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BIR

A pond of growth: spreading its wings toward the broader world

 

2020.04.06

 

If there is a place where a child must stop by before becoming a grown-up, where would it be? Would it be the world of smartphones that are already rooted deep inside our life? Or, would it be the world of digital screens? If these two worlds are not the answer you are looking for, then how about the world of books, even though it feels a bit outdated? BIR hopes children stop by the pond of books where their imagination spreads its wings. Let’s take a deeper look at the hidden world of BIR – ceaselessly improving the quality of the pond.

 

Logo of BIR

Logo of BIR

 

It is the 26th anniversary of BIR Publishing Co., Lid. Please introduce BIR to the readers overseas.

 

Established in 1994, BIR has been a publisher specializing in books for children and teenagers by publishing books from children’s stories and teen novels to information-providing non-fiction books. Readers often get curious about the meaning of the name BIR. In Chinese characters, Biryongso (BIR, 飛龍沼) means “a pond where dragons soar into the sky.” There is at least one pond in rural villages in Korea. And our ancestors would call the pond “Biryongso.” That is where we got our name from.
BIR is also a children’s book affiliate of Minumsa. The hometown of president Maeng-Ho Park of Minumsa is Boeun, Chungbuk, and there is actually a pond named “Biryongso.” We expanded its dictionary meaning of “a pond where dragons soar into the sky” into “a pond of growth where imagination spreads its wings” adding the company’s value. In short, we reflected our desire in the name to be “a pond of growth” for children who shall stop by at least once before they reach into the greater world. We shortened the brand name to “BIR” in English.
Just as the meaning of the name Biryongso implies, BIR does not lean in to the educational effect of books and has been producing books that can wholly understand and show the minds of children, which young readers can enjoy flipping through the pages of. We try to clearly differentiate them from books for adults to let children have an interest in them by striving to present books in which pictures and paragraphs of various content and design are mixed in harmony.

 

BIR has multiple “first in Korea” titles. And various Literary Awards catch our eyes. How were the Awards established, and how are you organizing them today?

 

BIR desires to entertain and engage with children readers. Even though books may look like a little bit outdated media compared to various video-based media today, it has been publication that always presented fresh and diverse contents to the world as a cultural channel. If we just look at movies, musicals, and animations that are based on book titles, we can see the absolute world of imagination that books possess. To be in tune with the world with such contents, BIR is holding various types of literary awards or contests, aspiring to form various channels. Discovering new writers, stories, and pictures through literary contests is the core pillar of BIR.
The contest is open for a certain period every year, and by carrying out active discussions with the judging panel composed of experts from various fields, we select contents that can be produced as books. Also, going beyond merely choosing a “good” work, we continuously mull over during the process of editing, designing, and producing as to how the work can be presented to the readers as a complete physical medium. In other words, it does not end as a “contest”, but by going through a strict process, we put our utmost effort into making the contents as one complete physical book that readers can feel “the affection and desire to own the book.” After such hard work in editing and design, the outcome leads to endless communication with the readers. Through advertisement and marketing, we continue to put the effort in the long run until the release of good books so that the readers can “easily discover” them on shelves.

 

 

BIR desires to entertain and engage with children readers.

 

 

The contests “Story King” and “Marshmallow Fiction” introduced a system in which children readers get to evaluate the works for the first time in Korea. What is the reaction from participants and readers?

 

Well, if you liked reading books during your childhood, you may have had found a book of your taste, not letting your parents know. They are unique children’s book contests that cherish the eyes of children readers, rather than prioritizing those of adults.
The panel of judges for Story King and Marshmallow Fiction is divided into two: adults’ panel and children’s panel. Two to three works for the final evaluation screened by the adult judges are sent to 100 or 101 children judges. Then the children choose the best work after reading the dummy manuscript. The points given by both panels are added to determine the winner.
Every year, 100 and 101 Children between the age of 11 and 12 participate in the panels for Story King and Marshmallow Fiction respectively. So it is like children choosing the “best seller of us that grown-ups don’t know” by engaging in the evaluation themselves. In particular, as only girls can join the panel for Marshmallow Fiction, it is hugely loved for its new concept of “Girl’s Fiction.” After the submission of evaluation comments and points online, they have an offline meeting for further evaluation. Almost 100 children across the country participate and have fierce debates upon the works each of them has chosen. There are comments about the works themselves, but some of the children even took sales into consideration, saying “This type of book is a hot seller in the market” - their passion and enthusiasm are amazing. There are also sharp comments about the work that some of the dropouts say that it was a valuable opportunity to receive comments directly from the children readers even though they could not make it to the final.
As the contests have the meaning of thinking together to make good books adding to just choosing the right books for children, many children apply for the panel every year. And the chosen books are well received in the market indeed after publication. The first winner of Story King, Detective Twenty Questions Series was made into a series and is scheduled to be a complete series of 12 books soon. A whopping 300 thousand copies were sold, and the winner of the second Story King, Geon-bang’s Audacious Martial Arts Training Series settled as the best martial arts story for children with its 5th book released with its Season 2 coming ahead. In short, it was a good opportunity to realize that children have a powerful influence.

