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Today, I am taking part in the It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? meme hosted by Jen of Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee of Unleashing Readers.

mondayreading1

Monday Reading2

I read eight picture books this week, of which four are by Asian authors/illustrators, as part of my conscious efforts to read more works by Asian creators. Overall, the books ranged from so-so to funny-poignant to new favourites.

1) I’ll start with my rated so-so reads:

 

Dragons love Tacos, D is for Dragon

 

Dragon Love Tacos

By Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

Dial Books for Young Readers

4 years and up

Dragons Love Tacos, written in present tense 2nd person style,  is about how dragons love tacos but not the spicy toppings. I liked the idea but beyond that, it didn’t do hook me.
D is for Dancing Dragon – A China Alphabet

Written by Carol Crane, illustrated by Zong-Zhou Wang

Sleeping Bear Press

6 years and up

I borrowed this because I liked the idea of a Chinese Alphabet. It turned out to be a serious non-fiction introduction to different facets of Chinese culture eg, B is for Beijing, C is for chopsticks etc. I guess it might be interesting to those wanting to learn more about the Chinese culture but its text-heavy small font sidebars didn’t make me want to read it. I also had expectations of a simpler book with a more text-light read so I didn’t get through this one.

 

2) Then, I had three fun reads:

Chengdu could not sleep

Chengdu could not, would not fall asleep

Barney Saltzberg

Disney/Hyperion Books

3 years and up

This is a seriously cute book. I am amazed that the entire book is premised, and written very sparsely based on the title which pretty much says all the book is about.

Chengdu Pg 1

and my favourite page in the book…

Chengdu Pg 2

 

 

Oliver and the Alligator Naked

Naked!

Michael Ian Black, Illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers 

 3 years and up

I borrowed this book because the cover looked strangely like it was a story about my 3-year-old, right down to his hair and facial expression. When I opened the book, I had a sneaky feeling that these creators must have been outside my home and saw Caleb in action.

Naked Pg 1

 

When I got to this page, I knew for sure that they had. After all, how else would anyone know that Caleb recently decided that the towel would be great as a cape in his repertoire of running stark staring naked out of the bathroom?

Naked Pg 2

 

Oliver and his Alligator

Paul Schmid

Disney/Hyperion Books

3 years and up

Oliver Pg 1

 

“Oliver sometimes felt his brave wasn’t nearly as big as he needed it to be.”

This is a very sweet tale of a not-so-brave little boy on his first day of school. He picks up an alligator on the way to school to up his brave factor.

Oliver Pg 2

His alligator eats up everyone and everything that scares him.

Oliver Pg 2

I really love Paul Schmid’s whimsical artwork style with his use of pencil-like strokes .

3) I also had an unexpectedly poignant read. A book on my reserved list wasn’t ready but as I wanted to borrow my maximum quota of 8 books, I browsed the library shelves and stumbled on this.

The Third Gift

The Third Gift 

Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

Clarion Books

5 years and up

This is not a picture book that I would typically pick up because the artwork isn’t a style that appeals to me. But seeing Linda Sue Park as the author (and yes, my antenna is up for Asian creators), I decided to read it there and then to see if I would want to borrow it home. Which I did.

 

The Third Gift Pg 2

“My father collects tears. That is what they are called: the pearls of sap that seep out of a tree when the bark is cut. Maybe they are called tears because it seems as if the tree is crying.”

I found this a most fascinating read when I later learnt that these tears are actually used to produce myrrh. The extract, which comes from plants native to the Middle East, is used in ancient times as a medicinal herb, as an additive to wine, in incense and perfume. But its primary use is as an embalming oil and funerary incense.

The ending touched me and surprised me so I won’t spoil it by giving it away. But I will just say that the young narrator meets a few strangers who decide that myrrh would make a fitting third gift. This is the first Linda Sue Park book that I have read and I will be checking out her other titles for sure.

