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Korean Authors

 

Winners of the 2021 Bologna Ragazzi Award

Korean picture books spread their wings around the world

 

2021.08.02

 

There was good news in the publishing industry in June – four Korean picture books won the “Bologna Ragazzi Award,” which is the most authoritative award for children’s books in the world. It was not only this year that Korean picture books received attention abroad, but now they have become more prominent, and stronger on the global stage with their literary value recognized. Korean picture books have thawed the hearts of global citizens strained by the COVID-19 pandemic. Following is an introduction of the four authors and their works who won the Bologna Ragazzi Award, the “Nobel Prize for Children’s Books.”

* K-Book Trends Vol. 35 – Juries’ review of the winners of the 2021 Bologna Ragazzi Award

 

Comics-Early Reader: IPARAPA YAMOOYAMOO, Yi Gee Eun, SAKYEJUL PUBLISHING LTD.

 

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The story that begins with “Iparapa Yamooyamoo” raises the tension and curiosity of its readers with a speedy storyline. The pages that are delicately divided following the character’s movement make us think as if we are reading a comic book. Author Yi Gee Eun, talented at writing absorbing stories with unique characters, as can be seen in her The Story How the Korean Shaved Ice Dessert was Born (Woongjin Thinkbig) and A Red Fruit (SAKYEJUL PUBLISHING LTD.), carries on the humorous story of IPARAPA YAMOOYAMOO, the winner of the Comics-Early Reader category, with cute characters. The different visuals of characters “Marshmellong” and “Tulsoongsoongi,” who look completely opposite on the outside, begin as a “misunderstanding,” but they soon lead to “understanding.” As you read through the book, you will find yourself smiling with your heart warmed up by the author’s message about “understanding each other.”

 

Comment from author Yi Gee Eun

 

Hello, I’m picture book writer Yi Gee Eun. I had been thinking that the Bologna Ragazzi Award judges work based on strict artistic values. As I thought that it is far from what I’m writing, I had been a complete outsider when it comes to the contest. This is why I was happy but at the same time puzzled when I heard the news that my work had won the award.
Besides, in the initial stage of detailing IPARAPA YAMOOYAMOO, I thought that it would be tricky to publish it overseas, as it seemed quite difficult to translate the linguistic elements unique to the Korean language. When you look at what the juries said after the official announcement, some of them mentioned the topic and simple illustrations of IPARAPA YAMOOYAMOO. Perhaps the book having less text and drawn in a cartoon format helped them read it more easily. I had some time to talk with the juries online after the announcement, and I was surprised to see how they pronounced “Iparapa Yamooyamoo” without any difficulty and had fun talking about it. People in Korea found it difficult to read the title when it was first published. I thought that the misinterpretation of “Iparapa Yamooyamoo” was a vital device in the story, but they didn’t seem to get a hold of it. But rather, they seemed to have fun with it as an alien language. They might have had more fun if the pun was perfectly translated, but I get to think that perhaps it’s just my stereotype as I look at the juries laughing, saying, “Iparapa Yamooyamoo!”
I felt like in this book’s story, that even though you don’t speak perfect language, many other elements all become a medium for delivering your true mind. It was a great thing for me to learn. They also left a comment that IPARAPA YAMOOYAMOO could be appealing to young readers in other countries, and it really gave me strength. I felt as if the award was sending support to some parts of my work. “You’re doing good, keep up the good work.”
I’ll continue writing good stories of mine. Thank you.

 

* K-Book Trends Vol. 37 – Interview with writer Yi Gee Eun

 

Fiction 2021 Special Mention: THE YULU LINEN, written by Cao Wenxuan, illustrated by Lee Suzy, Bear Books Inc.

 

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Author Lee Suzy is a beloved author across the world, winning the “Korea Book Awards,” “New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book,” and the “Boston Globe-Horn Book Award.” The book THE YULU LINEN, written by Cao Wenxuan from China, who won the Hans Christian Andersen Award with cozy pictures illustrated by Lee Suzy, is a story about drawing. But as you flip through the pages, you will be able to think of the things you like. The odd atmosphere between protagonist “Uro,” who draws pictures, and the canvas emitting an oppressive aura makes readers hold their breath and watch. Readers who cheered for “Uro” throughout the book will be rooting for themselves at the end. The struggles “Uro” goes through in THE YULU LINEN give courage to children to fully indulge in what they like and gives joy to grownups which they feel when they are immersed in doing things they like.