 

<Geon-bang’s Audacious Martial Arts Training Series>

Geon-bang’s Audacious Martial Arts Training Series

 

BIR has published diverse book series from children’s picture books to Story King. Each of the series has its unique characteristics. Please introduce us to the newly launched field that BIR is weighing in on.

 

The essence of BIR is indeed the picture books. They are like the heart of us. Not only the series “BIR’s Picture Books for Children” (currently no. 273 released) filled with global masterpieces that are like a milestone in the picture book history, but also “BIR’s Fairytale and Traditional Tales of the World” series can be called as art themselves. Recently, in particular, works such as Miffy by Dick Bruna are adding a distinct flavor to the picture books of BIR. We also launched Sagaksagak Picture Book series lately as well. The 23rd book is on its way. This series that begins with novelty books for 3-year-olds to paper picture books began receiving positive comments from the readers.
Also, the winners of the Story King series is continuing its uptrend in the fiction field, and the series of the winners of BIR Literary Awards instantly become best sellers as soon as they are released in the market. Story King winners including Bong-Gu Yoon, the Clone and Poong-Woon Tak, the Ghost Supervisor, and picture book series such as Moonlight Diner in the Midnight, My Sister, Trash, and 100% Winning Random Capsule Vending Machine are the winners of BIR Literary Awards that are set to be steadily published.

 

<Bong-Gu Yoon, the Clone>, <Poong-Woon Tak, the Ghost Supervisor>, <My Sister, Trash>

Bong-Gu Yoon, the Clone, Poong-Woon Tak, the Ghost Supervisor, My Sister, Trash

 

 

 

When children get close to books they like, books can become a lifelong best friend.

 

 

BIR launched 'Beaver', a book club for separate volumes for the first time in Korea. Beaver provides book curations customized to different age groups from preschoolers to elementary school students. What is the planning and marketing concept of Beaver?

 

We get to meet many parents that feel puzzled about the standard for which books they should recommend to their kids. They have to consider whether the necessary contents for their children’s development and education are well reflected, and think of how to expose them to various genres while looking for books that they might like. So Beaver took the solution for those struggles as the concept for planning and marketing. Beaver suggests books with the right educational values, diverse, balanced genres, and reading fun for kids customized to different age groups. You can commonly see book curation programs where experts help children’s educational development and academic learning in Korea. However, the unique thing about Beaver is that it provides exciting books that children chose themselves. So the belief that children are the ones that best know the fun for children is reflected in the planning process. When children get close to books they like, books can become a lifelong best friend. This is the goal of the book club Beaver.

 

Books with Exported Publication Rights

 

 

 

THE SEVEN FRIENDS IN A LADY'S CHAMBER by Young-Kyung Lee

 

<THE SEVEN FRIENDS IN A LADY'S CHAMBER> by Young-Kyung Lee

 

The setting of this story is a Lady’s Chamber, where a young lady sews clothes. The Lady has seven friends for her needlework: they are Mrs. Ruler, Miss Scissors, Miss Needle, Maid Thread, Grandma Thimble, Miss In-du (a little iron with a long handle), and Maid Iron. When the Lady dozes off one day, the seven friends argue about who is the best part of sewing. As their arguments became louder and louder, their landlady awakens and becomes angry, declaring “I am the most important part of needlework.” Soon the Lady falls asleep again and has a dream in which in trying to do her needlework, she couldn’t find any of her seven friends. Feeling sad, she bursts into tears and is awakened by her seven friends. At last, they all realize that all of them make sewing possible, and that they cannot carry out the needlework without the help of friends.

 

 
 

 

THE ZOO by Suzy Lee

* Awarded as 2008 Notable Children's Book in the Language Arts by NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English), U.S.A.

 

<THE ZOO> by Suzy Lee

 

This book is about the zoo, a strange place where children and adults alike learn about nature, but also about its deprivation and despair. Curiously, children see the zoo differently from the adults’ perspective; they know how to make friends with animals.
I went to the zoo with mom and dad today. We went to the gorilla’s house and the bear’s hills. We also went to the hippo’s swimming pool, the elephant’s palace and the giraffe’s village. We even visited the water bird’s cage and the monkey’s world. The zoo is truly an exciting place to be! Mom and dad, you guys had fun, too, didn’t you? While the child is having fun with the animals at the zoo, mom and dad were panicked as they find that the child has wandered away. This original picture book offers amusement as well as refreshment as the child’s imaginary space overlaps the reality of the adult world.

