Publishing Giant Acquires Giant Novel - Written by a Filipina!

Thursday, November 26, 2009
Press release (originally posted at Into the Wardrobe on November 13, 2009):

David Fickling Books is enormously proud to announce the acquisition of a new stand-(tall)-alone novel, TALL STORY!

TALL STORY by Candy Gourlay is an outstanding and highly original novel for 10yrs+. The deal was negotiated by Hilary Delamere from The Agency and David Fickling.

This is a book about Bernardo, a boy who lives in the Philippines, and Bernardo is tall. Not just tall, he’s 8ft tall. Bernardo is actually a GIANT! In a novel packed with humour and quirkiness, Gourlay explores a touching sibling relationship and the comedic results of two very different cultures colliding.

Editorial director, Bella Pearson, knew there was something special from the first page: “It isn't often that I am in fits of laughter one minute and in tears the next - TALL STORY is one of the warmest, funniest, most moving books I've read in a long time - and Candy Gourlay is a rare and new voice in children's fiction. We are feeling immensely excited (and smug!) to be able to add her name to the DFB list.”

Candy Gourlay was born in Manila during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. She was in her twenties when she moved to the UK after covering the revolution that overthrew Marcos. In addition to journalism and writing for children, Candy is involved in a range of media: blogging, designing websites and even creating
YouTube videos.

Candy is passionate about embracing and exploiting the digital world to promote books, meeting other likeminded people and reaching out to younger readers online. She runs the popular blog Notes from the Slushpile for aspiring writers. TALL STORY will be Candy’s first full-length published novel.

TALL STORY will be published in June 2010 in hardback and will be launched with widespread digital publicity and buzz; David Fickling Books in the US will publish later in the year and Hilary Delamere has negotiated a separate edition to be launched in the Philippines by Ramon Sunico’s Cacho Publishing House.

For more information about Candy Gourlay see:

For more information about DFB see:

Notes for Editors

David Fickling Books is publisher of quality picture books and fiction, and is home to some of the most bestselling and highly acclaimed authors including Philip Pullman (published by DFB in the UK only), John Boyne, Mark Haddon (published by DFB in the UK only) and Jenny Downham. Its authors have won all of the major literary prizes including the Costa Children's Book of the Year, the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, and most recently the Carnegie Medal. David Fickling Books is an imprint of Random House Children’s Books UK and Random House Children’s Books in the United States and is based in Oxford, England and New York, USA.

For more information please contact:

Georgia Lawe, Deputy Publicity Director at RHCB
T: 020 8231 6413 or E:

Author Interview: Sang Pak

This was originally posted at Into the Wardrobe on November 11, 2009.

Today, I welcome debut author Sang Pak to Into the Wardrobe! Sang has English and Psychology degrees from the University of Georgia and is a denizen of Georgia, Southern California, and Seoul. His coming-of-age novel, Wait Until Twilight, was published in August. :o)

Sang, what motivates and inspires you to be a writer?

Writing makes me feel connected and gives me a sense of purpose and meaning.

Can you tell us a bit about your debut novel?

Wait Until Twilight is a story about a high school boy, Samuel, who comes across a set of deformed triplets and their psychotic adult brother. Samuel finds himself obsessing about the triplets, though he is repulsed by them. All this coincides with re-emerging emotional memories of his dead mother. It’s a southern gothic / coming of age tale full of grotesques, adolescent life, and violence.

Why did you write Wait Until Twilight? What's the story behind the story?

The story is based on a set of dreams I had one summer a few years ago. Over a two week period I had many vivid dreams I wrote down all set in high school. So I put the pieces together and fleshed them out into a novel.

What were the challenges and rewards of writing Wait Until Twilight? What was the path to publication for the novel?

The challenge was getting a strong central story arc for the disparate vignettes that comprised the book. Once I got the story arc it was fine. Getting published took a few years of submitting to agents until one of them loved it and was able to get a deal with HarperCollins.

Where were you and what were you doing when you found out that your novel was going to be published? What were your first thoughts and feelings? How did you celebrate the good news?

I think I was about to go out on a Friday night when my agent called me to tell me about getting the deal. My thoughts and feelings were basically it’s about time I finally got published!

I had drinks with friends! Woohoo!

What are your favorite coming-of-age novels? How have they influenced your own coming-of-age novel?

I love the psychological exploration and transformation in Demian by Herman Hesse and I love the humor and youthful angst of Catcher in the Rye by Salinger.

Well, the aspects I love about them, I hoped to incorporate those aspects into my novel. The psychological exploration of Demian and the humor and angst of Catcher. Also these novels showed how a coming of age novel can be done in a literary style without being boring....

What do you think is the importance of coming-of-age novels?

A coming of age novel is more or less a story of transformation, which is always interesting and relatable. It just so happens to be in the framework of child to adult.

What books would you like your own work to match or surpass (in terms of writing, impact/influence, popularity/sales, or awards)?

I really can’t say. I can’t compare. I don’t think I’m competitive enough!

What is your strongest or favorite memory from when you were Samuel's (your main character's) age (16)?

Wow so many. But what comes to mind this moment is just the impression of driving country roads with friends without a care in the world.

Are you working on another novel right now?

Yes I am but I don’t talk about them until they are finished! I’m superstitious that way!

Sang, thanks so much for stopping by and chatting with me!

Book Review and Author Interview: Chenxi and the Foreigner by Sally Rippin

This was originally posted at Into the Wardrobe on September 5, 2009.

"Every student watched Chenxi and the foreigner and every one of them had something to say about it."

It is April 1989 and eighteen-year-old San Francisco native Anna White is visiting her father in Shanghai. While in Shanghai, Anna, who is an artist, will learn traditional Chinese painting. One of Anna's classmates at the Shanghai College of Fine Arts, Chenxi, has been assigned as her translator and tour guide. Anna falls head over heels in love with the handsome, mysterious, and talented Chenxi.

There are student protests in China while Anna is there, and Chenxi is one of the students protesting the Chinese regime. When Anna is forced to return to the United States, the protests culminate in what the Chinese government calls the June Fourth Incident, but the Western world calls the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

Chenxi and the Foreigner, by Australian children's/YA author and illustrator Sally Rippin, is a very brave YA novel about being a wai guo ren (outsider/foreigner), obsession and infatuation (how Anna feels about Chenxi), and the economic growth and political and social tensions in China in the late 1980s. It's a gently powerful novel that is amazingly honest in its portrayal of life in 1980s China and of the life of teenagers in general.

The sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feel of China are very much alive and authentic in Chenxi and the Foreigner - in everything from how the Chinese speak English to how life is like in the Chinese countryside to how the Chinese treat foreigners. We see the country through the eyes of Anna, who is curious and open to the culture but definitely has the confusion and natural biases of a wai guo ren, but the tone of the novel is never condescending or disrespectful. And China is never exoticized.

This is an important novel that I was sorry to put down once the story had ended. I didn't want to leave Anna. I didn't want to leave Chenxi. Most of all, I didn't want to leave China.

[The North American edition of Chenxi and the Foreigner is from Annick Press (2009). The Australian edition is from Text Publishing (2008). I read an electronic copy of the North American edition sent by Annick Press.]

Into the Wardrobe is the last stop on Sally Rippin's blog tour and I had the great pleasure of interviewing Sally. Thank you so much, Sally!

What was it like as an Australian partly growing up in Brunei, Hong Kong, and China? What are some of your strongest or favorite memories from Asia?

