Helen Wang, a London-based literary translator and British Museum curator has been recognised on the international stage for her “special contribution” to children’s literature at the 2017 Chen Bochui International Children's Literature Awards in Shanghai.
Wang, who translates contemporary Chinese literature, including novels, picture books and graphic novels for children and young adults, was commended as “a tireless champion” for Chinese children’s literature at the event, which named her Special Contributor of the Year on the eve of the city’s fifth international children’s book fair.
Wang earlier this year took home the 2017 Marsh Christian Award for her translation of Cao Wenxuan’s Bronze and Sunflower, set in the Chinese countryside during the Cultural Revolution, that was originally published by Phoenix Publishing House and published in translation by Walker in the UK and Candlewick in the US.
In addition to her translations, Wang has also worked collaboratively with the China Fiction Book Club, Paper Republic and Global Literature in Libraries. In 2016, she co-founded Chinese Books for Young Readers, a resource collating scant reliable information about Chinese children’s books.
“Helen Wang is a tireless champion for Chinese children’s literature. And her advocacy is widely recognised and appreciated,” said Junko Tokota, one of the judging panel.
She added: “Although her name is synonymous with children’s translation, Helen Wang has raised the visibility and professionalism of children’s literature translation worldwide.”
Wang, who studied Chinese from the age of 18, and begun working as a translator in the early nineties, told The Bookseller it was “a very special moment” for her and she was glad to see the work of translators being recognised internationally.
She said further in her acceptance speech, which she delivered in Chinese: “Naturally I’m a bit nervous - I’m used to being behind the scenes, not on the front stage! Chen Bochui is an important figure in children’s literature, not only in China but the world ... I am very honoured to be presented with this award.”
She was presented with the Special Contribution Award in Baoshan District - the hometown of the awards’ namesake, Chinese author-illustrator Chen Bochui, who died in 1997 and is said to be regarded as "the father of modern literature" in China.
The awards, designed to recognise children’s literary creators in his honour and “to promote excellence in children’s publishing”, are one of China’s longest-running literary prizes. They opened up to receive international submissions in 2014 though and, this year, the number of entries more than doubled, seeing in entries from 37 countries and regions.
Other award categories included the Best International Children’s Picture Book category, the three winners of which came from France, America and Poland, respectively: Le Ruban, written and illustrated by Adrien Parlange, (Albin Michel Jeunesse); Du Iz Tak?, writtten by Carson Ellis, (Candlewick Press) and Lazing about, facing the sky, written and illustrated by Urszula Palusinska, (Wydawnictwo Dwie Siostry).
Two Chinese titles also won awards: Stroll with the wind, written and illustrated by Xiong Liang, (Tianjin Renmin Press) and Laba Festival: Rice porridge under the eaves, written by Zheng Chunhua and illustrated by Zhu Chengliang (China Children’s Publishing House).
The winning books’ authors receive prize money of 60,000 RMB each. They were chosen by an international jury of nine experts in the field, including French children’s writer Sophie Van der Linde, who said: “I’m thrilled to see there’s an international award for children’s literature which is much needed in the world.”