4) And lastly, I read two books which went right up to my Favourite Picture Books List:

 

Flight School

 

Flight School

Lita Judge

Atheneum Books for Young Readers

3 years and up

The opening page was brilliant and the two sentences that nailed it for me was when Penguin said “I was hatched to fly.” and when reminded that penguins don’t fly, he replied “Undeniably…I But have the soul of an eagle.”

Flight School

A flightless bird wanting to fly is a common theme. Yet Lita Judge gives it such a fresh spin. In page one, she sets up the problem and the character so brilliantly in just a few lines. I want to write like that when I grow up soon!

 

Identity, belonging, choices

Identity, belonging, choices

Guji-Guji

Chih Yuan Chen

Gecko Press

3 years and up

Originally published in Mandarin, Guji-Guji became a New York Times bestseller when the English edition was published. I was introduced to this book by author/illustrator Naomi Kojima’s Keynote Presentation at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content.

I love everything about this picture book, from the crisp text, brilliant illustrations and heartfelt story question that confronts Guji-Guji – “Do I have to behave like a crafty crocodile because I look like one?”

It starts when Guji-Guji’s egg rolls into a duck’s nest.

Guji-Guji Page 1

“Mother Duck didn’t notice. She was reading.”

Isn’t this the coolest Mother Duck?

Guji-Guji page 2

 

“A rather odd duckling hatched from the fourth egg.”

Guji-Guji page 3

 

“But no matter how quick they were, or what they looked like, Mother Duck loved all her ducklings the same.”

Again, the author gave the minor character so much character with this single line.

Guji-Guji page 4

 

This is very much a story about family, belonging and acceptance even when the 4th duckling looks much like a crocodile. And when Guji-Guji finally meets some crafty crocodiles, he has to make his choice over his crocodile nature and his family’s nurture.

This book is a keeper. I’m still hanging onto my library copy for now but my own copy will be shipped in soon.

All round, it’s a satisfying picture book reading week!

Today, I am taking part in It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

mondayreading1

Monday Reading2

 

With Singapore celebrating her 49th birthday this month, I decided I should have a Singapore week. So, this week’s books are all by my author friends living in Singapore. All books were launched in recent months, many at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) in May this year, so they may not be available outside of Singapore yet.

 

Bilingual Children's Picture Book

Bilingual Children’s Picture Book

 

Star Anise, Superstar! bilingual picture book

Star Anise, Superstar! bilingual picture book

Star Anise, Superstar!

Written by Linn Shekinah 

The Almond Tree

This is the first in the Asian Spice Kids 5-picture book series self-published by Linn Shekinah.  It’s a charming bilingual picture book (English and Mandarin) with main characters based on Asian spices Star Anise, Chilli, Cinnanon, Clove and Shallot. Star Anise tries to out-sing all her friends to stardom but her vocals are not her strength. The truth hurts and through that, she learns that a real star doesn’t seek to outshine others.

 

Fun at the opera cover

Fun at the opera pageFun at the Opera

By Susanna Goho-Quek

Oyez! Books

This lovely picture book captures author and illustrator Susanna’s childhood memories of her family who ran an opera troupe. It offers a vignette of a bygone era in Singapore where Chinese operas were still in fashion. I like the sparse text and raw-style illustrations which keep with that era, painting a dreamy day for a bunch of mischievous kids who enjoy opera in their own way – running backstage when Grandma isn’t watching.

 

 

SSD-4-Duchess-bookA Day with the Duchess (Sam, Sebbie and Di-Di-Di Book 3)

Written by David Seow

Epigram Books

The 3rd in this popular picture book series, this book is inspired by the recent visit of Prince William and Duchess Kate Middleton to Singapore. The three siblings (based on David’s nephew and nieces) come face to face with royalty, only to lose their beloved hamster Kate. The children scramble to keep up with the Prince and Duchess’ itinerary in Singapore hoping to retrieve their pet. David Seow is one of Singapore’s pioneer authors who started writing when no one dared to venture this lonely path.