I have very strong memories of all these places: they have become part of who I am. Even Brunei, I was very young, but I remember my Ah Ma (my nanny) washing my mouth out with soap for having said a rude word in Malay. I’m sure I can still remember the taste of soap! I remember my best friend lived in a houseboat, and my Ah Ma and I would have to walk across all the other houseboats tethered to the port to get to his. I remember, too, my parents asking me to ask things of my Ah Ma, because I could speak Malay and they couldn’t and not understanding why if they wanted to ask her something couldn’t they just ask her themselves! I’ve lost all my Malay now, unfortunately, but I think having grown up in Asia as a child meant that when I went to live in China as a teenager, I picked up Mandarin very quickly. I still speak Mandarin Chinese but it has become very rusty, though when I go back to visit my father in Shanghai I’m always surprised at how quickly it comes back.

Wow, that's amazing, Sally! I wish I knew how to speak Mandarin.

How has partly growing up in Asia molded you as a person? How has it influenced your writing and illustrating for children and young adults?

It influences everything. From the stories I choose to tell to the technique of illustration I use. Many stories I write for children are about Chinese-Australians. I am particularly drawn to exploring stories of outsiders whether they be new immigrants, artists or troubled teenagers. These are the characters I most identify with from having been called a ‘foreigner’ much of my own life.

I studied Chinese painting for three years in China and still use brush and ink for many of my illustration work today. Even when I am painting in a way that may not be recognizably Chinese, I am very influenced by Chinese composition and, like traditional Chinese painters, I am always aware of the importance of white space.

(Above is a picture of Sally as a teenage art student in China. Below are some of Sally's illustrations influenced by Chinese art.)

Your three years in China studying traditional Chinese painting inspired Chenxi and the Foreigner. The novel is even dedicated to the real Chenxi. Who is the real Chenxi? How much of the novel is fact and how much of it is fiction?

There is a lot of my novel based on my own experiences studying in China and events of the time, but the love story between Chenxi and Anna is invented. I imagine many writers combine their own experience with imagination. For me this is the key to creating a story that feels authentic and true. The ‘real’ Chenxi was my best friend in Shanghai and I am still in touch with him even though we haven’t seen each other for years. He now lives as an accomplished painter in Austria. The invented Chenxi, is a composite of many of my friends, all the best bits of course, plus lots of imagination. That’s one of the best things about writing – you can create your ideal guy!

Chenxi the character is certainly interesting and attractive as a very independent and rebellious artist!

What were the challenges and rewards of writing Chenxi and the Foreigner? What was the path to publication for the novel?

Without knowing it, I began writing the first drafts of Chenxi while I was still living in China in my early twenties. While I was living in China I wrote lots of short stories, letters and diary entries that I was then able to use later to pull my novel together, a process that took many drafts and many years. Before Chenxi, I wrote another novel, basically to learn how to write a novel. It was never published but an editor at Penguin took an interest in it and encouraged me to write something for Young Adult readers as that was her particular area of interest. I re-wrote the novel three times, under her guidance, over a period of three years while I was living in the South of France with two small children. Eventually the editor left Penguin and wasn’t able to take the novel with her to her new publishing house but by that time the novel was polished enough to send elsewhere. It was published with a new publisher, went out of print, and then was picked up by Text Publishing in 2008. They have since sold it into five countries – so, to my joy, almost twenty years after I first began writing it, it keeps on living!

I'm not surprised that it keeps on living. It's quite a lovely novel.

What do you want readers to take away from Chenxi and the Foreigner?

Firstly, a love of my characters, and secondly a love of place. I would love readers to become interested in China after reading my novel and to hopefully have an insight into a fascinating and culturally-rich country that is changing so rapidly that my novel seems to have now become a piece of history!

You have me there, Sally! I want more of Anna and Chenxi. And I hope you write more novels set in China.

What is your favorite response to Chenxi and the Foreigner from either a critic or a reader?

I received a lovely review from a young Chinese-Australian reader who thanked me for introducing her to a period of history that she hadn’t been aware of, even though she had been born in China soon after those events. I guess the new edition of this book has given me the opportunity to revisit and document a significant time in Chinese history, particularly now that I know that it has become a taboo topic in other forms of Chinese media. I would hate to think that the hundreds of protestors who lost their lives in Tiananmen Square and many others in the months afterwards, could simply be erased from history. I rewrote the new edition of this book in their honour.

(Sally provided these pictures of student protests in Shanghai in 1989.)

Do you have a message for readers in Asia?

Not particularly, I am just so thrilled to find a readership there! I would love to hear from anyone in Asia who has read any of my books – if there is anyone out there? :)

Check out the other stops on the blog tour to learn more about Sally!

Tea Time at Annick Press

The Book Muncher

Cindy’s Love Of Books


Hey! Teenager of the Year

Also, check out Sally's blog! She has recently posted photos from her time in China.

Playing It Safe by G.T. Los Baños

A Filipino YA novel in English

This was originally posted at Into the Wardrobe on August 12, 2009.

"It all began that day we went up against the Mountaineers for the interclub university softball championship. I guess knocking a girl unconscious with a softball is just about as weird as it gets when it comes to starting any sort of relationship, but anyway, here's how things happened on that crazy, glorious afternoon:

The game was sort of a grudge match: the two toughest organizations on campus, the Mountaineers and my team, the Outsiders, squaring off for the school's interclub softball championship."

Playing It Safe by G.T. Los Baños (Cacho Publishing House, 2007) is about sports, university life, and relationships. It's about Jon Garcia, a sophomore college student on the varsity wrestling team, and Sheila Prado, a member of the same university's varsity swim team, and how Jon falls for and pursues Sheila... Or is about how Jon falls for and fails to pursue Sheila? After all, he does plays it safe. But everything goes Jon's way - until Sheila implies that she wants a bit of traditional Filipino courtship (flowers and the whole works), which Jon doesn't believe in.

For a love story, Playing It Safe is heavy on Jon's exposition, light on action and dialogue between him and Sheila or any other character. And on that note, Jon and Sheila's story has its cheesy moments. But I could not stop smiling while reading. I even had to stop every few pages because I would hunch over laughing. I was so amused and so entertained by Jon's story, and I found Jon and Sheila, their lives, and their relationship so interesting and so refreshing. (There aren't many Filipino YA novels in English about sports, university life, and relationships!) Plus, the writing is incredibly engaging. There's also the fact that Playing It Safe is a fun and accurate portrayal of life on a Philippine university campus. My only disappointment with this novella is all the typos. Apart from the bad proofreading, it is very good!

The ending of Playing It Safe is a real cliffhanger. I can imagine some readers will be dissatisfied with this and burn with curiosity about what happens with Jon and Sheila. I was satisfied with the ending because it raised great questions about, yes, playing it safe in relationships and about whether or not a little bit of traditional Filipino courtship is still desired and/or relevant.

[I bought my own copy of Playing It Safe. G.T. Los Baños was one of my college English teachers. He was so cool and such a good teacher that when my younger brother got to college, I recommended he take Mr. Los Baños' class. My brother really enjoyed his class too!]

"I Hate My Mother!": Magnetic levitation, a grain of rice & 3 women

This was originally posted at Into the Wardrobe on August 6, 2009.

A Filipino YA novel in English

"I Hate My Mother!": Magnetic levitation, a grain of rice & 3 women (Cacho Publishing House, 2007) introduces readers to finding a mother's wisdom in a grain of rice, the parallel between human relationships and magnets, and Bell, her mother, and her sister Cory.

This book made me happy. Not because it's a bright and cheery novel - in fact it has its funny moments but is mostly a serious novel. But because good books make me happy, and this is definitely a solidly good book.

