Me too, me too.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wondering what we are so disgusted about? Click here.

Author Interview: Christopher Cheng

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Today, let's get to know award winning Australian children's book author Christopher Cheng. I've asked Chris a few questions so that he can introduce himself and his work to readers of Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind.

Thank you so much for sharing, Chris!

What was it like growing up Asian Australian? How has the experience informed, influenced, and/or inspired your work as a writer for young readers?

My dad is from Hong Kong and my mother was born here of European ancestry. I have the best of both worlds being half Australian born Chinese. I got to live in Australia but travel to Hong Kong regularly as a kid, meeting relatives and having just the best fun!!!! Growing up I was in a school with kids whose parents were of a range of different heritages. There were though only a few of Chinese ancestry and I would think that it is true to say that I really didn't think that I was much different to any of the other kids - although I did have a Chinese name! Now as I travel throughout Australian country towns I am on the lookout for evidence of the Chinese immigrants - especially in the names written on the buildings in the towns. Even the cemeteries where the Chinese were buried, those were either Chinese who didn't need to have their {remains} sent back to be with their ancestors. Australia was their home now. They were amazing folk and maybe I think it would have caused just a bit of concern for their ancestors back in China!!!

What is it like being an Asian Australian writer for young readers? What are the challenges and rewards?

I LOVE being who I am - an Asian Australian writer. Being half Chinese I have a unique view of the Chinese 'story'. Many of the cultural mores I know and I think that can add that insight to the stories I write. I certainly didn't grow up knowing the festivals and all the procedures and processes although on our frequents trips to Hong Kong as a child I was fascinated by the rituals and the happenings - my grandfather's property even had a Buddhist temple on it and I remember the early morning calls and chants. I vividly remembers the wafting smells of the incense and all those offerings! The family still own the property and the residence there! As I have grown older I have become more and more fascinated by the Chinese life and the culture and the rituals - the festivals and the celebrations I adore.

One of the other really amazing things that has been welded to my brain when my first historical fiction novel came out happened in one of the schools where I was conducting an author visit / writing workshop. This school had quite a large number of Asian students. One of the boys came up to me and asked me to sign the book - which of course I love doing - and then he leant close and whispered to me ... I really love what you write - you write for boys like ME! Talk about getting instant goosebumps ... I had to take a sip of water and would I have been permitted to give him a hug it would have been done so.

Can you tell us a bit about the books you have written featuring Asian Australian characters?

I have especially loved writing my historical fiction stories of the Chinese Diaspora. I have three at the moment, New Gold Mountain, The Melting Pot and Seams of Gold.

The first two titles are based on incidents that actually did happen here in the 19th and early 20th centuries. They are very true to the facts - written in diary form. The characters of course are made up but I even used the names of Chinese immigrants here in Australia - I found those names on the documents in our oldest library. The third is more an amalgamation of bits and pieces I gathered.

What a wonderful story of these Chinese immigrants. So much of Australia, and a few years earlier the United states of America, was built on the back of the Chinese worker. The Chinese here were brilliant traders and extremely clever at extracting the gold. They were ingenious.

When I am writing I spend HUGE amounts of time (read lots, read weeks and weeks, read weeks and months) researching the facts behind the story. This has two benefits ...


I get to gather more and more factual material, I love to find out the weather conditions at the time. I read copies of the local papers that were printed, I love delving into the government archives (and no it is not to inhale the musty smell of all those old papers and documents!). I get fascinated about the real life characters that I uncover - what they were doing, how they lived and more.

and TWO

When I FINALLY get down to writing the story it is mostly formulated already. I simply have to write down the words. Through all that research my fictional characters are forming. The story just flows from my head and out through the keyboard ... I will though have already been gathering notes and scribbling those in my Made-In-China red spined book we get nice and cheap from the newsagent here! And the plan for the story will have already been scribbled, mind map style, onto my wardrobe wall, so the actual story writing just falls out - mostly. Of course then there is the editing part which I HATE! But thankfully I have great editors.

PS ... I have the BEST job in the world!!!!!

Thank you again, Chris! =D


My beautiful cousin Kate, who lives in Manama, Bahrain, has sent me a copy of Abdullah and His Grandfather, written by Andy McNab and illustrated by Patricia Al Fakhri. I can't wait to read it and blog about it!