 

 

Shabu ShabuThe Wee Adventures of Shabu Shabu – The Silk Route (Book 2)

By Michael Csokas and Kristina Thornton

Steam Powered Productions

The second book in this series of an avid bunny explorer named Shabu Shabu was launched at the AFCC successfully with the help of three real rabbits. It’s a charming fully illustrated storybook (not picture book), which gives a contemporary spin to legends and animal characters in Asia. Kristina has lived in Asia for several years (and now Singapore).

 

 

Paw Prints and the Itchy SpotsPurple Paw Prints and the Itchy Spots

Written by Sarah Mounsey

In this 3rd book and my favourite of her 3 titles, Eddie develops itchy red spots which spread through his entire body. As he runs around trying to find relief, he ends up creating chaos everywhere. He finally recovers from his red spots to find that they have gone elsewhere…Sarah wrote and self-published this Paw Prints picture book series, with the support of the SCBWI Singapore chapter which was restarted in 2010. Her series has won the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award.

 

 

Princess Petunia Girl Overboard

Princess Petunia’s Dragon

By Emma Nicholson

Bonnie Books

A charming early chapter book about a feisty princess who longs to keep a dragon for a pet, against her entire castle’s wishes. Princess Petunia plots, schemes and eventually smuggles her idea of a perfect dragon home, which she is forced to reveal at the Dragon party she attends. Emma was previously an editor with a publishing house in UK and is currently living here with her family. She said this book was a dream come true as it was based on a manuscript she had written long ago in UK which was not ready for publishing until several rewrites in Singapore over the past year.

 

Girl Overboard – A Rose among Thorns

By Sheri Tan

Epigram Books

Over the weekend, I read Book 1 of Girl Overboard, a brand new middle grade series about a young girl of U.S. and Singaporean parentage who returns to Singapore after living in New York most of her life. It is inspired by my editor Sheri Tan’s own experience of living in New York for decades, where she was editor in New York’s top publishing houses, before relocating back to Singapore for family reasons. I enjoyed the humour and found myself rooting for the awkward Rosie as she struggles to fit into school and Singapore life.

Epigram books has led the charge of many great new picture book and middle grade children’s titles since it set up over 2 years back. My Tibby & Duckie picture book will be published by Epigram this October and is edited by Sheri.

 

Locked Up Boy

Not in the Stars

Written by Pauline Loh

Scholastic Asia

This middle-grade book is my favourite for personal reasons. As Pauline is my writing partner, I was the first reader for this manuscript which she wrote in all of two weeks! It went on to win 1st runner-up at the Asian Scholastic Book Award and this year, has been launched in Malaysia, India and Singapore. Pauline has written several picture books to date. To me, this is by far her best  and her breakout story, which will pave her way to becoming a great novelist of stories inspired by our Asian roots.

A young tribal girl Mui is asked to fufill her grandma’s dying wish to free a boy from an abandoned locked-up shed. Years later, that mysterious assignment catches up with her when she goes to a wealthy Peranakan household to work as a servant girl. Gripping and lyrical, I actually forgot to put Caleb to sleep when I read this some two years back as I was so engrossed in her manuscript and had to know the ending.

AFCC Launch for Prince Bear & Pauper Bear Theatre Show

AFCC Launch for my Prince Bear & Pauper Bear Theatre Show

When I was growing up, and actually only until 7 odd years back, there were very few quality local children’s literature published in Singapore. Thanks to the vision and a decade of hard work of AFCC Founder Ramachandran and his minuscule team, the AFCC was birthed along with a slew of publishing initiatives and book awards.

A handful of us authors were birthed through one such initiative, which includes my writing partner Pauline Loh, Linn Shekinah and myself, amongst a few others.

The SCBWI Singapore chapter was restarted which saw a few more successfully self-published titles and authors – Sarah Mounsey, Emma Nicholson, Kirsty Thonton.