I have heard once that children love their parents and then love them again as adults. "I Hate My Mother!" is about that time in between, when teenagers "hate" their parents. Written in that unique way Filipino teenagers use English, and generously peppered with Filipino words and phrases, "I Hate My Mother!" traces the transformation of Bell's awe of her mother's wisdom as a little girl to her bewilderment, annoyance, and frustration with her mother as a teenager.

But as the years went by, it only became harder for me to understand anything Mommy would say. Even in my most patient moments, no beam of light would shine on me or on Mommy's words. Parang* I was losing all capacity for understanding.

But then again, more and more, I would come to believe it was my Mom who was losing all her wisdom.


Kasi** while I was getting wiser, Mommy was getting dumber. Like she was losing the wisdom Dad always talked about when I was a little girl. And she was losing it fast.

In this novel, Perpilili Vivienne Tiongson gives readers an almost pitch perfect portrayal of the INEXPLICABLE rage many teenage girls feel towards their mother.

I just wanted to feel nothing. For once, to feel like nothing's the matter with my Mom. To just watch her walk across the hall, or even into our room, without having to avoid her, without having to pretend that I was too busy to talk to her or pretend I had not noticed her at all. To not cringe at the way she chewed her food when we sat at the dining table. To not shudder at the slightest touch of her hand on my back. To not ice over at the words "I love you."

There is no clear, neat, happy ending for this novel. No resolution between mother and daughter. But the ending does satisfy in that there is hope. And as one cannot help but get emotionally involved with the story, the ending is also satisfying because it gives readers plenty of room to work out their own thoughts and feelings.

Needless to say, I recommend this book!

Loose English translations of the words in Filipino:
*It was as if...

[I bought my own copy of "I Hate My Mother!".]

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

This was originally posted at Into the Wardrobe on July 30, 2009.

The 42 students (21 boys and 21 girls) of Third Year Class B, Shiroiwa Junior High School, in Shiroiwa Town, Kagawa Prefecture, the Republic of Greater East Asia, are normal fifteen-year-olds. They worry about school, they love spending time with their friends, they enjoy sports, and they are crazy about their crushes. But their fascist government is not "normal." In fact, it is cruel - very, very cruel. Every year, the government of the Republic of Greater East Asia randomly selects fifty third-year junior high school classes and forces them to participate in a battle simulation program. The students of Third Year Class B in Shiroiwa Junior High School think that they are on a study trip, but they have actually been selected to take part in the program. The class is drugged and brought to an abandoned island where they are forced to play a game. The game really only has one rule: Kill each other until only one survivor is left.

Each player in the game is provided with a limited supply of food and water, a map of the island, a compass, a watch, and a weapon that has been randomly assigned. The weapons include different kinds of guns and different kinds of knives. But some of the "weapons" turn out to be things like darts complete with a dart board, a banjo, and... a fork. If the players refuse to fight each other, or if they try to escape the island, the metal collars that have been placed around their necks will explode and instantly kill them. They must kill or be killed.

The prize for the "winner" of the game: He or she can go home and live. Also, he or she gets a lifetime pension and an autographed card from the Great Dictator. The official reason for the game: Research purposes / it is the country's special conscription system.

Is this a violent story? Yes, it is. Here is an excerpt:

The slashing sound Megumi heard sounded like a lemon being cut.

It was a nice sound. The knife must have been really sharp and the lemon fresh, the way they are on television cooking shows, as in, "Today, we'll be cooking lemon salmon."

It took her a few seconds to realize what had occurred.

Megumi saw Mitsuko's right hand. On the left side under her chin. Her hand held a gently curved, banana-shaped blade that reflected dully against the flashlight beam. It was a sickle - the kind used to harvest rice. And now its tip was stuck in Megumi's throat....

Her left hand clutching the back of Megumi's head, Mitsuko dug the sickle in further. It made another crunching noise.

Ladies and gentlemen, that is Battle Royale. When I started reading it, I was in a daze. Like the students, I couldn't believe what was happening. As the students' uncertainty, fear, and suspicions grew, so did mine. I was horrified. And I realized with even more horror that I couldn't stop reading. Even though at first I thought I wouldn't be able to stomach what I was reading, I read on because of hope for a happy ending and for the survivor, interest in the lives of each student (there are plenty of flashback scenes), and morbid curiosity about how each student would die. Then together the characters and I slowly realized with dismay that we were getting desensitized to all the violence.

The beginning and ending of Battle Royale are action-packed because so many students are dying in those parts. In contrast, the middle of the novel seems a bit boring because the students are hiding from each other and those who have teamed up are just talking. But always, always there is an ominous tension.

There is an important character who gets into unrealistic situations. A couple of parts in the story are predictable. And there are several typos in the book (bad proofreading!). But this is good stuff. Battle Royale is about trust and paranoia. It is about how life and death situations bring out the brightest parts of human nature as well as the darkest parts. It is about a totalitarian government and fighting that government. But above all, Battle Royale is about entertaining readers.

[Battle Royale was originally published in Japanese in 1999. My copy of the book is a borrowed copy from a friend. (Thank you, April!) It was published by Gollancz (an imprint of the Orion Publishing Group) in the UK in 2007. The English translation is by Yuji Oniki.]

Author/Illustrator Interview: Anne Sibley O'Brien

This was originally posted at Into the Wardrobe on July 13, 2009.

We're in for a real special treat today! Today, I have the honor and great pleasure of interviewing Anne Sibley O'Brien, an American author/illustrator who creates multicultural children's books.

Anne Sibley O'Brien was raised bilingual and bicultural in South Korea (as the daughter of medical missionaries). She has received the National Education Association’s Author-Illustrator Human and Civil Rights Award for her work with Margy Burns Knight, TALKING WALLS and other books; the Africana Award for AFRICA IS NOT A COUNTRY by Margy Burns Knight and Mark Melnicove; and the Aesop Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and the Global Korea Award for THE LEGEND OF HONG KIL DONG: THE ROBIN HOOD OF KOREA, a graphic novel she wrote and illustrated. Her latest book is AFTER GANDHI: 100 YEARS OF NONVIOLENT RESISTANCE, which she illustrated and co-wrote with her son, Perry. (Click here for a complete list of Anne's work.)

Anne is involved in diversity education and leadership training. She is also a performer and has created a one-woman show entitled “White Lies: one woman’s quest for release from the enchantment of whiteness” ( She lives with her husband in Maine, and is the mother of two grown children.

Welcome, Anne!

What was it like growing up an American in Korea? Do you remember the culture shock you experienced when you first moved to Korea? Did you experience culture shock again when you moved back to the U.S.?

Memories of my earlier years are fuzzy, but from the time I turned seven and we left New Hampshire to move to Korea, it's as if someone turned on a video camera - I have a continuous set of images of this most definitive event in my life. I'm sure that there was considerable adjustment for me as a young child, losing one world and encountering a completely new culture and country, but children take their cues from their parents, and mine framed the whole thing as a grand adventure. In moving to Korea to serve as medical missionaries, they were both fulfilling a lifelong dream.

Our family - my parents, my two brothers, my baby sister and I - arrived in Seoul in 1960, seven years after the end of the Korean War and the partitioning of the peninsula into North and South Korea. It was a difficult time as people struggled to recover from the devastation and figure out how to survive in its aftermath. We often saw young children dressed in rags, begging on the streets. Over the twenty years that it was home, we witnessed the miracle of South Korea's development and modernization to become one of the world's most industrialized nations, which instead of increasing the gap between rich and poor, actually benefited all of the country's citizens. So the Korea I knew as a child was dramatically different from the country I lived in as a young adult, and the country I visit today - the changes are just so fantastic.