 

Comment from author Lee Suzy

 

I didn’t know what was going on when people were congratulating me on the authors’ group chat with a photo of the book’s cover. I never expected to win such an award – I was more than astonished to hear that THE YULU LINEN won the Fiction 2021 Special Mention.
The book THE YULU LINEN, written by Cao Wenxuan and illustrated by me, is the bizarre story of “Uro” who draws pictures and a piece of canvas. When Uro finishes drawing a fabulous picture, it is ruined the next day, with paints on the canvas smudged. Author Cao Wenxuan and I decided to make this book when we were each nominated in the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2016 in the writers’ and illustrators’ category. I picked this story as I was drawn to the girl, a protagonist who draws pictures, but at the same time, I also wanted to describe the talents, passion for things we like, persistence, concentration, and growth implied in between the lines.
The juries’ comments were very impressive as well. The Bologna Children’s Book Fair was my first step in my journey into picture books. I always felt warmth and beauty in the book fair as the huge community welcomed each other through “picture books” and “children.” This is why the message from Bologna and the short comments that made me look back on my works both in the past and present were like a cheer to me. I could realize how abundant Korean picture books are by looking at the works of other Korean authors who won the award in different categories.
Ah, Bologna, the discerning eyes. Thank you for recognizing these unique picture books.

 

* K-Book Trends Vol. 37 – Interview with writer Lee Suzy

 

Non-Fiction 2021 Special Mention: RICE RICE RICE, Bamco, HYANG

 

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The book begins with the phrase “Momomomomo (“Mo” means rice seedling in Korean),” which sounds like a riddle. The book RICE RICE RICE describes the journey of rice, our staple food on the table, from its production to delivery in a humorous tone. Farmers plant rice seedlings, grow, and harvest them... this is how “rice” is made before it reaches us. Author Bamco playfully expresses the sublime story of farmers and rice farming with repeated letters. The letters as big as the pictures make children find fun in letters, and adults too, with its fun pun. You will burst out laughing as you read the story out loud and see its play on words, but at the end, you will be thankful for the farmers with the last sentence, “Thank you for the meal.”

 

Comment from author Bamco

 

The book RICE RICE RICE is a non-fiction picture book describing the life of a rice seedling through simple illustrations and short words, but also a book dedicated to my dad, who has been a farmer all his life. Farming, seen over his shoulders, was a valuable and precious job as much as how laborious it is, but sadly, it did not pay that much. In this era where farming is losing its value, I wanted to talk about the great drops of sweat put into making one bowl of rice. I put my love, gratitude, and respect for my dad as the daughter of a farmer into the book, while explaining the rice-farming process as an author.
The most important element of the book is the text, which is as large as the pictures. I played with the words by splitting them or placing them vertically or repeatedly, hoping that the challenging farming process can be read as entertaining and accessible to the readers.
I was so surprised to hear that RICE RICE RICE won an international award as I thought it would be enough to be just loved by Korean readers as it is about traditional farming and a Korean pun. It couldn’t be more meaningful. My dad was the happiest of all when he heard the news. As the daughter of a farmer, I’m proud to be able to return the story of my dad’s valuable story of life with such an honorable award.
I would like to express my gratitude to the officials of the Bologna Ragazzi Award and Korean readers who enjoyed my RICE RICE RICE.

 

 

Opera Prima 2021 Special Mention: SO MUCH SNOW, Park Hyun-Min, Dalgrim (Yellowpig Publisher)

 

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All parts of the Bologna Ragazzi Award are meaningful, but author Park Hyun-Min’s winning of the Opera Prima 2021 Special Mention award has more meaning as it is presented to the first book of a newly-debuted writer. The book SO MUCH SNOW by author Park Hyun-Min who studied space and scale and made a picture book that can materialize them all, may seem full of too much blank space. But if you look in more closely, the blanks become snow and snowman – literally turning into “so much snow.” The author chose not to add many letters to boost the imagination of those reading the book. There’s no letter in the book SO MUCH SNOW after the first page, and in the white space covering the rest of the pages, readers can imagine and think of anything they want. As such, even though SO MUCH SNOW doesn’t have much text, various colors, and many pictures, it provides the fun of imagining the story.

 

Comment from author Park Hyun-Min

 

The Bologna Ragazzi Award was my motivation for making picture books. It was the award of my dreams. I had to get my shirt changed twice as I sweat so hard when I heard the news that I won the award.
Some people said that they didn’t know this book would win the award, but I was secretly looking forward to it. I had confidence that the juries will not miss the exclusive, unique concept and style of the book and recognize what I intended in each scene. Indeed, I believe that the goddess of luck was by my side as I know that there are many other, more outstanding books that failed to win the award.
As I have always been doubting my identity, there was a great desire in my mind to win an authoritative award and get recognition. I thought that winning an award would resolve the doubt, but eventually, I came to the conclusion that it is actually something I must solve on my own. The thing happier than the award itself is that I’ve earned the foundation on which I can write so many stories that I’ve been wanting to write.
But one thing I’m ashamed of is that I couldn’t go to Bologna in person due to the pandemic. I’ve been telling my family that I will take them to Bologna and have good food and wine as much as they want to enjoy the moment when I win the Bologna Ragazzi Award. It is my little hope that one day after I become a professional picture book writer, I can have another chance to win the award and embrace the moment to the fullest.

 

 


Organized by Choi Ha-Yeong

 

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#Bologna Ragazzi Award#Yi Gee Eun#Lee Suzy#Bamco#Park Hyun-Min
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