Abdullah and His Grandfather was published in 2008 by Jerboa Books. Jerboa Books is based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and is dedicated to producing top quality children's books with a focus on Arabia. I am so glad to have discovered this publisher!

Mardel of Rabid Reader has given Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind a Beautiful Blogger Award. Thank you so much, Mardel!

By the way folks, Mardel is a really youthful and cool grandmother! :o)

There's something wrong here.

For more information, check out
Friday, March 26, 2010

Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind supports

New Asian Children's Book Awards!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010
*The National Book Development Board - Philippines and the Philippine Board on Books for Young People will present the first National Children’s Book Awards in July. The awards will honor the ten best books in the Philippines for children and young adults (from the years 2008 and 2009).

Nominations for the awards are now open and will close on April 15. Click here for the award rules (click on the image to enlarge it). The nomination form is available here.

*Two new children's book awards will be announced at the first Asian Festival of Children's Content in May: the Asian Children's Book Prize, and the Hedwig Anuar Children's Book Award for Singaporean children's books.

I am so excited about all these awards! =D


Saturday, March 13, 2010
*Check out Color Online's latest Women Writers of Color blog post featuring Filipino Italian American children's book author Dorina Lazo Gilmore. Dorina is the author of Cora Cooks Pancit. (Pancit!!!)

*Don't forget about Color Online's week-long book discussion of the YA novel Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger. (Neesha Meminger was born in India, grew up in Canada, and now lives in the U.S.!) The discussion starts next Friday, March 19.

*Thank you so much to Angel of Story on a Page for giving me the Beautiful Blogger Award. I'm now supposed to say seven things about myself and pass on the award.

About those seven things... Ask me questions in the comments section! I really don't know what to say right now. :o) So ask me any question. I'll pass on the Beautiful Blogger Award to these Asian YA book blogs/bloggers:

Between the Lines (Bangladesh)
Dissecting Perfection (Pakistan)
LiyanaLand! (Singapore)
Serenehours (Vietnam)

Illustrator Interview: Fereshteh Najafi

Sunday, March 7, 2010
I was checking out the website of the Noma Concours for Picture Book Illustrations and I saw these illustrations:

They are illustrations by Fereshteh Najafi for The Princess, the second prize winner for the 16th Concours (2008). I was intrigued. The illustrations are truly different from other children's book illustrations I have seen. I just had to get to know the illustrator!

The gorgeous Fereshteh Najafi was born in Tehran, Iran in 1973. She has a BA in graphic design and an MA in illustration from Tehran Art University. Below is my interview with Fereshteh. She was really candid about her work and children's literature in Iran!

How would you define Iranian children’s literature?

Literature in Iran has a very old and rich heritage. Many Iranian poets, such as Ferdosi, Nezami, and Molavi, are famous in the world. The main part of contemporary stories were inspired by them. As you know, children have always been attracted to fairy tales and find them pleasant, but there are some editors who want to keep book costs low. They don’t pay attention to good narratives, illustrations, and compositions. Thus, they present commercial books just like other commercial books all over the world.

What are the children’s books you have illustrated?

Baba Jan, Nane Jan (Hampa, 2001)
Lonely Mouse (Hampa, 2001)
Mr. Mathematics (Madreseh, 2001)
Along with the Bee’s Voice (Madreseh, 2002)
Mouse, Scarecrow, Bird (Madreseh, 2002)

Song in Field (Madreseh, 2002)

Secret of Shahrzad’s Pearls (Madreseh, 2004)
Guest of Moon (Elmi, Farhangi, 2005)
Neighbors (Madreseh, 2005)
Play’s Moon and Star (Madreseh, 2005)
Ariobarzan (Madreseh, 2007)
King Nader (Madreseh, 2007)

Ha Jastam (Kanoon, 2008)
The Princess (Shabaviz, 2008)
Lam Shir (Monadi, 2009)
Shirin Tarin Shahd (Monadi, 2009)
Tree Capricorn (Monadi, 2009)
Pinocchio (Leonardo, 2010)

And illustrations for elementary books and magazines in Iran. I was also the art director and graphic designer of Roshd-e-Noamooz magazine (2003 to 2005) and Roshd-e-Madresefarda magazine (2003 until 2008).

Can you please guide us through the creative process you use for illustrating children’s books?