Last year, for the first time ever, there were over 60 locally published children’s titles launched last year. A record for a tiny red dot like Singapore which until 6-7 years ago saw only a handful of local children’s titles because Singaporeans are a pragmatic lot and Survival and Success in Singapore as an Author is elusive.

We are still salmon swimming against the tide. But trickle by trickle, I believe our collective efforts will bring about a vibrant canon of children’s books which our children can finally identity with as they see more local settings in the stories.

Today, Mummum is talking to Dr Ken Spillman, one of Australia’s most prolific and versatile authors, editors and critics. Ken also sits on the Board of Advisers for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content, which I am involved in at the programme committee level.

Ken Spillman

1. You are a very prolific author and speaker. Can you take us back in time to how you got your big break with your first book published?

Ken: During my late teens I wrote short stories and poems, and the publication of these in highly regarded Australian literary magazines gave me confidence that I could succeed as an author.

Immediately after completing a degree, I was commissioned to write a history book. This resulted in many more commissions and the problem then became carving out enough time to pursue creative work. Nevertheless, I kept writing and publishing stories and poems for adults while also publishing history books until my first novel appeared in 1999. The success of that book was a turning point in my career – from then on, I was 100% committed to my own ideas and much less interested in writing non-fiction for a living.

 
Jake's Cooking Craze - front cover2.Name 2 moments when you knew for sure that being an author of children’s books was your calling.

Ken: I didn’t think seriously about writing for children until I had published about 10 books for adults. At that time, the highlight of my day was reading stories to my own young children. I read with great passion, using different voices for all the characters.

One day, one of my sons asked in all innocence: “Why don’t you write some interesting books?”

I thought about that for a while, and found myself actually agreeing with him! I had always loved kids and I had always loved stories – it just seemed natural to put those two things together.

The 2nd “moment” occurred when I started doing school visits. I loved interacting with young readers and soon discovered that I had a natural connection with them, not only as an author but as an entertainer.

 

3. Which is your favourite book from childhood. Why?

Ken: I was entranced by Robin Hood. Apart from the adventure, the whole idea of a righteous outsider standing up to authority and supporting the poor appealed to me – and perhaps helped shaped me. I loved Mark Twain’s stories too, and I think that’s because they fulfilled my fantasies about a life beyond parental control.

My favourite children’s books now are really books for all ages, like The Little Prince and Dr Seuss’s wonderful The Sneetches.

 

The Circle -front cover
4. Being on the Board of Advisers for AFCC, what are two things you personally hope to see more of in children’s books coming out from Asia?

Ken: Stories that grow from Asian contexts and reflect the diversity of Asian cultures and experiences should be read all round the world, in many translations and on multiple platforms.

My dream is for all the best writers and illustrators in the region to more regularly cross national boundaries, and to develop more financially sustainable practices. I believe strongly that the world is deprived while that is not happening, and that two things can help it to occur: more risk-taking in the content area, and more meticulous professional editing.

5. What words of advice can you offer to aspiring authors in Asia?

Ken: I remember reading the reply of Singaporean author David Seow to a similar question: “Don’t do it.”

My version of that is this: unless you’re prepared to work very hard for a very long time, and for very little in the way of tangible rewards, you should embrace some other ambition. The truth is that writers rarely write because they want to – they write because they need to. A deep commitment to the power of stories and a love of words are what writers share, and these must be the basic drivers. Without those, the personal cost of the work required will be too great. But with them, anything is possible and magic can happen!

Caleb Downunder

A Highchair moment Down Under in 2012!

Mummum: Ken, thanks for sharing your story and advice! I totally agree that anything is possible  for those of us committed to the love of words :). Read more about Ken’s books at his website.

Today, I am taking part in It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Book Journey and Unleashing Readers.

mondayreading1

Monday Reading2

 

I liked all four picture books I read this week.

The first two were recommended reads from other bloggers taking part in this meme.

 

Concept Picture Book on origins

Concept Picture Book on origins

Once Upon a Memory

Nina Laden, Illustrated by Renata Liwska

Little Brown and Company

This lovely concept book was recommended by Styling Librarian. Deceptively simple text paired with beautifully evocative illustration. Hard to explain so I will let the pictures and text do the talking.

