HÀ NỘI — Several recent surveys on the reading habits of children have shown that children’s books by Vietnamese authors have been favoured by both young readers and their parents, in comparison with foreign books.
A poem collection, Dắt Mẹ Đi Chơi (Taking Mother Out) by Mai Quyên is a current best seller. The five-volume collection is also the only poem publication competing at the finale of the Dế Mèn Awards 2022 – an award dedicated to literary works, art, films and music for children.
“For me and my child, this poetry collection is like a lesson on the Vietnamese language. I read these poems to my child every day. Composed in a witty and pure style, the poem has a structure like a story told by verses,” journalist Thu Nguyên said.
A parent said, “The publication has a nice design, each poem accompanied by colouring illustration for children. The poems mean so much to my children that often follow along too: ‘it’s me, it’s mom, it’s grandma’s house…'”
According to another parent, Trần Hà Văn, the poems by Mai Quyên bear a deep meaning that is similar to the fables by La Fontaine.
“I like reading poems for my children. However, excluding the ones by Trần Đăng Khoa and Xuân Quỳnh [two famous poets and writers of Vietnamese literature from the 20th century], there weren’t any outstanding poems for children until Mai Quyên, which is emotional and easy to read. I guess because she is a PhD in literature so her language is very beautiful,” he said.
The Dắt Mẹ Đi Chơi collection originates from the poems that Quyên composed for her son. After her verses received much acclaim and were shared by many people, Quyên came up with the idea of publishing the collection to prolong the story to strengthen the connection between mother and child of readers.
Her decision to publish the poems also inspired many other parents to start writing a ‘poetry diary’ for their children.
In a talk themed “How to Select Book for Your Child”, Nguyễn Đình Tuân, founder of the group Little Prince that promotes reading, said: “Vietnamese children’s books recently have made significant improvements, attracting many authors to participate. Those publications have also won the market quickly. Not only limited to the literature category, in other categories such as science, history and comics, there are also very good Vietnamese children’s books of which the quality is no less than imported and translated ones.”
Tuân took the bilingual Vietnamese-English collection Sci-Tales by the Women’s Publishing House for example. The six-volume collection, by author Hoàng Anh Đức together with painters Hồng An and Lộc Linh, is among the recent best sellers.
Meanwhile, two historical-themed books, Lịch Sử Việt Nam Bằng Tranh (Vietnamese History through Paintings) and Hiền Tài Nước Việt (Vietnamese Talents) are the long sellers.
Chance to go to the world
The blooming of Vietnamese children’s books in the market in recent years has brought a significant reading source for junior readers. In addition, this is also a push for authors and publishers to ‘invest’ more in their products. They not only have diversified the book genres but also pay attention to the book designs. Moreover, publishers have also released suitable publications targeting children of different ages and sexes.
Some authors and publishers, after conquering domestic readers, have found a way to publish abroad.
Last year, the copyright of the artbook Chang Hoang Dã – Gấu (Wild Chang – Bear) by wildlife conservationist Trang Nguyễn and illustrator Jeet Zdung was sold to the British publishing house Pan Macmillan. The Kim Đồng Publishing House said the book was sold at a record price, without disclosing the number.
The book, which won a prize at the Việt Nam National Book Awards 2021, was also sold as a franchise in five other countries, including the US, South Korea, China, Norway, and Turkey.
Earlier, the bilingual cartoon series Những Chuyến Phiêu Lưu Của Mèo Tita (The Adventures of Tita The Cat) by Búp Bê (published by the Hồ Chí Minh City General Publishing House) was also published worldwide by the Olympia Publishing House in the UK. The international version features the original English text and illustrations of all five volumes of the series.
In 2020, the copyright of the long story Tôi Là Bêtô (I’m Bêtô) by Nguyễn Nhật Ánh has been purchased by a South Korean publisher. His book Cho Tôi Xin Một Vé Đi Tuổi Thơ (Give Me a Ticket to Childhood) has been translated into Thai and published by Thailand’s Nanmeebooks Publishing House. The book also has been published in South Korea, Japan, and the US.
Phan Thanh Lan, who is in charge of copyright at the Kim Đồng Publishing House, said: “With our experience in book exporting, it can be seen that to target Vietnamese people living abroad, foreign publishing houses often choose the topics of folklore, tradition and culture. For publishers who target a broader audience or native readers, they often select books with global topics such as climate change, environmental protection, nature conservation, gender equality and protection against child abuse and exploitation.” VNS
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