For the past semester, our YLIG (youth literature interest group) has been discussing international children’s literature. Actually, Jeffrey Garret points out that what we really mean is national literature, “for they are as national as ours are” (Gebel, Crossing Boundaries with Children’s Books, 2006). American exceptionalism. We think everything not American is international, and we think by celebrating other national literatures we’re being international.

Anyway, so last time YL and I spoke about Korean children’s books and children’s librarianship in Korea. Today MC gave a phenomenal presentation about children’s books in China. She told us about the Big 4 (post-1980s, meaning they were born after 1980) authors who published at very young ages, as well as the way Chinese materials for youth portray Japan and the US. She showed us images from a magazine that had instructions for cut-out figures of a South Vietnamese soldier attacking a US soldier, and another magazine that had song lyrics criticizing the American empire’s influence in China, the Philippines, and other countries that have undoubtedly been influenced by the US. 

She also told us about the incredible and increasing popularity of Japanese manga and the picture book in China – picture books no doubt modeled on the classic American 32 page picture book. And this is the part I find most interesting. MC found considerable instances of anti-Japanese and anti-US sentiment in Chinese children’s materials, yet at the same time in China there’s the popularity of Japanese manga and the American picture book. In my work, I observed that children’s books published in the US about Japanese colonialism in Korea and the Korean War are virtually silent about the role (or absence) of the US in modern Korean history. (These thoughts will be published in a book that’s coming out in April 2007 by Pied Piper – I’ll let you know when they tell me the title!)

Mimicry in children’s books. Fascinating.