 

Once Upon a Memory Page 1

Does a chair remember it once was… a tree?

 

Does a book remember it once was... a word?"

Does a book remember it once was…
a word?”

Does a family remember it once was... two?

Does a family remember it once was…
two?

 

“Does a family remember it once was…two?”

Was it so long ago that I was not a parent? Such vague memories :)

The Loud Book

The Loud Book

Deborah Underwood, Illustrated by Renata Liwska

Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

This book was recommended by Elisabeth of Dirigible Plum after she read my post that I really liked Deborah’s first book The Quiet Book. I like this one even better and I really really love Renata’s Liwska’s very distinctive artwork.

The Loud Book Pg 1

The Loud Book Pg 2

The Loud Book Pg 3

Caleb also enjoyed this book as he is very very LOUD.

I read the book to him and got him to give me the corresponding loud sounds in his LOUDEST voice. We had fun with that.

 

I borrowed the other two books for to analyse the writing of the picture book masters. “For myself ” – I explained to the librarian who asked me if I was borrowing the whole stash of picture books for my child. I could see her trying not to scratch her head but I didn’t explain further as I was in a hurry to pick my son from nursery school.

You will be my Friend

You Will be My Friend

Peter Brown

Little Brown and Company

You will be my Friend Pg 1

Lucy the Bear makes an over-enthusiastic attempt to make friends in the forest but finds that it is much harder than it looks. It’s a clever and hilarious take on how not to make friends.

You will be my Friend Pg 3

After numerous disastrous attempts, she comes close to giving up when something happens. As she discovers, friendship is made, not forced.

This Moose belongs to Me

This Moose Belongs to Me

By Oliver Jeffers 

 Harper Collins

Oliver Jeffers is one of my favourite picture book authors and illustrators. A fun read although nothing beats Lost & Found, my all-time favourite of his titles. This is a mischevous spin on ownership and friendship.

This Moose belongs to Me Pg 1

A boy finds a wild moose and decides that he owns it. He tries to control the moose with a whole list of rules. When someone else claims the moose as her own, the boy learns that he never truly owned the moose to begin with.

This Moose belongs to Me

Now, I have to return these books to the library today so I can pick up the new ones I reserved, which may bring on the same question from the librarian – “Are these all for your child?”

Last week, Caleb crossed a new milestone as big as when he said his first word,took his first flip and walked his first step. And it happened on a rare occasion when Grandpa was babysitting him. Babysleeping actually.

During a rare moment when my dad was home and available, I asked him to keep an eye on Caleb so I could shower. Since it was rare, I decided to wash my hair. Then, I decided to condition too. And blow-dry.

When I was done and peeked into his room, Grandpa was asleep on the floor. Caleb was using Grandpa as a backrest and earnestly scrawling something on paper. A rare sight – Caleb scrawling on paper. I decided I would clear some emails before taking over.

A brief moment later, Caleb burst into my study, clutching two pieces of paper which he showed me.

Did you do this by yourself? Yes.

Did grandpa help you? No, I did it myself.

Caleb hardly ever draws anything in my presence. Whenever his teachers tell me how much he loves art and craft, my jaw drops because he never loves any of it on my watch. (And my watch is the bulk of his awake hours.) He always makes me do it in the end.

But yes, he wrote his name for the first time ever! Unaided. Unprompted. Uncoaxed.

Caleb in magnets

Spelling his own name in magnets – Mar/Apr 2014

Since 2 years plus, we have been singing the spelling of his name to the tune of a Barney song. C-A-L-E-B and Caleb is my name.

Beginning this year, he’s been usurping my laptop to type his name. In big font. Small font. Medium font.

And spelling his name out with magnet letters on his magnetic board which he received for Christmas. He soon lost interest in that.

Since then, he’s been typing A to Z over and over. In font size 72. And making me highlight every letter in a different colour of his choice.

