Call for papers: Border-Crossing in Children’s Literature

The Second International Symposium for Children’s Literature &
The Fourth US-China Symposium for Children’s Literature

June 14-16, 2018
Cotsen Children’s Library, Princeton University

The International Symposium for Children’s Literature, first held in 2012 as the US-China Symposium for Children’s Literature, was born at an exciting moment in children’s books and reading in China. Imported/translated picture books and juvenile literature, along with parent-child shared reading practice, were increasingly introduced to rising middle-class Chinese families and rejuvenated the creation of domestic works. The symposium has become an important venue where leading scholars from China, USA, and an expanding list of countries exchange the latest research on children’s literature, fertilizing the field with inquiries that cross national, cultural, and linguistic boundaries.

The Cotsen Children’s Library is proud to host the Second International Symposium for Children’s Literature in 2018. Cotsen is a special collection of international historical children’s materials housed within Princeton University Library. It is one of the few institutions, outside East Asia, that house a sizeable and growing research collection of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean books, magazines, manuscripts, original artwork, prints, games, and toys for children’s entertainment and education.

The Second International Symposium for Children’s Literature seeks to facilitate interchange of ideas on new issues in children’s literature research between scholars from East and West. We are particularly interested in two thematic areas.

(1) Children’s literature on the screen
Electronic screens have joined paper to carry text, images, and other multimodal contents that entertain, educate, inspire, and stimulate children. Shelby A. Wolf (2014) challenged us to widen literary analysis “to include the interplay of visual, auditory, and interactive opportunities” offered by digital children’s literature. We welcome proposals that investigate digital picture books or children’s book Apps from dimensions that range from definition to creation, evaluation, criticism, usage, access, response, and impact.

(2) Border-Crossing in Children’s Literature
This is a broad area that encompasses multicultural, international, and translated children’s literature, in any format and genre, including but not limited to East Asian children’s literature, its relationship with global literature, its application in second language education, and East Asian-themed American works.

Submission Timelines

August 14, 2017 — Deadline for submitting abstracts of 300 words for 20-minute presentations (in English or Chinese) to

September 14, 2017 — Decision notification. The symposium is able to schedule up to 24 presenters into the program.

February 14, 2018 — Deadline for the submission of your paper. The necessity of on-site, simultaneous translation requires that we receive the full text of your presentation with adequate time to have English-Chinese bilingual versions prepared.

Following the symposium, we plan to assemble revised versions of the symposium papers into a book or a special journal issue.


Dr. Minjie Chen
Cotsen Children’s Library
Department of Rare Books and Special Collections
Princeton University Library
Phone: (609)258-9574

Dr. Qiuying (Lydia) Wang
Professor, Reading/Literacy (K-8)
School of Teaching and Curriculum Leadership
Oklahoma State University
Phone: (405)744-8001


Wolf, S. A. (2014). Children’s literature on the digital move. The Reading Teacher, 67(6), 413-417.

Printable Flyer


The King of Hide-and-Seek: A Chinese Picture Book about Mental Disability by Zhang Xiaoling and Pan Jian

The King of Hide-and-Seek [躲猫猫大王] / written by Zhang Xiaoling 张晓玲; illustrated by Pan Jian 潘坚. Jinan, China: Ming tian chu ban she, 2008. (Cotsen N-000732)

When I first came to the United States and lived in a campus town, I was struck by how often I encountered people in wheelchairs—maneuvering coolly on the street, wheeling onto buses that knelt gracefully before letting down a ramp, shopping in the store, and studying in classrooms and libraries. “Why is there a higher rate of disability in the US than in China?” I wondered for a moment before realizing my mistake. The accessibility-compliant public facilities and educational services in the university allowed more people with disabilities to carry on active, and visible, social and academic lives.