 

 
 

 

TIPTOE TAPIRS by Han-Min Kim

 

<TIPTOE TAPIRS> by Han-Min Kim

 

Once upon a time, in a jungle of Malaysia, animals were busy making noise as a way of showing their powers, except for Tapir. Tapir always walked with soft steps. Nobody recognized she was passing by. One day, while Tapir and her daughter were eating mud, a leopard approached to them. As always, Tapir ran away with soft steps, but soon got caught. Then, she heard the “bang” of a shotgun. It was the scary hunter. The leopard was scared and started running away, following Tapir and her daughter with soft steps. From that day, something weird happened in the jungle…….
Han-min Kim grew up in various places like Denmark, Sri Lanka and Peru. Now he is into storytelling through which he hopes to give a simple message: love nature.

 

 
 

 

THE WALL by Jin-Ho Jung

* The special mention of the BolognaRagazzi Award 2018 in the ART, ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN category

 

<THE WALL> by Jin-Ho Jung

 

What if there was a picture book that easily translated the concept of “space” in a way that was approachable for children along with fresh interpretations? This is a simple and clear picture book. After following in the footsteps of the child featured in the book, children will be able to understand and learn concepts such as "inside and outside,” "front and back,” "convex and concave” and "right and left.”
The author says in the book, everything has an inside and an outside and everything changes depending on our viewpoint. Through this, he stresses the importance of diversity of views, and that we should be able to look at "all sides” of everything with a warm standpoint.

 

 
 

 

LULLABY FOR GRANDMOTHER by Iwona Chmielewska

* The winner of the BolognaRagazzi Award 2020 in the New Horizons category

 

<LULLABY FOR GRANDMOTHER> by Iwona Chmielewska

 

This unique illustrated book features Hulda seen through the eyes of her granddaughter. Lodz is a small city in Poland, filled with loud noise from endlessly spinning machinery and cotton dust floating like snowflakes. Set in the city, Hulda and a number of women workers live, work and raise children during their lifetime. The book poetically illustrates the life of Hulda from childhood to adolescence and adulthood, with the collage of fabrics of different patterns and textures that the illustrator collected for years to make a perfect harmony with illustration, pictures and textures in the book.

 

 
 

 

DETECTIVE TWENTY QUESTIONS series by Kyo-Bum Heo, Sang-Mi Ko

 

<DETECTIVE TWENTY QUESTIONS> series by Kyo-Bum Heo, Sang-Mi Ko

 

It won the Story King Award specially selected by a panel of 100 special judges all between the ages of 9 and 12. In book #1, Moonyang an 11-year-old boy wanted to have a new series of the plastic models of Warriors, his favorite characters. Mom said they were for a younger kid, not for an 11-year-old boy. To buy the new plastic models, Moonyang bet 30,000 won which was originally supposed to be his tuition fee for a Chinese Language Institution on card games with ‘The Magician’, which results in losing all the money. Moonyang requested the investigation to get back the money to a new boy in class 6 called ‘The Twentyquestion Detective’. He is famous for solving any problem only with 20 questions. Could Moonyang have the money back with his help?

 

* DETECTIVE TWENTY QUESTIONS (11series)
1. Detective Twenty Questions and the Magician
2. The Cat Attack Incident
3. The Treasure Box in the Dark
4. The Friend from the Past
5. The Four Cases
6. The Crisis of the Elite Club
7. The Villain and The Detective
8. Blue Mustache
9. The Hidden Card
10. Detective Tournament: Part I
11. Detective Tournament: Part 2

 

 
 

 

MIDNIGHT MOONLIGHT CAFÉ by Bun-hee Lee, Tae-kyu Yoon

 

<MIDNIGHT MOONLIGHT CAFÉ> by Bun-hee Lee, Tae-kyu Yoon

 

This fantasy novel is about events set in Moonlight Diner, where customers can buy delicious food with bad memories. Yeon-woo, a lonely child who feels like the last person left on earth, happens to stop by Moonlight Diner in the middle of the night, where he meets Fox Eyelash and Fox Husky. Being told that he can trade one bad memory for a piece of a strawberry cake with a whipped cream filling, Yeon-woo recalls what happened at school earlier that day: He found 50,000 won that his classmate had lost, and he decided to keep the money and used it to buy school slippers and stationery, instead of returning it to the owner. The humiliating memory of stealing is used to pay for the fancy cake. Yeon-woo visits the diner again the next day to exchange two out of his box filled with abundant bad memories with food. What are the two bad memories he has sold to Fox Eyelash and Fox Husky? A profound question of "If you remove all the bad memories you have, will you become happy?" is explored in an easily approachable way.

