兒童文學新藍海 橋梁書

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2015 / 4月

文‧張瓊方 圖‧林格立


如果說,繪本是現階段兒童文學出版的大宗,那麼,橋梁書就是兒童文學近年出現的新藍海。

當孩子看完《好餓的毛毛蟲》、《小房子》……等世界繪本名著,接著迎面而來的就是長篇翻譯小說《哈利波特》,姑且不論這些都是外來的翻譯文學,光是從圖像到大量文字的大躍進,就讓人覺得有難以跨越的鴻溝。

橋梁書,就是一道銜接圖像閱讀與文字閱讀、培養兒童獨立閱讀能力的橋梁。此類型書的圖文比例翻轉,縮減插圖篇幅,增加文字量,讓孩子在循序漸進中培養文字閱讀能力。

讓我們一起上橋看看台灣原創兒童文學風景。


曾經對橋梁書做過研究的國立台北教育大學語文與創作學系兼任助理教授陳玉金指出,近年台灣童書出版社紛紛針對中、低年級兒童,推出「文字量與難度高於繪本,又經過特別設計,使孩子讀起來不吃力或沒興趣,並搭配精美插圖」的類型書,名之為「橋梁書」。

圖像跨越文字之橋

橋梁書內容多以生活為題材,文體則包羅萬象,舉凡散文、短篇小說、傳統故事等題材,都能以橋梁書的方式呈現。

陳玉金指出,早期台灣兒童讀物中,其實不乏橋梁書的型態,只是數量少,也沒有大張旗鼓地對外宣傳其目的,並未引起市場的關注。

相對地,兒童繪本在出版社大量引進翻譯圖畫書,以及校園故事媽媽們藉用圖畫書來說故事的推波助瀾下,繪本大行其道,年產量也大增。

兒童文學工作者林哲璋指出,學校喜歡引進繪本,一來容易衝閱讀冊數,讓學生快速累積成就感,二來也方便故事媽媽拿著繪本講故事,孩子看圖,大人說故事。

但一段時間後發現,台灣學生閱讀量大增,但參加國際閱讀測驗的成績卻不突出,因而引發各界討論。有人懷疑太強調圖像閱讀,為了要讓圖畫講故事的結果,導致文字退縮到只剩下表淺的文句, 兒童文字閱讀能力也隨之大退縮。

養成兒童圖像閱讀習慣,是否會導致孩子對於文字閱讀缺乏興趣?此一問題目前尚無定論,不過介於圖畫書與全文字書之間的「橋梁書」概念已異軍突起,成為童書另一個有待填補的藍海。

文圖1+1>2

林哲璋認為,與無國界的繪本相比,文字占比達三分之一到二分之一的橋梁書,反倒給予本土兒童文學作家較大的揮灑空間。

「兒童尚無世界觀,接觸外國題材有隔閡,而且各地方的語言、文字有其社會背景與特色,翻譯語言無法把文化背景、文字的韻律及修辭準確翻譯過來。」林哲璋說。

繪本以學齡前到小學低年級為主要對象,5,000~2,0000字之間、圖文並茂的橋梁書,則適合中低到中高年級閱讀。

橋梁書雖然強調文字的重要性,但仍要仰賴插畫為書的內容加分增色。林哲璋指出,橋梁書雖然字數增加,但仍要保有繪本的插圖形式。「插畫能讓讀者從中找到很多文字以外的樂趣,文字加上插畫可以達到1+1>2的效果。」

用點心學校,學校用點心

連續2年,林哲璋與BO2共同創作的《用點心學校》系列,蟬聯誠品兒童館橋梁書類的銷售冠軍。

2月中,《用點心學校》剛推出第6集《神氣白米飯》,兩年前出版的第一本《用點心學校》已經超過30刷,隨後陸續推出《好新鮮教室》、《老師有夠辣》、《學生真有料》、《香蕉不要皮》,全都大受歡迎。

《用點心學校》系列以學校為場景、食物為角色,發展出一篇篇有趣味又發人深省的故事。串場主角「白米飯人」,在用點心學校裡是常被忽略的配角,但無論雞腿便當、排骨便當或叉燒便當,白米飯都是不可或缺的存在。

林哲璋還特別標舉苦瓜的美德,推崇苦瓜是「己所欲,卻不強加於人」的真君子。因為菜中君子苦瓜,無論與什麼食物搭配,都不會把苦味傳給其他食材。

知名兒童文學作家幸佳慧在序文中讚許:「林哲璋結合點心食材的特質、文字的感官譬喻和校園的學習經驗,變成一篇篇趣味的短篇故事。」她認為,此系列創作料理的是「天生我才必有用」的價值,此外,大人期待孩子能具有「多元配方能力」的用心,也隨著各種調味料灑進孩子的心中。

