Man of many words

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When Zhang Mingzhou was elected head of an international organization for children's books, his peers knew they had found the right candidate for the job, Mei Jia reports.

For a man who grew up in a remote border village in Northeast China's Heilongjiang province, Zhang Mingzhou's career has been nothing short of extraordinary.

Starting out as a junior diplomatic staff member, he later became a cultural exchange agent before becoming a publishing copyright manager. Yet the pinnacle of his career came recently when he was elected president of an international organization for children's books - the first Chinese person to do so in its 65-year history.

"I would not have dared to have dreamed about this life without the aspirations I developed when I was growing up reading books," Zhang says in his acceptance speech.

When it was announced that Zhang had been awarded the presidency of the International Board on Books for Young People on Sep 1 in Athens during the IBBY's 36th biennial congress, which saw 600 delegates from 79 countries gather together, he said he felt "the kind of peace you get watching the still surface of a lake" rather than excitement, he later tells China Daily.

"I feel grateful for literature and the unique power it has to bring about happiness and offer hope to children by developing their imagination and changing their lives for the better," he says.

"I heard only one voice deep down, saying I should live up to my fellow friends' trust, and strive to fulfill my mission and responsibilities," Zhang says.

Zhang says he found encouragement from a rival candidate who finally decided not to run but instead chose to support his bid.

Brazilian illustrator Roger Mello says he is also happy about Zhang's election, who he refers to as "our hero". Australian Trish Amichi says the job has been handed to the best possible candidate, and believes that "the IBBY will do even more amazing things with Zhang at the helm".

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