First, I study the story, thinking several times about its objects, characters, and the spaces in which all the objects exist and move. Then I begin to create the images and figures. Usually the first plan is the most difficult part, because of the selection of technique and colors. In fact, the first plan guides the rest of the work. After drawing the initial outlines, I start to color. Every time I illustrate a book, I try to use new techniques. And that’s why I am fascinated by creating new ideas. I often end up with something different from what I had planned initially (but it is kept within the limits of the first plan). I carefully examine each illustration for several weeks so that I can bring each to a good end. It is not only important to think over illustrations and composition of colors, but also to find new ideas and create at the same time.

What are the challenges and rewards of being a children's book illustrator in Iran?

Low salary and employment make many illustrators search for additional jobs such as teaching and graphic design. The growth of Iran’s illustrations in the world isn't enough to support the illustrators.

What are the current trends in children’s book illustration in Iran? Who are you favorite Iranian children’s book illustrators? Why are they your favorites?

There are many young creative illustrators in Iran who have participated in international illustration fairs successfully. That’s what makes them well-known and encouraged to enter competitions. Children’s book illustrators, in trying to win a jury’s favor, neglect the interests of their real readers: children. On the other hand, some illustrators try to imitate other important ideas and styles. While one's creations are never imitable, I believe that the artists who are successful don’t copy others. They try to make new creations.

I admire many excellent Iranian illustrators, such as Farshid Shafiei, Hoda Hadadi, Atie Bozorgsohrabi, and so on. These illustrators, who use colors and lines to create poetic images, attract me. In her work, Hoda Hadadi applies decoupage, in which the good selection of colored paper and tissues as well as the characters of the story personalize the art. In her illustrations, the design of negative spaces has particular importance too.

Thank you so much for answering my questions, Fereshteh!

Below are more of Fereshteh's children's book illustrations. Her illustrations invite you to take a closer look and pore over all the details!

I'll end with my favorite illustrations from Fereshteh. These are for Guest of Moon and they are BEAUTIFUL. (At first Fereshteh only sent me the cover for Guest of Moon - the first image below - but I begged for more.) I really love the happy colors, the details, and the use of space. =D

ETA: You can click on the illustrations in this post to get a much better view of them!


The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award

Saturday, March 6, 2010
On March 24, the winner/s of the 2010 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award will be announced. The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award recognizes the best contemporary children's and young adult literature from all over the world. The candidates for the award are authors, illustrators, oral storytellers, and promoters of reading. Below are the 2010 nominees from Asia, and the 2010 nominees of Asian descent:

Adarna House
Reading promotion organization
The Philippines

Akal, Aytül

Carmi, Daniella

Educational Volunteers Foundation of Turkey (TEGV)
Reading promotion organization

Gamos, Albert
The Philippines

Havkin, Hilla

Hemati Ahoui, Abolfazl

Reading promotion organization

Jamba, Dasgdondog
Author/Promoter of reading

Kelompok Pencinta Bacaan Anak (Society for the Advancement of Children's Literature)
Reading promotion organization

Knowledge Without Borders Campaign
Reading promotion organization
United Arab Emirates

Moradi Kermani, Hooshang

Murti Bunanta Foundation
Oral storytellers/Reading promotion organization

Orlev, Uri

Say, Allen

Shaban Nejad, Afsaneh

Reading promotion organization

Sharafeddine, Fatima

The Siam Cement Foundation
Reading promotion organization

Tan, Shaun

Touma, Nadine

Uehashi, Nahoko

Wenjun, Qin

I hope I didn't miss anybody. :o) Thank you, Chen, for reminding me about the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award!

The nomination process for the 2011 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award has started and will end May 15. To all the nominating bodies in Asia, GO GO GO! It would be awesome to see more nominated candidates from Asia.

Rant: This year and last year, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award website misspelled "the Philippines." *sigh*
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
I've interviewed YA author Malinda Lo about the research she did for her debut novel Ash, which is a retelling of Cinderella. Click here to read the interview at Color Online!

YA author Medeia Sharif gave Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind the Honest Scrap Award. Thank you, Medeia! I can't wait to read Medeia's debut novel The Bestest Ramadan Ever, which will be published by Flux in 2011!

For the Honest Scrap Award, I am supposed to say something honest about myself. Plus, Tuesday is known as Confession Tuesday across the blogosphere. So here goes:

I am crushing pretty hard on Filipino American Olympic medalist J.R. Celski. *blush*