並聯電池的創作哲學

兒童文學的基本讀者是兒童,可以使用的語言工具及素材較少,困難度相對而言較高。

強調語言特色是林哲璋創作橋梁書萬變不離其宗的「梗」。「我不喜歡重複人家的話。」林哲璋舉例,大家都說「我愛你」,聽久了沒感覺,但如果加上一句形容:「就像老鼠愛大米」整句話就生動了起來。

自稱信奉「淺語」藝術的林哲璋,遣詞用字其實一點都不淺,書中文句充滿雙關語、倒裝句、成語、對仗等等語法。他坦言,常因為用字太難而頻頻被出版社退稿。

不想文句「幼稚化」的他,最後採中庸之道。「就像並聯的電池,少一顆電池,依然能點亮燈泡。文字也是,只要不構成閱讀障礙,就算其中一兩個詞彙不懂,還是不妨礙孩子瞭解文意。就算今天不懂,隨著年齡增長,有一天就懂了。」

解放兒童,教育成人

「站在小朋友那一邊寫故事、蹲下來用兒童的眼光來看世界。」是林哲璋創作的基本理念。

林哲璋另一個《屁屁超人》系列,以「神秘小學」為場域,述說小朋友在學校裡可能發生的種種問題。

主角「屁屁超人」愛吃神奇蕃薯,放的超人屁能夠飛行;串場人物「神秘校長」則喜歡偷學小朋友的超能力,常用學來的超能力做壞事,下場也總是慘兮兮。

「故事裡的小朋友都有超能力,大人反倒需要小孩幫助,拉校長下海當串場人物,很能獲得孩子的共鳴。」充滿童心的林哲璋說。

橋梁書雖然強調樂趣性,但不表示得無厘頭的搞笑,當然還是可以隱含深刻的東西在其中。例如,在《屁屁超人與充屁式救生艇》中的〈金寶貝的怪獸爸爸〉、〈金寶貝的直升機媽媽〉,就是把現代問題父母具體化的呈現。

林哲璋指出,消遣大人、教育成人並非與小朋友無關的議題,因為孩子是將來的父母,未來也可能成為校長,預埋在心中的這顆種子,屆時必能發芽、茁壯。

正如林哲璋所言,他的作品希望能取悅「未來的大人」和「長大的小孩」。從這個角度來看兒童讀物,無限寬廣。畢竟,人終其一生要經過無數的橋梁,從圖像到文字;從小孩成長到大人,也都並非單向的過渡而已。

繪本也好,橋梁書也罷,不同於早期兒童文學為教育服務,當代兒童文學要對抗的是卡通、電玩,因此趣味性一定要擺在第一位,才能讓兒童願意犧牲玩樂的時間來閱讀,進而吸引孩子在書本上停留、駐足。

在兒童文學領域中沒有新鮮事,橋梁書作者只能多用點心,施展超能力,設法從各種3C產品的聲光遊戲中,把孩子的目光吸引過來。

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近期文章

EN

The Latest Trend in Children’s Lit: Chapter Books Grab the Spotlight

Chang Chiung-fang /photos courtesy of Jimmy Lin /tr. by Jonathan Barnard

Once children in Taiwan have finished with world-famous picture books such as A Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Little House, they typically move on to novels for children, such as the Harry Potter books. But some children find the move from pictures to long texts too great a chasm to leap.

The books that can serve to bridge this gap are ones that cultivate in children an ability to read independently by combining pictures with longer texts. In comparison to picture books, chapter books—or “bridge books” as they are known in Taiwan—reduce the space given to illustrations and increase the amount of text, offering children a smoother transition to handling larger blocks of text.


Chen Yu-chin, an adjunct assistant professor of language and creative writing at National Taipei University of Education, has conducted research on chapter books. She notes that in recent years Taiwan’s publishers of children’s books have put a big emphasis on targeting chapter books at children in the lower and middle grades. “The difficulty and amount of text is higher than in picture books, but it has been carefully designed so children don’t lose interest or find it too taxing, and the text is still matched with excellent illustrations.”

A bridge between pictures and text

Chapter books comprise a wide-ranging category that includes essays, original fiction and traditional stories and folk tales.

Chen points out that early on chapter books did exist within Taiwan’s children’s literature, but there were relatively few of them. They received little attention outside the field and little fanfare in the marketplace.

In comparison, Taiwan’s publishers were translating large numbers of foreign picture books, and the mothers who would volunteer to read picture books in the schools only served to further popularize the genre.