Growing up as an American in 1960's Korea was kind of like being a princess. South Koreans were deeply grateful to the U.S. for its role in the war; at the time it was probably the most pro-American country in the world. There were few foreigners and we were extraordinarily privileged and visible. When I went to the market or anywhere in public, I attracted a crowd of children and adults who were fascinated by how different I looked: my light brown hair (like "gold!"), my large round eyes, my big nose, my height. But the attention was so friendly, so full of awe and wonder, that it became the catalyst for my own passion for human difference and connection.

In their dream, my parents had envisioned working side-by-side with Koreans as colleagues, so they were dismayed to discover that missionaries in 1960 were housed in turn-of-the-century three-storey brick houses up on hills, on compounds surrounded by barbed wire. The second significant thing that happened, after moving to Korea, was my parents' choice to live in a Korean house, which they managed by the time I was nine. That changed everything about our relationships with Koreans, some of whom became dear friends and extended family. I also had a number of experiences of total immersion in Korean life and language, including a year at a Korean university, so I became - and remain - bilingual and bicultural.

Growing up in Korea meant belonging to a place I did not belong, being of a place I was not from, being welcomed and loved by people who were not "my" people. Somehow, culture shock and the sense of dislocation always felt more intense when I returned to the U.S., to the place I supposedly belonged, to the place I was from, to "my" people.

(Seoul, July 1960 - Anne's 8th birthday with friends)

What are some of your strongest memories from when you were living in Korea?

- Falling in love with Korea's culture and traditions: the graciousness and generosity with which guests are welcomed; the brilliantly-colored designs on the underside of palace or Buddhist temple roofs; the charming and cunning cast of animals animating folk stories and folk art - dragons, rabbits, tigers, goblins, magpies; the bold colors and graceful sweep of the traditional hanbok, with its long skirt and half-moon-sleeved top; the love of children and reverence for elders.

- Sleeping on a thick padded quilt on the floor, heated in winter, with another heavy quilt over me, my body toasty, cool air on my face. Eating meals - Korean rice and side dishes, American stew or spaghetti, or a mix - seated on cushions around a low table.

- Family vacations with Korean friends spent enjoying the country's natural beauty: tall twisted pines along a rocky seacoast, terraced rice fields climbing a hill, mist enveloping the base of craggy peaks. Eating picnics of kim-bap - rice, egg and vegetables wrapped in seaweed - and cucumber sandwiches, seated on the large flat boulders beside a mountain stream, in between wading or swimming in the deep pools of icy water.

- Navigating between worlds: riding through Korean streets in the LandRover that took us to school where we studied an American curriculum in English (at an international school founded by missionaries in Seoul, and a military dependent school on an Army base in Taegu); or walking up the alley steps past makeshift shacks and an open sewer, then through the compound gates to play with missionary friends in the ease and beauty of their lawns and gardens.

(Anne in Taegu, 1963)

- My favorite after-school activity in 5th and 6th grade: playing with the babies in the children's wing of the hospital where my father worked, where they'd been sent for medical care from area orphanages. The short-staffed caretakers were happy to have extra hands. When I'd walk into the room where a dozen or so older babies and toddlers lay in metal cribs, every one would stand up and hold up their arms to me. (I tried to get my mother to adopt some or all of them, but had to wait twenty-five years to fulfill that dream, when my husband and I brought our adopted daughter home.)

(Revisiting Korea, June 2009 - Anne with her daughter Yunhee)

- The summer before my senior year of high school, our family moved with Korean colleagues to a rural southern island to set up an experimental project in the delivery of medical care directed by my father, the Kojedo Community Health Project. The island was an unspoiled gem of hilly peninsulas jutting out into waterways and bays, with no electricity or paved roads in the northern end where we set up camp. My friends were the village girls who trained as nurses' aides. I worked there for two and a half of the eight years the project ran. (I just returned there last month for the first time in thirty-two years, and the island now has highways, high-rise apartments, and two of the world's largest shipyards! But many of my friends were still there.)

(June 2009 - Kojedo homecoming with Jum-soon and Kum-ja, former nurses' aides)

Those are truly wonderful memories, Anne. :o)

What kind of young reader were you? What were your favorite books? Who were your favorite authors?

I loved books. Probably my three favorite things were people, drawing and reading.

I have a vivid memory from when I was eight, living in Seoul, and my mother, brothers and I caught a lingering virus that kept us bed-ridden for weeks. A woman who called herself the Story Lady came to visit with a pillowcase of books over her shoulder. Magical.

Once or twice a year, we got to order used books from a church warehouse in the States. We checked them off on a master list, mailed off the order, then waited months for the package to be delivered by sea mail to discover whether or not we'd gotten the ones we'd wanted. Books were precious.

My mother read to us a lot, classics like WIND IN THE WILLOWS, WINNIE THE POOH, the NARNIA books and LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE. We had an extensive library of marvelous picture books like BLUEBERRIES FOR SAL, Taro Yashima's UMBRELLA, and the delightful Little Golden books illustrated by Eloise Wilkins.

I was a romantic child, and I loved books about babies, princesses and fairies - an antique book I got from the order service called JIJI LOU, about a doll who makes a home for abandoned baby dolls; BABY ISLAND; FLOWER FAIRIES; THE GOLDEN BOOK OF FAIRY TALES illustrated by Adrienne Segur. In junior high, my favorite book was a fairy tale, TATSINDA by Elizabeth Enright, with pictures by Irene Haas, who became one of my favorite illustrators. As a teenager, I loved the novels of Madeleine L'Engle (especially the Austin books) and Katherine Paterson's novels set in Asia.

How has growing up in Korea molded you as a person?

Aside from being born into my family of origin, growing up in Korea was the single most formative event of my life. I was seven years old, that time in development when a child is moving from sensing oneself as the center of the universe to having a look around at the rest of the world, so it had a huge impact.

The greatest gift is the certainty that we are all connected, that all human beings belong to each other as members of one family. I think I sensed this as a young child, but it was confirmed by the direct experience of being embraced by people who were different from me, yet claimed me as their own. My early experiences were the inspiration for my desire to explore the glory of human difference, to portray racial and cultural particularity in such a way that we can all see the beauty of other ways of being.

Having the reference points of two often contrasting languages and cultures is wonderfully mind- and heart-expanding.

I've also exercised my mind and heart working at the puzzles of race, economic class, and privilege. All the attention I got as a child for my visible difference made me intensely aware of my own race, which is an unusual perspective for a white American. When I came back to the States for college, my culture shock propelled me into an exploration of racism and whiteness that has became a lifelong passion.

What was your path to publication as an author/illustrator for children?

I started off as an illustrator. By the time I finished my studio art major at Mount Holyoke College and moved back to Korea, I was leaning towards children's book illustration as my chosen art form. In 1978, just married and living in the States, I set up a course, "Writing & Illustrating Children's Books," taught by Eric Carle, for the teacher-community center in western Massachusetts where I worked. During that wonderful series of classes, I decided that this was exactly what I wanted to do, even if it took ten years to break in (I would have been astonished to know that it would take seven).

I put together an illustration portfolio and over the next seven years, took it around to art directors and editors at New York and Boston publishers, attended conferences, and used what I learned to keep improving my work. Finally, in 1985, I was in the right place at the right time, when an editor told me he wanted to publish a series of board books on toddler conflicts. As the mother of a two-year-old son, I was primed and ready to respond. Holt Rinehart published the first set of four, which I wrote and illustrated, in 1985, the second set a year later (all long out of print, but still sometimes found in libraries).