When I think back to the rural town in China where I grew up, I can recall hearing bits and pieces about children who were physically or mentally “different”—family members of a distant relative or of an acquaintance whom my parents knew. I hardly ever met those children, who might or might not have been hidden in the same manner as Ariana Dumbledore has been by her family in Godrics Hollow. When children with disabilities appear in Chinese literature and media, they fall into tropes. As Melissa A. Brzycki observed about Chinese children’s stories from the early 1970s, first, there is a scarcity of mental disabilities represented in them. Second, books that are primarily concerned with physical handicaps model how disabled children should be strong and how “normal kids” should extend kindness and support to them. Thirdly, people with disabilities who have made extraordinary achievements are portrayed as role models for the rest of the population to look up to and emulate. In stories published during the Cultural Revolution, Maoism is the spiritual source of strength for children, who overcome danger, fear, and disabilities to contribute to the revolution. Yet those empowering messages can be just as endangering for children with hero dreams. In several nonfiction accounts of real-life heroines, heathy young girls were maimed as a result of following the Communist slogan “Fear Neither Hardship nor Death,” thrusting themselves into perilous circumstances in order to protect communal property or save lives (Brzycki, “Fear”). These resolute girls came from a long line of self-sacrificial female figures, who, in feudal China, practiced the Confucian virtue of placing the interests of their fathers, husbands, and sons above their own; and, in Communist China, submitted themselves to Chairman Mao Zedong, to the Party, and to communes.

The King of Hide-and-Seek, unpaged.

Given the sobering history of representing disabilities in Chinese children’s materials, The King of Hide-and-Seek, a picture book published in 2008, is a refreshing take on the topic. Written by Zhang Xiaoling and illustrated by Pan Jian, the warm yet poignant story tells about a rural Chinese boy named Xiaoyong and his playmates. An unnamed girl, his neighbor and best friend, is the first-person narrator of the story. Xiaoyong lives with his grandfather, a fish seller who is out in the market all day, and the boy is often at home by himself. He and a bunch of preschoolers love to play hide-and-seek around the house, but he is terrible at the game and always the first one to be found.

One day, the girl comes up with a clever plan to help Xiaoyong, making sure that neither of them will become “it” and giving her just enough time to conceal the boy in ingenious spots. Xiaoyong’s happiness from winning the game for once is palpable. His playmates make a crown out of grass and twigs and call him “the King of Hide-and-Seek.” Left to his own devices, however, Xiaoyong is as easy to be found as ever.

One by one his playmates start school. For reasons unknown to the girl narrator, Xiaoyong doesn’t. He can’t help his grandfather in the market either, because he cannot tell one-yuan bank notes from ten-yuan ones. It is at the funeral of Xiaoyong’s grandfather that the girl overhears a comment on the boy, “This is a dim-witted child. Grandpa is dead and he doesn’t even know to cry.”

A few days later, a man who introduces himself as Xiaoyong’s father comes looking for the boy. Xiaoyong is supposed to leave the village with him, but is nowhere to be seen. The boy’s old playmates form a search party. They look around the house; they try the clever spots which have helped Xiaoyong win the game; they search all over the village, but can’t find him this time. Finally, someone suggests calling out the phrase that ends a hide-and-seek game, “Xiaoyong, come out, come out. I guess you win!” Slowly the boy emerges from the vegetable field where he has been hiding, “his eyes so puffed up that he could only squint through slits in the sunlight.” He leaves with his father, but not before casting a last look at his friends. Their parting chorus “Xiaoyong, you rock! You are the King of Hide-and-Seek!” brings a smile to his face once more.

Through the girl narrator’s innocent eye and nonjudgmental voice, it gradually dawns on an adult reader that her best friend likely has mental disabilities. Young readers, however, will first recognize Xiaoyong as a good-humored playmate and relate to his emotions—great joy at being crowned the king of hide-and-seek, quiet content at accompanying a good friend, loneliness and sorrow that he is unable to express with words. This is not a book about disabled angels or saintly helpers, but about irrevocable losses we all experience as we grow up—loss of friends, of family, of blissful unawareness of a challenging life, and of pure joy from the simplest offering. Zhang’s language is subtle, poetic, and rhythmic. Pan’s earthy yellow palette immerses us in a poverty-stricken Chinese village, the drabness of which is broken only by the bright faces of the laughing children.


Brzycki, Melissa A. “Fear Neither Hardship nor Death: Stories of Disabled Chinese Children in the Early 1970s.” Cotsen Children’s Library Blog. November 6, 2015.


Thanks go to Helen Wang, children’s literature translator, for her generous editing work of this post!