Publishers and booksellers in China, the 2018 Bologna Children’s Book Fair Guest of Honour country, enjoyed another remarkable, record year in 2017.
According to Beijing-based research firm OpenBook, which monitors sales data from 3,115 physical and online bookshops across 1,247 cities and towns in China, sales of kids’ books in the country rose 21.2% year on year, securing a fifth consecutive year of double-digit percentage rises.
The children’s market accounted for just under a quarter (24.6%) of all book sales in China in 2017, up from a 23.3% share in 2016. OpenBook figures reveal that around half of all children’s book sales came in the fiction (both YA and Middle Grade) and comics sectors.
L-R Yang Hongying and Tetsuko Kuroyanagi
A theme that links both the foreign-language and local-language children’s bestseller charts for 2017 is the dominance of classic and established titles. Of the top 20 foreign-language kids’ books last year, only two—sixth-placed J K Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and The Minecraft Combat Handbook (Children’s Fun Publishing)—were published in the last decade. Indeed, in the number one spot is Totto-Chan: The Little Girl in the Window by Japanese actress/chat-show host/author Tetsuko Kuroyanagi. (British readers may be interested to note Testsuko was the voice of Lady Penelope in the Japanese-dubbed version of "The Thunder-birds”, released in the 1960s.) Kuroyanagi’s semi-autobiographical tale of a young girl in 1940s Japan was first published in her native land in 1981, and has been around the top of the Chinese foreign-language charts since 2010.
The local-language chart does skew more towards newer titles, with 15 of the top 20 published after 2010. But just two were released in 2017: top-ranked The Secret of Cherry Lane, the latest in Yang Hongying’s (right) hugely popular The Diary of the Smiling Cat series, and Bei Mao’s The Future Me, from his Wimpy Kid-esque Mi Xiaoquan School Experience series.
With its emphasis on Middle Grade series ficton, Chengdu-based Schaun Publishing bosses the local- langauge chart: it has four slots in the top 10, and 12 of the top 20.