Re­jected fairy tale trans­formed into a tale of suc­cess

China Daily (Canada) - - EXPATS - By YAN DONGJIE and SUN RUISHENG

A Chi­nese il­lus­tra­tor’s de­but book in­spired by her ex­pe­ri­ence as an only child has been named as one of the best chil­dren’s books of 2015.

The Only Child by Guo Jing has re­ceived crit­i­cal ac­claim and was se­lected from thou­sands of ti­tles for best-of lists pub­lished by The New York Times and the Wash­ing­ton Post.

Pub­lished in the United States in De­cem­ber, the book sold out on Ama­zon within two weeks, al­though as the au­thor ex­plained, “That’s partly be­cause only 10,000 books were printed for the first edi­tion. A se­cond edi­tion will be printed soon.”

The pen­cil-drawn story fol­lows the ad­ven­tures of a young girl who falls asleep on a bus and gets lost in a for­est, where she meets a fly­ing deer, a whale and a seal that help her to re­turn home.

“It’s not just a tale of fan­tasy; it also re­flects the lonely life of an only child in China in the 1980s,” said Guo, 32, who based the story on her ex­pe­ri­ence grow­ing up in Taiyuan, Shanxi prov­ince.

One day, she re­called, her father had been in a rush to get to work and left her at a bus stop to travel to her grand­par­ents’ home. Like her char­ac­ter in The Only Child, Guo fell asleep on the way. When she awoke and got off the bus, she was in an un­fa­mil­iar for­est.

“I felt scared and ex­tremely lonely,” she said.

Guo started to draw the book three years ago while work­ing in Sin­ga­pore as an il­lus­tra­tor. To com­plete it, she quit her job and moved back to her home­town.

China’s one-child pol­icy, which was scrapped with ef­fect from Jan 1, had been in place since the late 1970s. Ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates by de­mog­ra­pher Yi Fux­ian, the pol­icy has meant that more than 200 mil­lion peo­ple grew up as the only child in their fam­ily.

How­ever, even though many Chi­nese would likely em­pathize with the main char­ac­ter, Chi­nese pub­lish­ers orig­i­nally re­jected The Only Child when Guo sent out her sketches in 2014.

Even­tu­ally, she was of­fered a deal by Schwartz and Wade, an arm of the pub­lisher Ran­dom House. The com­pany also nom­i­nated the work for The New York Times chil­dren’s book list, which is used as a read­ing guide by many par­ents.

The work has been com­pared with that of Chi­ne­seAus­tralian painter Chen Zhiy­ong, as well as Ray­mond Briggs’ The Snow­man.

Af­ter see­ing the re­sponse in the United States, Guo said about 20 Chi­nese com­pa­nies con­tacted her and of­fered to pub­lish her work. As a re­sult, The Only Child will soon be pub­lished in her home­land through China Citic Press.

Al­though busy with me­dia in­ter­views and e-mails from read­ers, the artist is now work­ing on her se­cond book, which is about a “big­mouthed girl”.

Guo said she is now more con­fi­dent about ex­press­ing her­self and cre­at­ing her own unique artis­tic lan­guage.

“I used to think art is what you do for the au­di­ence, but I fi­nally un­der­stand now that art is what you ex­press out of your heart,” she said.

Con­tact the writ­ers through yan­dongjie@chi­nadaily.


An il­lus­tra­tion in TheOn­lyChild.

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