests participating in nearly 300 events. More than 30,000 new titles of different varieties were on display.
"This is always a big event I look forward to near the end of the year," said Qiqi, 8, who came with her parents and a three-year-old brother.
"There are lots of activities to do inside, and lots of fun books. I'm meeting two friends from my class who are also coming."
Visitors were first greeted by a special Children Plus exhibition in the lobby, a new stream of events launched in 2019 aiming to cast light on a trend, a topical subject, a book category or a theme of special relevance for the global publishing industry.
This year, Children Plus featured a special exhibition "Beauty and the World – the New Nonfiction Picturebook." The exhibition was a result of a research by the Center for Research in Children's Literature of the University of Bologna and the Bologna Children's Book Fair.
"We started this research around 2018, because we noticed a new phenomenon around the world, a new trend in the production of a whole new kind of nonfiction for children," Giorgia Grilli, associate professor of Children's Literature at University of Bologna and curator of the exhibition, told Shanghai Daily at the fair.
"Publishers are investing more in the aesthetic quality of the books. The new nonfiction has a strong visual impact, looks more spectacular, and is an object of design. Informative text has become less important than the beauty of the book itself."
Taking advantage of the Bologna Children's Book Fair, the professor and her research group had publishers from around the world sending in their best nonfiction picturebooks, analyzed the phenomenon which led to a theoretical book, and selected around 600 titles from nearly 2,000 from across the globe, including a handful of Chinese ones, covering a variety of subjects and forms to display the trend.
For the exhibition in Shanghai, Grilli further selected around 200 from the 600. Chen Hui, professor and doctoral tutor at Beijing Normal University's School of Chinese Language and Literature, added 50 Chinese titles to the exhibition.
"This is an amazing new trend that is still continuing," Grilli noted. "Authors and illustrators, which now often is the same person, understand their duty as a creative call, and are more interested in how to think instead of what to think. Now illustrations are the center and focus of the book, with much less text, and sometimes even no text. A book evolves around a visual idea."
A variety of different trends and titles from all over the world were showcased at the fair, dazzling not only children but also first-time exhibitors like Ekaterina Kashirskaya, founder and general director of A Walk Through History Publishing House, which specializes in nonfiction science books.
"It's my first visit to China and to the fair, but our books have been translated and published in Chinese for ten years already," she said, as her colleagues were busy talking with Chinese publishers interested in their books.
"And we are having a very productive time already."
The Russian publisher joined a seminar on global children's publishing market analysis with other international publishers, and found that the Russian market for children's book is "much closer to Asian and Chinese markets than European ones".
"Our science books sell very well in Asian markets, like in China, South Korea, Vietnam, and other markets. I found the Chinese version of our 'History of Mathematics' here at the fair," she explained.
The fair is also a stage where authors and illustrators introduce their new titles. Well-known illustrator Zhou Xiang, who last attended the fair in 2019 when joining the jury for the fair's Golden Pinwheel Young Illustrators Competition, returned with his latest work "Fun at Bazaar with Dad".
Returning after four years, he saw the same desire for books among children.
"The book is totally unexpected for me. I was on my first trip to Xinjiang, ran into this bazaar and was completely amazed by the colorful and wild personality of the market," he recalled. "And I wanted it to be dad, because usually pretty few dads take kids to markets. It's usually the mom, but why shouldn't it be dad?"
Zhou was particularly impressed by Xinjiang's culture, which is utterly distinct from his hometown in eastern coastal area of China.
"These two different cultures are both part of Chinese culture, and it is important for us to understand each other," he concluded.