But not once has he ever attempted to write anything. And I have never pushed. Because I know he will when he is ready. As with his other milestones, it only happens in his own timing of his choosing.

So, YAY! Writer-mum delights and rejoices when her baby becomes a writer of the first word. The word that I have loved from the moment I set eyes on this child we attached it to 3 years 7 months ago.

Initial attempt - Picasso-ish style

Initial attempt – Picasso-ish style

Multiple attempts and then success!

Today, I am taking part in It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Book Journey and Unleashing Readers.

mondayreading1

Monday Reading2

I have been on the roll with book borrowing trips to the Central Library since I started taking part in this meme. For today, I am reviewing four books on the reading lists of different bloggers who are part of this meme. Going forward, I will be less tardy on remembering who recommended what.

Children's picture books on sharing and individuality

Hooray for Hat

by Brian Won

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Ages 3 years and up

Hooray For Hat page

Hooray for Hat is a cheery book about how a surprise box of hats brings happiness to everyone, from Elephant to Zebra and a whole host of other animals who are feeling grumpy.

I like this book better than John Klassen’s more sly I Want My Hat Back.

 

Part-time Princess

Deborah Underwood, Illustrated by Cambria Evans

Disney/Hyperion Books

Ages 3 years and up

I love Deborah Underwood’s The Quiet Book and The Loud Book but I I didn’t take to her Part-Time Princess at all. Even though she tames trolls and saves the kingdom from dragons, the story along with the whole pink cover and endpapers as well as the Princessy thing simply coloured my view through the book.

IMG_0107

Duck & Goose – Goose needs a Hug

Tad Hills

Schwartz  & Wade Books (Random House)

For 2 years and up

I read two other Duck & Goose books a while back and have to say this is a really cute series. Tad Hills manages to milk the sweetness in those few words in this board book. A skillful writer.

 

True Story Picture Book about Stutterer

True Story Picture Book about Stutterer

A Boy & A Jaguar

Alan Rabinowitz, Illustrated by Cátia Chien

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

For 3 years and up

My favourite read of these four titles is A Boy & a Jaguar. That it is a true story made it more valuable for me.

It starts with a young boy, a stutterer, who finds solace when he visits the jaguar exhibit at the Bronx Zoo.  He can only do two things without stuttering – singing and talking to animals. He makes a promise to the jaguar and his pets that if ever he can find his voice, he will be their voice and keep them from harm.

A Boy and a Jaguar page

In school, he learns the tricks that stutterers use to cope. His teacher tells him he can be a completely fluent stutterer and he eventually learns to speak without stuttering.

He eventually returns to his promise and through his work with jaguars, convinces the Prime Minister’s Office in Belize, Central America, to set up the world’s first and only jaguar reserve. Through that, he finally recovers from his years of brokeness and becomes whole again.

This is longer than the typical picture book but much needed for such an inspiring story which will surely speak to many children about overcoming setbacks and finding their own voice.

A Boy and a Jaguar page 2

It also resonated with me on another level because I struggled with a rare voice disorder Spasmodic Dysphonia for 10 years. I especially connected with the lines “I learn when not to speak, when to avoid situations, and when to just not be around people.” This is what I did for many years as I tried to cope and hide my bizarre voice disorder. Today, I am recovered – a miracle, no less – and have found a new voice in writing children’s books.

Today, Mummum has the pleasure of speaking to Author and Illustrator Naomi Kojima. I first met Naomi when she was keynote speaker at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content in 2013.

Author & illustrator, children's picture books

I remember vividly how inspired I was by her presentation “Reaching for the World: Art of Asian Illustrators of Children’s Books” right from the moment when she opened with her own feelings of illustrating children’s books:

“When the time comes to hand in my finished picture book, I feel like a mother sending her child off to the world. I check for typos, smudges and pencil marks. I worry and I fuss. I want to make sure that the book has everything it needs for the journey.

