María Jesús Gil Iglesias
President of the 2012 and 2014
Hans Christian Andersen Award Jury
Q How did you help the local government or communities to promote children’s reading?
A I always suggest the same strategies: Developing more programs to promote reading, increasing the number of public libraries and making excellent books available to children. Teachers, librarians, publishers, writers, illustrators, all people among children and books have a great responsibility in helping children to become and remain life-long readers. Reading promotion is one of the highest priorities to give everyone an equal opportunity in life.
Q Children’s book is the window for kids to observe the world, so what do you think contribute to an excellent children’s book?
A When I talk about the need to select quality books, I am speaking about those books that allow readers to grow as individuals and learn about the culture of which they take part. I refer to books with both aesthetics and literary qualities, informative rigor, innovative and creative books that help to develop children´s imagination and aesthetic sense.
The book is a support that communicates, it is a support of literary, scientific, ludic messages, and these messages reach readers through the text, the illustration, the graphic, the design... The book as an object has also to be attractive.
High quality books are a source of inspiration for readers and a way to teach children to think with creativity and imagination and also to stimulate their interest in reading. Interest and motivation are the key to reading. Giving them good literature allows the reader to grow as individual and it is a way to have, in the long run, democratic citizens, adults able to read about all kinds of issues and understand them, books that help them to build criteria.
Q What roles does Hans Christian Andersen Award play on motivating writers to create more beautiful works?
A The Hans Christian Andersen Award is the highest international recognition given to an author and an illustrator of children’s books. Given every other year by the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), the Hans Christian Andersen Awards recognize lifelong achievement and are presented to an author and an illustrator whose complete works have made an important, lasting contribution to children’s literature.
The purpose of the Hans Christian Andersen Awards is to stimulate writing and illustrating for children, to promote work with children’s books, and to foster the translation of outstanding children’s books, and thus to promote the worldwide circulation of the best books.
Q How does Hans Christian Andersen Award promote communication and collaboration among international children’s book writers?
A In fact, this is the mission of IBBY, a nonprofit organization which represents an international network of people from all over the world who are committed to bringing books and children together. Founded in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1953, today it is composed of 75 National Sections all over the world. It represents countries with welldeveloped book publishing and literacy programs, and other countries with only a few dedicated professionals who are doing pioneer work in children’s book publishing and promotion. IBBY´s mission consists of promoting international understanding through children’s books, giving children everywhere the opportunity to have access to books with high literary and artistic standards, encouraging the publication and distribution of quality children’s books, especially in developing countries, providing support and training for those involved with children and children’s literature, stimulating research and scholarly works in the field of children’s literature and protecting and uphold the Rights of the Child according to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
María Jesús Gil Iglesias attended 2017 Chen Bochui Children's Literature Award
Q Do you have favorite Chinese writers or books? How do you think of the increasing influence of Chinese children’s book in the international market?
A Starting from the basis that I am not an expert in Chinese literature for children, I can say that recently I have read many translations of Chinese books, mainly picture books. And in my opinion, nowadays there are many important Chinese authors and illustrators. It would be impossible to mention all I know, so I would like to highlight just one, a book that fascinates me. I read it through the extraordinary translation into English made by Helen Wang. It is Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan, 2016 Hans Christian Andersen Award.
Q How do you think the issue of localization when children’s books export to another country?
A I think that the key to be successful is that high quality books with good writing, good characters development, interesting plots and good illustrations will always be a solid base, a safe way to sell books overseas.
Recently, I am living a new and extraordinary experience with picture books: the creation of picture books involving the joint work between Chinese authors and illustrators in collaboration with authors and illustrators from overseas countries.
This collaboration between authors and illustrators is enriching the knowledge of both cultures and the results are some excellent picture books that are already on the market. As an example, I can mention some titles, as A Feather by Chinese author Cao Wenxuan, and illustrated by Brazilian illustrator Roger Mello -in that case, both author and illustrator are Hans Christian Andersen Awards winners-, Across the River by Chinese author Xue Tao and Russian illustrator Anastasia Arkhipova, or Billie´s Factory by Belgiam author Wally de Doncker and Chinese illustrator Xu Kaiyun. I would also mention another two titles: Bronze and Sunflower and the Straw House both by Cao Wenxuan. They are not picture books, but fiction books for young readers. The reason I include here them is for the great success both of them have had abroad China in their new editions following the same pattern: Western illustrators, Alfonso Ruano and Sonja Danoska, getting a new look, a different vision for both books.
Today there are on the global market hundreds, thousands, of picture books. Many of them are unimportant, irrelevant books. Among all these books will only highlight those original, different and innovative ones, books that leave their mark on our hearts, that grow with the reader. Only those ones will arouse interest and will be successful on overseas markets.
This collaboration between authors and illustrators is enriching the knowledge of both cultures and the results are some excellent picture books that are already on the market.
The purpose of the Project of Writing on China by Foreigners is to enable overseas sinologists, writers, media workers, academics and celebrities to have the opportunity to share their interest in the Chinese culture. They are welcome to tell the stories