In between, I illustrated my first picture book, JAMAICA'S FIND, by Juanita Havill. Nine books in eighteen months!! Then three long years went by before my next contract, another JAMAICA book. During that fallow time, I started to take my writing much more seriously, first in order to develop manuscripts that I could illustrate, then for its own sake.

(Anne's daughter Yunhee was the model for Brianna)

What inspires and motivates you to write and illustrate for children?

By the time I was seven, I was announcing to the world that I was going to be an artist when I grew up. I drew constantly - filling sketchbooks, doodling all over my math papers, trading sketches of babies for American candy from my Army kid classmates. Those early picture books were an inspiration - I loved illustrations of people's faces, which was also my favorite thing to draw.

In fourth grade, I used to write stories for fun after school, making up the kind of families I wished I lived in - with lots and lots of children, not just four.

At Mount Holyoke, where the art department was exclusively fine arts, it became clear that I was more drawn to applied arts, and my advisor gave me a piece of wisdom: "The task is to find work that sustains you, that you can sustain."

To this day, most of the ideas I have for creative projects come in a form that works for young people, though they cover the spectrum from board books to young adult novels. "I get paid to write stories and make pictures," I tell groups of schoolchildren. "Isn't that a cool job?" I'm blessed to say that, so far, my work sustains me, and I can sustain it.

What is your creative process when you are writing and/or illustrating a book?

I always hold this intention for my creative process: "I will listen, receive impulse, and follow it through response into form." My working principle is that everything has more substance and power when it comes through me rather than is directed by me. I hope to let images and ideas rise up from the unconscious rather than being consciously produced.

In concrete terms, when I'm illustrating a book I start with very rough thumbnails, then move to storyboard and dummy, often cycling through this process several times before reaching final illustrations. If I'm also writing the picture book, it may move from text to images back to text, in any order. Each book seems to have its own unique journey, its own needs.

When I'm writing longer manuscripts, I never move through the story in a line from beginning through middle to ending. Instead, I write whatever scene feels lively, wherever the energy is moving. I can juggle many projects at a time when I'm working on them informally, but not once I'm on a schedule, limited by a deadline. I always think that when I'm doing final illustrations, I could also be working on revising a novel on the side, but it never seems to work out that way. Apparently, I can only work intensively in one medium at a time.

How has growing up in Korea influenced your writing and illustrating for children?

In addition to all the ways I've mentioned, it's provided source material for a number of my books - THE PRINCESS AND THE BEGGAR (Scholastic 1993, out of print) and THE LEGEND OF HONG KIL DONG: THE ROBIN HOOD OF KOREA, plus a forthcoming book I illustrated, WHAT WILL YOU BE, SARA MEE? (Charlesbridge 2010) by Kate Aver Avraham, about a Korean-American first birthday, and four of my current projects.

THE LEGEND OF HONG KIL DONG, a hero tale in graphic novel form, is my most decorated book, receiving the Asian/Pacific American Literature Award, the Aesop Award, and the Global Korea Award, and named to Booklist's "Top 10 Graphic Novels for Youth 2007."

(The Smithsonian, May 2007 - Readers' theater presentation of THE LEGEND OF HONG KIL DONG, photo by James DiLoreto)

(ALA, June 2007 - Anne signing books after the ceremony for the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature)

What are the challenges and rewards of being an author/illustrator for children?

The biggest challenge for me is the sustaining part - economically, that is. I often say that the finances are as creative as the work. I put together a living (and I'm incredibly lucky to actually be able to do this) from advances, royalties, school visits, other writing and illustrating gigs like emergent readers, and other bits and pieces of income. Of course there are creative challenges with the work itself, each book seeming to present its own new set, but that's what makes it worth doing: it's not easy.

The rewards include: doing work I love; having the freedom of a totally varied and flexible work schedule which I am in charge of; going to work in my pajamas; getting paid to dream and imagine and play as well as write, draw and paint; being part of a creative team with editors, art directors, marketing people; interacting with audiences of young people and adults, some of whom have read my books(!); connecting with other children's book creators; royalties, still coming, even on one book published twenty-four years ago; and having a really cool response when people ask, "What do you do?"

Can you tell us a bit about your book tours, school visits, or workshops?

I'm an extrovert and a performer, so the presentation part of book marketing is fun for me. I've done hundreds of school visits across the U.S. over the last twenty-five years. I do between fifteen and thirty days per year, I'd guess, mostly K-5, but sometimes middle school and occasionally high school classes.

Programs include joint author-illustrator presentations with Margy Burns Knight for TALKING WALLS and our other books, and solo visits as the illustrator of the JAMAICA books (author Juanita Havill lives in Arizona, but we did manage one week of joint school visits this year) or talking about creating THE LEGEND OF HONG KIL DONG: THE ROBIN HOOD OF KOREA. I also do specific content workshops such as "Composing Comics: The Power of the Frame," "Visual Literacy," and "From the Heart: Illustrating Across Cultures."

I appear at conferences, writers' workshops, and events such as the Kennedy Center Multicultural Book Festival; spend a week each summer as the Creative Writing teacher at a Korean cultural camp in New Jersey; and have twice presented at my high school, Seoul Foreign School in Korea. I'd love to do more international schools.

There's lots more information about appearances, including some of the programs I offer and a complete list of the schools I've visited over the last three years, at my website,

What are some of your favorite experiences from your book tours, school visits, or workshops?

Just a few:

- Looking out at a roomful of children - all those beautiful faces!

- Who knew you could fascinate entire classrooms of American fourth and fifth graders with 15th century Korean history, including the invention of the Korean alphabet?

- Hearing students say as a program is ending that all they want to do is go write or draw.

- Connecting with Korean-American students - I start speaking in Korean and they nearly fall out of their chairs.

More thoughts about school visits and programs at my blog, "Coloring Between the Lines," (

Readers, check out Anne's blog! On it, Anne looks at issues of race and culture in relation to creating and using children's literature. :o)

What are you working on now?

I have about twelve of my own projects at various stages of development: two teenage novels (one set in Seoul, the other in North Korea), two graphic novels (both with Korean content), two long-term memoir projects, four picture books, and a couple of others at the concept stage.

This fall I'll be illustrating a picture book, THE MOON WATCHERS (Tilbury 2010), written by an Iranian-American friend, about a family celebrating Ramadan in the U.S. And I'll be promoting two new books: AFTER GANDHI: 100 YEARS OF NONVIOLENT RESISTANCE (Charlesbridge 2009), which I co-wrote with my son, and the seventh in the JAMAICA series, JAMAICA IS THANKFUL (HMH 2009) by Juanita Havill.

If you were to visit the Philippines, would you a) visit white sand beaches and underground caves, go sailing, go snorkeling and scuba diving, etc.; or b) check out the natural wonders above ground, like the Taal Volcano, the Banaue Rice Terraces, and the Chocolate Hills. Why?

Beautiful landscapes feed the eyes and the soul, so I'd certainly look for a dose of natural wonders (a and b), but my first choice would be meeting Filipinos, interacting with them and seeing how they live. Then I'd want to see and do whatever they recommended to introduce me to their country. And I'd want to spend time in markets selling handcrafts.

What is your message for your readers in Asia?

Wow, I have readers in Asia?! I'd love to be invited to your school, library or conference. I've been to India, Nepal and Hong Kong in the 1960's, otherwise only to Korea and Japan. I'm eager to experience other Asian countries. And 안녕하세요 to anyone from Korea!