 

 
 

 

I am taller than you by Hye-Won Kyung

 

<I am taller than you> by Hye-Won Kyung

 

A Cute and humorous story about children’s height measuring. Comparing height and length can be fun!

 

 
 

 

My Spring Training of my Life by Yoo-Jung Jung

 

<My Spring Training of my Life> by Yoo-Jung Jung

 

The first book by Jung Yoo-Jung, a novelist hugely loved for her works Seven Years of Night (EunHaeng NaMu), Shoot Me in the Heart (EunHaeng NaMu), and The Origin of Species (EunHaeng NaMu). The story begins in a village near Suwon on a summer day in August 1986. Joon-Ho, a 15-year-old main character, is asked by his friend to deliver a passport and a little bit of money to his legendary student activist brother to help him flee abroad. The scheduled meeting place was Imjado, Shinan, in the Southern part of Korea. Joon-Ho planned to go alone, but uninvited friends from his neighborhood Seung-Joo and Jeong-Ah mess up the journey. What’s more, an unidentified old man and a Dobermann named Roosevelt join the team; the journey of this chaotic team unfolds like a road movie with the unstoppable narration and humor of the speaker Joon-Ho.

 

 
 

 

THORN CONFESSION by Ryeo-Ryeong Kim

 

<THORN CONFESSION> by Ryeo-Ryeong Kim

 

Trust, Listen, and Accept. The novel begins with a confession: “I am a thief.” The protagonist Hale is a sophomore in high school. He is such a natural when it comes to taking other people’s stuff that sometimes he even surprises himself. His family isn’t rich, but dad, a superintendent of a large apartment complex, is relatively affectionate. Mom used to be a wig technician and Hale’s 30-year-old brother, ever since he was discharged from the army, runs a curious website in which he claims he is an “emotion design expert.” With all the emotional support he receives from this family, Hale cannot comprehend why he has become the kleptomaniac he is, but just cannot stop. To Hale, who as a child had to stay home alone while both of his parents worked, stealing is as much a part of him as the loneliness he felt. One day, he steals a fairly new electronic organizer from a locker in the back of the classroom.

 

 
 

 

THE RED PENCIL by Soo-Hyeon Shin, Sung-Hee Kim

 

<THE RED PENCIL> by Soo-Hyeon Shin, Sung-Hee Kim

 

A Story about the growth of a boy named Min-ho through handling secrets and lies after obtaining a magic "red pencil" with which he can write any story without hesitation. This book was awarded, with a review that "it successfully explores confrontation with a hard-to-avoid temptation, a rare subject for a Korean youth book, in an interesting and effective way. Moreover, it creates an independent child who makes a decision without the help of assistants," illustrating his mind in a detailed way.

 

 
 

 

The last Event, The Birth of Ilsu by Eun-Sil Yoo

 

『The last Event』, 『The Birth of Ilsu』 by Eun-sil Yoo

 

A brilliant story that depicts death and a funeral in a touching and humorous way.

 

 

 

Prospective Works of BIR

 

 

 

I’m a Lion by Kyung Hey-Won

 

<I’m a Lion> by Kyung Hey-Won

 

A picture book about the rough but beautiful life of a lioness and her heartrending love for her cubs. The life of lionesses that become a mother after herding and giving birth to little cubs is described in a heartwarming and beautiful story; their story, feeding and protecting their cubs from all the threats in the tough and merciless jungle unfolds as if we are watching a movie. The courage and power of the lionesses lead to the story of mothers today, and the cubs grow up to be lionesses that protect their kids once again. The new work by Kyung Hey-Won, a globally promising illustrator.

 

 
 

 

100% Winning Random Capsule Vending Machine by Kwak Yu-Jin, Cha Sang-Mi

 

<100% Winning Random Capsule Vending Machine> by Kwak Yu-Jin, Cha Sang-Mi

 

The grand prize winner of the 9th BIR Literary Award in 2020. It is a fantasy story for children that describes a magical story about a random capsule vending machine that you can always win. It is a composed and heartwarming story about one sorrowful kid feeling a sense of loss who reorganizes his relationships step by step with the 100% winning capsule vending machine... Everything helps him to return to an ordinary daily life with energy again. The unique concept that there is a capsule vending machine that you can win anything with a 500-won coin grasps readers’ attention and increases immersion. Written by Kwak Yu-Jin, and illustrated by Cha Sang-Mi.

 

 

 


Organized by Choi Hyo-Joon

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