But after a while it was discovered that although Taiwanese students were reading more, their scores on reading tests hadn’t improved much. Some wondered if spending so much time reading picture books—where words were secondary and could easily fade into the background—might be stunting Taiwanese children’s reading abilities.

Consequently, chapter books, as stepping stones between picture books and full-text books, attracted more attention and emerged as a field with room for growth.

Children’s book author Lin Zhe­zhang believes that in comparison to picture books, chapter books give local authors more space to stake out a place of their own. This is because there are low cultural barriers to entry for picture books, so local products must compete against books from around the world. But in the case of chapter books, “Children still lack a conception of the wider world, so foreign subject matter can be less accessible,” says Lin. “Furthermore every language has its own cultural background and character. Something’s bound to be lost in translation.”

Picture books are targeted at preschool children as well as at children in the early years of elementary school. Chapter books, with word counts of 5000–20,000 Chinese characters and a blend of text and illustrations­, are better suited to children in the middle and upper grades of elementary schools. Lin points out that although these books have higher word counts than picture books, they still include illustrations. “Illustrations can allow readers to find joy outside of the text,” Lin says. “When you add words to illustrations, one plus one is greater than two.”

Food for Thought School

Lin and illustrator BO2 have worked together on a series of books about a “Food for Thought School” that has dominated the top spots on Eslite’s chapter book bestseller list for the last two years. In February the sixth volume in the series, Fantastic White Rice, was released. The first volume in the series has already seen 30 printings.

The series is set at a school, and its characters are types of food. They get caught up in one amusing and thought-provoking adventure after another. White Rice Man appears in each book in the series, albeit always in a supporting role. Nevertheless his existence can’t be overlooked—whether by Chicken Drumstick, Pork Chop, or Barbecued Pork Lunch Box.

Lin makes particular mention of the virtues of Bitter Melon, who does his own thing without imposing his values on others. He’s a stand-up guy among vegetables, who doesn’t spread his bitter taste no matter which dish he is matched with.

In the book’s preface Arlene ­Hsing, the noted children’s book author, praises the series for creating characters out of food and finding value in their inherent natures. What’s more, adults who are hoping for their children to develop more adventurous palates will appreciate the wide range of flavors and ingredients that hereby enter their consciousness.

The Tao of parallel batteries

Linguistic inventiveness is a hallmark of Lin’s books. “I don’t like to follow the herd,” he says, before citing an example: Everyone says “I love you.” After a while, it loses its emotional impact, but if you add “like a mouse loves rice” that enlivens the whole phrase.

Though a self-professed adherent of “simple language” in his art, Lin in fact uses language in a manner that isn’t simple in the least. The Chinese of his books is full of linguistic pyrotechnics, such as plays on words, inversions, idioms, paired phrases and so forth. But he doesn't see this as a problem for his young readers. “It’s like batteries connected in parallel in a light bulb circuit. If one is drained, you can still turn on the light with the other. It’s the same for words: So long as one doesn’t suffer from a reading disability, not understanding one or two vocabulary items won’t prevent a child from getting the gist of what’s written.”

Setting children free, teaching adults

Lin has written another series, the Super Pipi series, which is set at the Mystery School. It describes various kinds of problems that children may encounter in school.

The lead character Super Pipi likes to eat a magical sweet potato, which allows him to fly on his farts. The Mystery School Principal, a supporting character in all the books in the series, likes to try to copy the children’s superpowers, often misapplying them to disastrous effect.

“All the children in the story have superpowers, whereas the adults need the children to help them,” says Lin, who has the heart of a child.

Emphasizing fun doesn’t necessarily mean being trivial or silly. Fun can still hold within it a deeper meaning. For instance, in Super Pipi and His Fart-Inflated Life Raft, the Golden Baby’s Wild Animal Dad and the Golden Baby’s Helicopter Mom are characters that bring to life issues in modern parenting.

Lin points out that making fun of or educating adults isn’t something that’s irrelevant to children, because children are future mothers and fathers. Children may one day become school principals. The seeds Lin plants may linger in their minds until germinating and growing strong at the appropriate time.

Lin says he hopes that his writing brings joy both to “future adults” and to “grown-up children.” It’s an approach that offers the broadest possible scope for children’s literature. Ultimately, one crosses countless bridges in one’s life, and the passage from childhood to adulthood isn’t necessarily a one-way journey.

There’s never anything totally new in the field of children’s literature. If authors of chapter books want children to sit still and linger with their books, then they will have to bring their own superpowers fully to bear. Their books have to be compelling enough to pry children loose from the bright lights and commotion of their electronic screens.

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