1993 / 7月
Lin Liang /tr. by Jonathan Barnard
Huang Chun-ming has finally written down the stories he has told to countless youngsters, churning out five different volumes of children's stories in one go.
Formerly a planner for an advertising agency, Huang noticed many years ago that colorful and attractive magazine advertisements and calendar photos would serve as good basic material for creating original illustrations. Taking great pains to gather these photos and art work that others saw as waste paper, he has cut them up and pasted them together into 150 collages that accompany the text.
In recent years, Huang has divided his time between Ilan and Taipei, forming the Lanyang Children's Performance Group in his hometown Ilan. Though his career has only recently turned toward the creation of children's literature, he has always been exerting energy on their behalf. We have interviewed Huang and specially invited the children's writer Lin Liang to review Huang's tales.
Being described as "a good storyteller" is a compliment no novelist wants to hear, because what we expect from a novel is not just a good story but one that offers the author's insights into human life. Nevertheless, we don't think that novelists should abandon their talents of storytelling to become writers of essays "explaining the human condition." Novelists use stories to explain "their observations about life." Being able to tell a story is one of the virtues of a novelist.The writer's labor is the child's good fortune:
For this reason, we welcome and have eager expectations about novelist Huang Chun-ming's turn to writing children's books. Only if the writers of children's books are good storytellers will youngsters "have something to listen to." Only good storytellers will be able to entrance children with their tales and command the attention of young readers.
Huang Chun Ming's Children's Stories include five volumes of illustrated stories: I Am a Cat All Right, A Short-Trunked Elephant, The Little Hunchback, The Emperor Who Loved Sugar, and The Sparrows and the Scarecrow.
Huang both wrote and illustrated these books. Those blessed with these dual talents are highly respected in the world of children's books.
The "All Right" in I Am a Cat All Right is a popular phrase among kids in Taiwan. It connotes that "I am glad that I am a cat." The story is about a cat whose cathood is doubted when he doesn't catch mice. When he finally nabs one, the people around him are satisfied, and the children readers are happy for him. The Short-Trunked Elephant is about an elephant with too short a trunk. He endures undescribable hardship to pull his trunk long, but to no avail. One day, to save others from a fire, he uses his trunk to suck up and blow out water without concern for his own safety. Though dead tired, he doesn't dare rest until the fire is out -- only to discover that his trunk has grown long. Children who read this story are happy for that elephant.Happy and sad with the main character:
In The Little Hunchback Huang writes of a little hunchback who gets bullied in his neighborhood. He often dreams about a place called Hunchback Village. There the people are all hunchbacks and all friendly toward him. Later, as the little hunch back dies, there is a happy expression on his face, because he has gone to Hunchback Village. When children read this story, they will sympathize with hunchbacks.
The Emperor Who Loved Sugar is a story about three people: Emperor Chu, Chu Yuan, and Chin Shang. Huang has marvelously turned history into a children's story. Chu Yuan is the person who gives Emperor Chu salt to eat, and Chin Shang the one who gives him sugar. Eating sugar at a life threatening pace, the king doesn't take care of his body and sends Chu Yuan away. Eating sugar all day, he falls ill. Finally he repents and wants Chu Yuan to come back, but Chu Yuan has already died. Children who read this story will sympathize with Chu Yuan.
The Sparrows and the Scarecrow is about a farmer who makes a scarecrow to keep sparrows from eating his rice. What he doesn't figure is that the scarecrow would work with the sparrows, keeping an eye out for the farmer. Letting the sparrows happily eat the rice, the scarecrow alerts the sparrows to flee as soon as he sees the farmer's shadow. Turning loose the imagination to run wild, this story keeps its young readers in stitches.Revealing the writer's true feelings:
Clearly, these tales are not just a bunch of stories. When children read them they will certainly be infected with Huang's sympathy for all of God's creatures, which reflects the compassion for animals in Chinese philosophical thought. What makes these stories particularly impressive is that adults can also enjoy reading them. Adults that do read them will feel the compassion that Huang has for others.
In these five volumes, Huang uses the language of children, which is, after all, the language of children's literature. What's interesting is that it is still infused with Huang's own style.
We always feel that we should intentionally use a childish tone of voice when speaking to children, but children themselves are likely to regard it as childish.
Huang uses an every-day descriptive method, doing his best to use simple words, which make readers feel that he has been very careful in his work. The illustrations of the five books are all collages, which Huang made himself ripping up colorful magazine advertising graphics and pasting the pieces together. It's hard to believe that he could really be able to make use of paper scraps ripped from old magazines to create a night sky, peaceful scenery, lush greenery, a farmer's cottage, an old well, or an elephant that makes you feel you can reach out and touch it. These illustrations are interesting for more than just being collages.
Huang was very creative in making them, seeking after a result that is both moving and aesthetically beautiful.
(photo by Cheng Yuan-ching)