Anne, thank you so much for sharing your experiences, work, and insights with us!

Author Interview: S. Terrell French

This was originally posted at Into the Wardrobe on June 28, 2009.

In the heart of Mendocino County, California, there is a gorgeous stand of rare old-growth redwood trees known as Big Tree Grove. One of the redwoods has an amazing tree house. The front side of the tree house is a deck with long benches, the back is a little cabin with a pointed roof. There's a pulley seat to go up and down the redwood. The tree house is fortified with sleeping bags, walnuts, apples, water, peanut butter, bread, cheese, cereal, crackers, powdered milk, jam, and chocolate-chip cookies. Julian Carter-Li, Robin Elder, Danny Lopez, and Ariel Glasser - all ages 11-12 - are camped out in that tree house and they are NOT coming down until San Francisco-based IPX Investment Corp. agrees not to log in Big Tree Grove.

How did Julian, Robin, Danny, and Ariel meet and become friends? How did they find out about IPX's plans for Big Tree Grove? Why do they want to save the grove and how did they get their parents' permission to "tree sit"? Most importantly, are they successful in saving Big Tree Grove? You'll have to read Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French (Amulet Books, 2009) to find out!

S. Terrell French grew up near Washington, D.C. and is a graduate of Harvard University and Berkeley Law. She currently lives with her husband and three children in San Francisco, where she is practicing environmental law.

S. Terrell French is at Into the Wardrobe today to tell us more about herself and about Operation Redwood, which is her debut novel.

Why did you write Operation Redwood?

I always loved reading and writing. I'd written a lot in college and then switched paths when I moved to California and began working in environmental law. After my kids were born, I returned to the world of children's books. My first image of the book was of a boy, alone in an office, inadvertently coming across an e-mail from a faraway girl, one that would lead him on an unexpected adventure. I ended up writing the book I wanted to read aloud to my own kids.

WOW. How did you divide your time between being a wife and a mother of three, being an environmental lawyer, and writing Operation Redwood?

When I was writing the first draft of OPERATION REDWOOD, my youngest was only three and my legal work was episodic. I would write during his afternoon naps, while my two older kids were in school, or at night after they were all in bed. I wrote more briefs later, but tried not to schedule work when I was expecting another round of revisions.

What influences and inspirations (both literary and non-literary) did you draw from while writing?

I love the back-to-nature adventures of Jean Craighead George, the contemporary mystery of FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER by E. L. Konigsburg, and the lyrical, clear writing of Laura Ingalls Wilder. In real life, I was inspired by the story of the people who risked so much trying to protect the Headwaters Forest -- the last major unprotected stand of old-growth redwoods -- in the 1990s.

What were the challenges and rewards from writing?

It's challenging for me to find time to write now that OPERATION REDWOOD is out and my kids are older. I love the writing process itself. Sometimes I'd be so excited at night after finishing a scene or a chapter of OPERATION REDWOOD, I couldn't sleep. Now that the book is out, I really enjoy meeting with or hearing from kids and other devoted readers like teachers, librarians, and booksellers.

I was excited when I saw that the main character of Operation Redwood, Julian Carter-Li, is Chinese American. Is there a particular reason you made Julian Chinese American?

My husband is Chinese-American and so my own children are "half-Chinese" like Julian. I tried to find books for them with Asian heroes, but found that most were set in Asia or revolved around themes like immigration or trips to Chinatown. I was interested in writing a book, set in the very multicultural city of San Francisco, in which the characters' ethnicity is simply taken for granted and the focus is on other things: friendship, mystery, and adventure.

THANK YOU for writing a middle grade eco-adventure with an Asian hero. :o)

What was the path to publication for Operation Redwood? Was it difficult to find an agent and a publisher?

I was fortunate to find my agent, Kate Schafer Testerman, fairly quickly -- through a friend. Kate really handled everything from there. She submitted OPERATION REDWOOD to Susan Van Metre at Amulet Books. I made some revisions based on Susan's very thoughtful editorial letter, and then Amulet made an offer.

Where were you and what were you doing when you found out that your novel was going to be published? What were your first thoughts and feelings? How did you celebrate the good news?

I knew OPERATION REDWOOD was under consideration and was on pins and needles waiting until my agent e-mailed me. I’m not sure I actually celebrated until the contract was signed (that’s the lawyer in me) and then my husband and I went out to dinner. Because it was my first book, it seemed a little unreal and I had no clear idea of what the future would hold.

What do you want young readers to take away from Operation Redwood?

I wrote the book with my own kids in mind, so I wanted it to have a lot of humor and adventure and plot twists. The book also reflects my own interest in the fascinating history of the California redwoods. I think it’s important for children to realize that the battle over natural resources isn’t just something that occurs in faraway places, like the Amazon, and that taking action can make a difference.

{sorrel, a flower that grows in the redwoods}

{a redwood snag with a redwood sapling growing out of it}

In your novel, the children ask for permission from adults to be tree-sitters so that they can save a redwood grove. Would you allow your children to be tree-sitters?

I better hedge my answer in case my kids ever read this! I would say that if my kids were in the situation of the kids in OPERATION REDWOOD, I might give the kind of permission that Robin's parents give, which is highly conditioned on various promises from the kids. It's a very different scenario from what the (adult) tree-sitters faced during the Headwaters battle.

What are some of your favorite experiences so far from signings, interviews, and other promotional activities for Operation Redwood?

I just spoke at the four-day Children's Writers and Illustrators Conference at Book Passage, a wonderful indie bookstore in the Bay area. I had attended this conference just after I wrote the first page of OPERATION REDWOOD. It seemed impossible at that time that my book would ever be on the shelves at this fabulous bookstore, so it was very gratifying to be back there as “faculty” speaking about OPERATION REDWOOD. I’ve done a number of school visits and I love talking with the kids about the book and about the history of the redwoods. And I just did a book signing a Muir Woods, our closest redwood park, which was very fun.

{S. Terrell French at the launch party for Operation Redwood}

If you could choose only one, which would you choose: for Operation Redwood to be award-winning, or for Operation Redwood to be bestselling? Why?

Well, I’ve already written the book, so winning awards wouldn’t really change anything (except my ego maybe). So, I’d rather have people reading the book. I just got an e-mail from a boy who said his family read the book under the redwoods during a family trip, and I love the thought of that!

Will you continue to write for children? Are you working on another novel right now?

Thinking a lot and trying to work!

If you were to visit the Philippines, would you a) visit white sand beaches and underground caves, go sailing, go snorkeling and scuba diving, etc.; or b) check out the natural wonders above ground, like the Taal Volcano, the Banaue Rice Terraces, and the Chocolate Hills. Why?

I’m a person who reads guide books obsessively and wants to see everything, especially natural wonders. So I’d probably try to see it all. But my whole family loves the water and snorkeling and going to the beach. The closest we’ve been to the Philippines is Hawaii, which is one of our favorite places. My husband and I used to dive occasionally, but snorkeling gives you a little more freedom and I never really liked all the heavy equipment. We live near the beach in San Francisco, but it’s so cold you really have to wear a wetsuit, so we all appreciate the chance to swim in warmer water. Now you’re making me think we should all go to the Philippines!

Of course you should all go to the Philippines! ;o) Thank you so much for sharing with us today.

To all my blog visitors looking for a summer read, I recommend Operation Redwood. The eco-adventures of Julian, Robin, Danny, and Ariel happen in the summer, and Operation Redwood is an enjoyable read with important messages about the environment and fighting for what you believe in.