I pack the things the book may need. “Now, here is your lunch, dinner and tea. Don’t eat it all at once. Here is a pair of extra socks, and here is a handkerchief”, I tell the book. I wish I could go with the book, to watch out for it, to make sure it goes on the right path. But I have more books to take care of, more books to write. The book must go alone.”

(Naomi’s full presentation has been reproduced in the AFCC Publication One Big Story – Delving Deeper into Asian Children’s Literature, edited by talented Dr Myra Garces-Bacsal of the esteemed Gathering Books blog)

Alphabet Picture Book Naomi Kojima

1. Tell us how long you have been writing and illustrating? Was there a specific moment when you knew this was what you wanted to do?

Naomi: I have been writing and illustrating picture books for over thirty years. When I was in 3rd grade, I remember being in the school library, looking at the books, imagining, what if, when I grow up, what if I find my books on these shelves?

“That’s a bold wish!” one part of me said.

But another part of me said, “Yes, but what if?”

In forth grade, when adults asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said that I wanted to be a writer  – not a writer of grown up books – but a writer of children’s books. I wanted to write stories and illustrate them with black and white illustrations.

I also had a wish about publishers. I wanted my books to be published by Kaisei-sha, if my books were published in Japan, and Harper & Row if my books were published in the US. These were the two publishers that published my favorite books, and I simply thought they were the best. My wish did come true. My first two books were published by T.Y.Crowell, an imprint of Harper & Row, and my Japanese books are published by Kaisei-sha.

2. How did you get your first book published?

Naomi: I published my first two picture books in the U.S., when I was living in Massachusetts. I learned about publishing and how to make picture books by attending SCBWI meetings. Author Jane Yolen was then the leader of the New England SCBWI chapter. At the monthly meetings, Jane educated, encouraged, and enlightened us about children’s books.

I was working on a picture book, Mr. and Mrs. Thief. When I had done everything I could, I followed Jane’s advice and made five appointments with publishers, and bought a train ticket to New York. The editor at the second publisher liked Mr. and Mrs. Thief and also another picture book dummy, The Flying Grandmother. Three weeks later she called and gave me a contract for both books! And this is how I started on my path.

What was your one memorable moment from having your first book out?

Naomi: Soon after Mr. and Mrs. Thief was published, I remember that my editor showed me a letter from another editor who had read Mr. and Mrs. Thief. In the letter, that editor said she read Mr. and Mrs. Thief after a long, hard day, and the book had lifted her spirits and made her day. That was such a wonderful thing to know that my book could make people feel good!

 

Republished in English by U.S. Publisher Kane Miller

Original Japanese Title republished in English by U.S. Publisher Kane Miller

3. Which book had the biggest impact on you when you were a child? Tell us why.

Naomi: As a young child growing up in the US, I read many of the Little Golden Book series. I loved the illustrations. I still remember them. I had no idea who the illustrators were then, but they were Gustaf Tenggren, Feodor Rojankovsky, Garth Williams, Alice and Martin Provensn, and Gertrude Elliot.

When I was older, The Ship That Flew by Hilda Lewis was my favorite book. I loved the story and the illustrations: the magic alley, the antique shop, the flying ship which travels through time, the strong bond between the four siblings, and the black and white illustrations. I read the book over and over, coming out of the book each time dreaming of finding a magic ship of my own one day.

4. What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators in Asia?

Naomi: Believe in yourself. Don’t give up. Don’t quit because of a rejection, or because the project is difficult. Be brave and revise, redraw, and redesign many times. Look at many picture books, read a lot of children’s literature. Do your best work, and enjoy and love what you do!

5. What’s the first word that comes to mind in describing your illustration style?

Naomi: Humorous

 

Caleb draws from a low chair in his first week of preschool (at 18 months)

Caleb draws from a low chair in his first week of preschool (at 18 months)

Mummum: Naomi, thank you for this inspiring interview, which I hope will encourage Asian authors and illustrators to dream, persevere and cross borders like you have done!

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