Zhou Jian-Xin and Kuo Nai-Wen: The Beauty Always Remains (Part 2)
By Kiew Li Lian
Kuo Nai-Wen: Beauty Persists Even After Sorrow
On the other hand, Kuo Nai-Wen uses his picture books to convey the message that though the arrival of night is inevitable, dawn will bring the light once again.
Having known each other for 20 years, the two best friends first collaborated in the textless picture book The Lost Cat. Kuo grew up in the company of animals, and had adopted several stray cats. When a feline went missing once, Kuo pasted notices everywhere but he was so worried that he broke down. This episode left a deep impression on Zhou, and sowed the seed for their picture book.
The Lost Cat describes the chance encounter between people and stray cats, as well as the processes of adoption, learning to live together, and acceptance. However, is it really just the stray’s cat good fortune to be adopted? An owner may provide a home for a stray feline, but isn’t the cat offering companionship to the lonely owner?
Another textless picture book of theirs, Little Bai, tells the story of companionship and loss experienced by people and their pets which originated from another of their conversations about pets. Realising that each of them had had a “Little Bai” in their lives, the difference was that Kuo was able to bid a proper farewell to his small white dog, whereas Zhou’s dog was abandoned against his wish after his mother discovered lice on the canine, leaving Zhou with emotional wounds that have never healed.
“Perhaps, each of us has a ‘Little Bai’ in our lives,” with whom we’ve spent a joyous time. Although the story ends with Little Bai departing, Kuo noted: “Life comes to an end, but there will be new beginnings and connections.” In the last page, the image of the back view of the old man and his little black dog against the background of blooming yellow flowers indicates life’s new beginning.
The Extraordinary: Learning to Say Goodbye
As the stories are different from the usual cheerful subject matters of many children’s books, are they suitable for the little ones? Kuo believes that young readers should learn about saying goodbye, while grown-ups might also learn something from this process. Zhou opines that although many parents prefer to skirt around such topics, these are unavoidable issues and perhaps, picture books can offer some support. One Taiwanese reader gave Little Bai to a cancer-stricken friend, helping her and her granddaughter to say their final goodbye.
As the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir once said: “The pain passes, but the beauty remains.” Beautiful memories will not fade away.
|The stories of The Lost Cat and Little Bai were by Kuo Nai-Wen, with illustrations by Zhou Jian-Xin; the books were acclaimed at the Hsin-Yi Children’s Literature Awards.
(Source: Hsin-Yi Foundation Publishing)