Shanghai Messenger

This was originally posted at Into the Wardrobe on May 30, 2009.

Each page in Shanghai Messenger (Lee & Low Books, 2005) has red Chinese screens framing poetry by Andrea Cheng and art by Ed Young. This beautiful picture book for children in the third to sixth grades tells the story of Chinese American Xiao Mei's first trip to China to visit her relatives.

I see my face
in the rice water,
two braids
hanging down,
fuzzy curls
all around,
half Chinese
half not.
In China
will people stare
at my eyes
with green flecks
like Dad's?
Will they ask
why didn't Grandmother
teach me Chinese?

Cheng's stirring free verse poems evoke Xiao Mei's fear about traveling to China all by herself, and her doubts from being surrounded by a language, people, and lifestyle that are strange to her. We also see Xiao Mei's love for her life in Shanghai really grow. When she returns to Ohio, Xiao Mei misses all of her relatives and longs for her family in America and her family in China to be together.

Young's spot illustrations in pastel, ink, dye, charcoal, and Conte crayon are impressionistic. They are sublime, effectively evoking all of Xiao Mei's conflicting feelings. How does he do that?

I believe that in Shanghai Messenger, Cheng and Young truly capture the beautiful yet complicated bond a young Asian American has with her Asian motherland.

Author Interview: Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore

This was originally posted at Into the Wardrobe on May 29, 2009.

I am BURSTING with a lot of pride again today. Today I am chatting with Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore, author of the picture book Cora Cooks Pancit (illustrated by Kristi Valiant and published by Shen's Books this year). :D

Hi, Dorina! Welcome! Can you please tell us about your Asian American heritage?

I am a second generation Filipino-Italian American. My grandparents on my dad’s side emigrated from the Philippines to Hawaii. My grandpa, Frank Lazo, emigrated when he was a teenager to Hawaii where he later met his bride, Cora Taclindo. As I was growing up my grandparents and my dad were my link to my Asian heritage. My grandparents were instrumental in helping many other family members immigrate to the United States from the Philippines. They adopted the Hawaiian spirit of aloha and embraced people of all cultures. They celebrated both Filipino and Hawaiian culture through food, music and dance, passing this heritage on to the next generations.

What motivates you to write books for children?

I have wanted to write books for children since I was a child. Today, I am motivated by the idea that children need to see themselves in books. I grew up in a multicultural family and I believe there is a need for today’s young reader to have more exposure to multicultural stories and books with multi-ethnic protagonists. I also write books because I love my own children and desire to create stories they can treasure in the future.

What inspired you to write Cora Cooks Pancit? Why did you choose pancit over all the other yummy Filipino dishes?

I love to cook and consider myself an (amateur) multicultural chef. I originally set out to write a cookbook about traditional foods made in different cultures. I interviewed many people and families in my community. One woman I interviewed in Fresno was Rebecca Torosian. She is a Filipina married to an Armenian and she and her husband own Tory Farms. Rebecca told me some of her family’s heritage and about her father being a cook for the Filipino farmworkers. I used pieces of Rebecca’s story and fused it with my own experience growing up in the kitchen with my grandma Cora. Grandma’s specialties were pancit, chicken adobo, tanghon and lumpia. I chose to write a book about pancit because I knew it was a dish made all over the Philippines. The noodles give it universal appeal. My grandma is gone now and it was important to me to preserve the family recipe and the memory of cooking with Grandma Cora.

Cora Cooks Pancit is a lot about a mother-daughter relationship. What is your strongest or favorite memory in the kitchen with your mother? What is your strongest or favorite memory in the kitchen with your children?

My mother is a fabulous cook. She is 100% Italian and I think of her as a food artist because her creative juices really flow in the kitchen. I literally grew up in the kitchen doing the “kids jobs” mentioned in my book like drawing in the flour and licking the spoons and learning the “grown-up jobs” like chopping, stirring and sautéing. My girls are 3 years old and 3 months old and they are growing up in the kitchen with me too. My creative muse is food and it often inspires my writing. One of my favorite memories with my daughter, Meilani, is making homemade pizza. We mix the dough, roll it out and decorate it with our homemade sauce and favorite toppings. Meilani is already doing the “grown-up jobs.”

What are the challenges and rewards of being an Asian American children's book writer?

So far the challenges of being an Asian American children’s book writer are really the challenges any writer experiences. I struggle with finding time to write and staying focused, especially since I have young children. The children’s book market is very competitive right now, which means another challenge is constantly researching the market, honing my craft and sending manuscripts out to publishers when so many are competing for the same spots. I’ve never been labeled an Asian American children’s book writer before because my heritage is multi-ethnic. I feel honored to be considered one. My greatest reward is sharing stories about my Asian heritage with children and watching them connect and identify with my experience. I love watching children’s eyes light up at the illustrations in this latest book and hearing them say, “I love pancit” or “My grandma makes pancit.”

Do you celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month? How are you celebrating it this year?

I am celebrating this year by sharing my book “Cora Cooks Pancit” with friends and family. The book provides an opportunity to talk about Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. I’m also making an extra effort to share books by Asian authors with my daughters. We also take every opportunity in my family to celebrate with food so we will be making lots of Asian food this month!

What kind of young reader were you? What were your favorite books? Who were your favorite authors?

I was a voracious reader. I was content to read, read and read some more. I read everything I could get my hands on. My mom was a teacher and she always made sure to supply me with good books. I wasn’t much into fantasy but I loved the Chronicles of Narnia series. My mom started reading it aloud to me when I was four and it opened such a world of imagination. She also recited poetry to me before bed and this was the beginning of words and rhymes dancing in my head. Needless to say, the words have never stopped dancing!

My favorite authors included Toni Morrison, Julia Alvarez, Robert Frost, C.S. Lewis, Amy Tan, Madeline L’Engle, Louisa May Alcott, Langston Hughes, and many more.

What are your favorite Asian or Asian American children's books?

Some of my favorites include:

“Dumpling Soup” by Jama Kim Rattigan

“Baseball Saved Us” by Ken Mochizuki

“Hula Lullaby” by Erin Eitter Kono

“Lakas and the Manilatown Fish” by Anthony D. Robles

“Kimchi and Calamari” by Rose Kent

“Dragonwings” by Laurance Yep

What children's books are you reading now?

My daughter and I go to the library weekly and we are always reading new books. We just checked out “El Barrio” by Debbi Chocolate, “Nuestra California” by Pam Munoz Ryan, and “Math Attack” by Joan Horton. I’m reading “Stella Stands Alone” by Alexandria LaFaye. I love middle grade and young adult fiction – anything by Gary Schmidt or Han Nolan.

What are you working on now?

I am working on another picture book about a Filipino child learning to dance the traditional dance called the “tinikling.” I’m also trying my hand at a young adult novel about a multiracial girl growing up in a pizzeria in Chicago.

Tinikling!!! I used to dance tinikling. It's my absolute favorite Filipino dance. :D I can't wait to read that picture book. And I know I'll have fun reading a young adult novel about a multiracial girl growing up in a pizzeria.

I wish you all the best, Dorina! Thank you very much for joining the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebration here at Into the Wardrobe.

Readers, click here to read Dorina's blog. Click here to read Jama Kim Rattigan's review of Cora Cooks Pancit and interview with illustrator Kristi Valiant!

P.S. I had pancit today! LOL.

Author Interview: Edna Cabcabin Moran

This was originally posted at Into the Wardrobe on May 28, 2009.

Today, I am SO PROUD to present my interview with Filipino American author illustrator Edna Cabcabin Moran. *bursts with pride*

Welcome, Edna!!

