Updated: 2013-08-13 01:06
By Sun Ye (China Daily)
Children's storybooks are big business. Sun Ye finds out that there is no time-tested recipe for success but generally story lines that are imaginative, adventurous and with good values fascinate the young curious minds.
Xu Dexia is not known for writing mega-hit fairy tales but children still crowd around her for autographs whenever they meet her.
The 60-year-old, sporting a head of tight grandmotherly curls, is editor-in-chief of Children's Literature, a magazine with a monthly circulation of more than one million.
[Song Chen/China Daily]
Comparing it to adults' best-sellers of about 50,000, it is a huge number.
Having been introducing quality stories for more than 30 years, Xu is a storytelling connoisseur.
Children are among the country's most avid readers, Xu says. This is evident from the number of publishing houses involved in children's books: 530 out of some 600 of them.
She says the country's most popular children's stories are imaginative fantasy tales since such stories appeal most to an "innocent, curious mind".
"Children are pure and born romantic, their love for good stories is perennial," she says. "The magazine's decades of success rests on the fact that we put out real literature for them."
The developing minds are demanding and hard to decipher, and there is no tried-and-true recipe for an appealing story, she adds. "They have so many more choices right now."
By looking into books that fly off bookshelves, one can have a better idea of children's tastes.
The Plant Vs Zombies series, written by established writers, launch new story lines and has just found its 10 millionth readers.
The stories, which have very little to do with the game, are more than a battle with evil. They are situational narratives aimed at emotional education. At the end of each chapter, there is a how-to-cope wise tip for the scenario.
The Magic of Luoling, a series of adventure stories that feature an otherworldly princess coming into grips with her wizardry home planet, while searching the meaning of friendship and family love, is also the country's first original children's literature to reach the 1 million benchmark.
Four years since its first release, it has numerous spin-offs.
The author, Chen Liuhuan, describes her creation thus: "I write about friendship, love, races and humanity. The stories deal with these subjects in a fantastic wrap."
"I look back on my childhood and realize children want nothing but novelty and out-of-the-box imagination," she says. "They're naturally drawn to the surreal."
But her loyal readers say they love her stories because "they can refer to it for advice since it relates to their own life experiences".
"My life is filled with so much emotions and feelings, and I hope to convey to them," Chen says.
Ghost stories work the same way.
Tang Hongying, the Bing Xin Children's Literature Award winning author depicts her widely loved ghostly characters as ice-cold, but longing for a giant's warmth and stealing the fire in his heart. The creepiness ends with the altruistic giant donating his warmth and treasuring a drop of shameful tear from the thief.
"I hope readers are inspired and touched after reading (my books)," says Tang, who's also a primary school teacher. "All the things I write are a quest for truth, well-meaning and beauty."
"The marvelous ghostly world is my invention based on the real world, where moving sentiments of family love and personal growth are important elements," she says. "When I write, I imagine what my younger self with a sensitive, wandering mind would like."
Zhao Jun, a second-grader who admits such ghost stories are her favorite genre, says she likes the stories so much that reading 500 pages wouldn't tire her out.
"Today's kids choose their own reading, not what their parents suggest," says Xu Dexia, who scouts around for children's literature talents.
Gao Wenyan, a well-read 12-year-old, would comb through the children's section and pick out her favorite, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. "I love it and have read it many times."
The books have all the right elements that appeal to children: imagination, adventure and emotions.
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