Author/Illustrator, Edna Cabcabin Moran. Photo by Mark Moran.

Can you tell us a bit about your Asian American heritage?

My parents are from Eastern Samar, Philippines, an historic island in the Visayan island chain. My father was a U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer who brought my mom and older siblings to this country. I am the first American-born child in the family. Growing up, I always felt like I straddled two cultures. I'm very American in the way I dress, speak and carry myself. I don't know Tagalog and I lost touch with my parent's dialect, Waray Waray. However, I have strong cultural roots and have retained much of my Filipino-ness which includes a deep, abiding respect for the elders and their stories.

Perhaps the family meal is a good indicator of how one is raised? My parents always served rice with meals which usually comprised of seafood and stir-fried meats with vegetables. We even had rice for breakfast-champorado or chocolate rice porridge-one of my favorite childhood dishes. I rarely ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or fast food for meals until I was in my teens.

What kind of young reader were you?

I had zero interest in books and reading until the middle of first grade, when my teacher, Miss Henderson, worked her magic. She encouraged me to paint and draw as much as I wanted. Miraculously, I went from the lowest to the highest reading group in a short time. When I turned eight and got my library card, I went on a reading rampage, devouring stacks of books each week. I loved Greek myths, folk tales, stories about famous people as children and anything my older sister was reading. I was also a fan of chapter books, the Encyclopedia Britannica and comic books.

What were you like as a young artist?

I daydreamed all the time, frequently lost in my own world. However, ours was a creative home. My mother crocheted and sewed. She made us paper dolls with renditions of nipa huts from her beloved homeland. I watched my older siblings draw and started mimicking them. Soon, I developed my own style of drawing. When I first tried painting, I fell madly in love with it, loved color and used it boldly. In upper elementary school, I developed a reputation for drawing people (and my friend, Belinda, was the "go-to" gal for hand-drawn horses). I received tons of encouragement from my teachers and even won a drawing contest and scholarship at age eleven. Drawing and painting became as essential as breathing.

What inspires and motivates you to be an author illustrator for children?

As a writer and artist, I'd never completely left the world of the child. I loved my childhood! It was a time of wonder and discovery and of seeing life through a wide lens of hope and possibility.

I love being around kids. I've taught, entertained, coached and played with kids in work, volunteer and personal settings. Kids are an exceptional audience. Curious, eager and unjaded, they'll follow you deep into the jungles of story. But they aren't easily fooled or impressed. If they like or dislike something or sense that you are "insincere," they won't hesitate to tell you. They keep me "honest" in my work and I relish that challenge.

What was your path to publication as an author illustrator for children?

I've always loved storytelling through writing and pictures. I smile when I think of some of my earliest stories--the mouse who painted abstracts and a fable featuring a giraffe named Geoffrey (pre-ToysRUs). I wrote almost as much as I painted but I was known for my visual work because I kept most of my writing to myself.

Maurice Sendak's iconic book, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE made a huge impact on me when I was a teenager. I had a visceral reaction while reading that book to my nephew. I knew that picture books had a special place in my heart but it was years later, after I had my first child, that I listened to my Muse and took initiative. I started taking classes on picture book illustration, participating in critique groups and building my portfolio. I was primarily interested in being an illustrator but once my Muse had a feel for creating manuscripts and book dummies, I was hooked. I knew I wanted to write and illustrate my own concepts.

THE SLEEPING GIANT: A Tale From Kauai. Edna's first picture book earned the 2007 Ka Palapala Po'okela Honorable Mention.

"Fish scales fell to the ground and gave way to flesh... Bulging fish eyes changed into human eyes, framed by heavy black brows."

"Pualani's heart raced. Her na'au, gut feeling, pressed her to keep walking until she stood at the giant's feet."

What are your chosen mediums? What is your creative process like?

I favor mixed media for my painterly style—acrylic underpainting with chalk pastel or gouache with colored pencil. For my line-art, I use Tombow brush pens or Faber-Castell PITT pen then digitally apply touches of color.

My creative process begins with my Muse who is usually engaged in a dance of ideas and visual references. She can be coaxed into appearing at brainstorm sessions or she'll drop in unexpectedly, sometimes when I'm driving. It's my job to capture the ideas and impressions on paper.

My artwork develops in stages: I go from thumbnails and rough sketches to highly-rendered drawings. In the final stage, I paint using my mediums of choice. I like to work on two or three paintings at a time to maintain energy and consistency between the pieces. By the end, I hope to have all the individual paintings "sing" as a complete work of art.

Some of Edna's artwork:

Promotional bookmark.

Spot line-art image used in "The Bulletin," the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators magazine.

Cover for Kira Willey's award-winning musical yoga album.

Can you tell us a little bit about your book tours, school visits, or workshops?

I enjoy doing author/illustrator visits and am thrilled to present to students of all ages, at a wide range of venues. My presentation style is conversational, fun and interactive. I like to highlight cultural and visual information, as well as, include personal and professional back-stories. Invariably, I end up complementing classroom curriculum with my assemblies due to the wide scope of material I cover. However, my workshop program is flexible and I'll gladly work with staff to tailor something for their students.

A visit with the students of Kamilo'iki School, Honolulu, HI.

An illustration demo, Children's Book Week, Barnes & Noble, Hawaii Kai.

What are the challenges and rewards of being an Asian American author illustrator for children?

Bridging the Asian Pacific cultural perspective with Western sensibilities within a given story poses a significant challenge. There's the logistic of keeping within the parameters of the work, such as limiting word count for the picture book format, and the art of crafting a seamless explanation for the cultural aspects.

The rewards for bridging the "cultural divide" are severalfold: One's voice develops an authenticity which can propel the story to a higher level. Readers gain insight and appreciation for the culture.

Who are your favorite Asian or Asian American children's and young adult book authors and illustrators? What are your favorite Asian or Asian American children's and young adult books? Why are they your favorites?

I admire a number of Asian American authors and illustrators--Ed Young, Grace Lin, Lisa Yee, Allen Say, William Low to name a few. Each has a strong voice that comes through in his/her work.

I'm pleased to see more Asian American and Pacific Island books entering the market. I have many favorites; however, off the top of my head, I love LON PO PO and SEVEN BLIND MICE by Ed Young and Lisa Yee's MILLICENT MIN, GIRL GENIUS. I also have a favorite adult title that deserves mention: WHEN THE ELEPHANTS DANCE by Tess Uriza Holthe. It is a "storyteller's book" and it spoke to my heart. I'd read it during my travels to the Philippines this spring. Again, these are just a few titles I'd recommend. There are more—so many more...:-)!

Do you celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month? How are you celebrating it this year?

Over the years, I've danced hula with my halau, Na Lei Hulu, at Asian Pacific celebrations and concerts. This month, I've had some school assemblies and a family night event. It was a pleasure sharing my background and passion for hula and Hawaiiana. Hopefully, the audience walked away with a better understanding and appreciation for Pacific Island culture.

Edna dances hula with Na Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu. Photo by Lin Cariffe.

At Earhart School's family night, Edna teaches a sitting hula.

What are you working on now?

I illustrated a new book that's coming out in the fall. It's titled, CAN YOU CATCH A COQUI FROG?, written by Vera Arita. Also, my poetry appears in a middle grade anthology that will be out next year. I have several works in progress—a few picture books and a novel.


Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Edna! Thank you so much for visiting Into the Wardrobe and celebrating with us. :D

And now for some link luuurv. Click here to read Jama Kim Rattigan's interview with Edna over at alphabet soup - it includes a recipe for lumpia!