Tuesday, August 31, 2010

book talk tuesday

TOUCH BLUE by Cynthia Lord

IndieBound Description:


Touch Blue and your wish will come true.

"Why take chances?" says eleven-year-old Tess Brooks. "Especially when it’s so easy to let the universe know what you want by touching blue or turning around three times or crossing your fingers."

But Tess is coming to know that it’s not always that simple.

The state of Maine plans to shut down her island’s schoolhouse, which would force Tess’s family to move to the mainland--and Tess to leave the only home she has ever known. Fortunately, the islanders have a plan too: increase the numbers of students by having several families take in foster children. So now Tess and her family are taking a chance on Aaron, a thirteen-year-old trumpet player who has been bounced from home to home. And Tess needs a plan of her own--and all the luck she can muster. Will Tess’s wish come true or will her luck run out?

Newbery Honor author Cynthia Lord offers a warm-hearted, humorous, and thoughtful look at what it means to belong--and how lucky we feel when we do. Touch Blue, sure as certain, will touch your heart.

My Thoughts
I admit I picked this up because at the moment, while struggling with my own book, I am interested in what book Newbery Honor authors write after winning. Expectations seem to run higher and I was curious how other authors handle the pressure. Cynthia Lord obviously handles it well, as this book was a touching and well-written. Tess is a completely believable narrator whom you immediately relate and root for; and the setting feels very authentic. It was a great book to read near the ocean--made me want to start my own collection of sea glass while on vacation!

Friday, August 27, 2010

fortune cookie friday

"Only the one who crosses the river at night knows the value of the light of day.” -Chinese Proverb


in memory Robert Mercer, May 30th 1972 - Aug. 27th 2007

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fun Farm Work

My niece Lily (age 6) was so enthralled by my audio book of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon that she decided to make her own (with a little tech help from me and Squatchie):



I think she has quite a future, don't you?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

book talk tuesday

BLOW OUT THE MOON by Libby Koponen

IndieBound Description: Peppered with black-and-white photographs, illustrations, personal letters and documents from the author's own youth, this humorous and touching coming-of-age story follows a young American girl as she attends an English boarding school in the 1950s.

My Thoughts: This book is so delightful! What I like most about this is that it has a true, authentic child voice. It feels so real, which is what I liked about books when I was a kid and what I think kids still like to this day. This book was an inspiration for me while writing The Year of the Dog. There is a paperback version of this book (cover on the right) that is probably a little more recognizable, but I don't feel it captures the mood of the book. While it's not a bad cover, the book is really a nostalgic, fun, warm story-- the paperback cover kind of gives me a strange sense of foreboding!

Monday, August 23, 2010

on my desk monday


I was thrilled to receive from Albert Whitman the beloved Flicka, Dicka, Ricka & Snipp, Snapp, Snurr books that I adored from childhood. If you recall, they are the books that inspired Ling & Ting! They are actually still in print--do you remember them now? Seeing them is like seeing a bit of my childhood all over again.

I forgot about "Flicka, Dicka, Ricka and the Strawberries"...I think Ling and Ting are going to have to go berry picking in their next adventure!

Friday, August 20, 2010

fortune cookie friday


“You can hardly make a friend in a year, but you can easily offend one in an hour.”
-Chinese Proverb

Thursday, August 19, 2010

acting the book


Check out this completely adorable post! A children's summer theater program was used Where the Mountain Meets the Moon with delightful results. Now, if I could only get them to talk to Broadway...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

new author photo

new author photo

So, I've updated my author photo as I noticed most people were using the one I had taken over five years ago. The interim photo (where I wore a red cheongsam) seemed to be comparatively unpopular. I think perhaps it looked a bit too costume-y.

Author photo from 2005 that everyone kept using & more recent one that no one used

I've been doing author photos fairly often these past years not because I am vain (though maybe I am!), but mostly because there have been so many changes and transformations my life and I keep wanting my photo to reflect that. I guess these author photos are kind of a catalog of my growth as a person and author. When I look at them, I wonder if anyone else sees the differences I see. What would I tell the person I was five years ago, if I could?

However, most people tell me that I don't really look that different (which is a good and bad thing), so the new photo was probably unnecessary. But I was dressed up anyway, so I thought, why not?

And I like that I'm wearing my Grandma's dress for the photo, too!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

book talk tuesday

A LITTLE PRINCESS by Frances Hodgson Burnett

IndieBound Description:
Generations of children have treasured the story of Sara Crewe, the little girl who imagines shes a princess in order to survive hard times at Miss Minchins London boarding school. Now, this classic novel is available in two beautiful new collectors editions. With Tasha Tudors enchanting black-and-white illustrations, and lovely details like a satin ribbon marker and glorious full-color plates in the hardcover, these new editions of A Little Princess are must-haves for anyone who wants to rediscover the magic of this beloved story.

My Thoughts:
Okay, how can anyone not love this book? It's a classic! And I absolutely love Tasha Tudor's illustrations in this. They are the same illustrations that were in the version I had when I was young (though the cover is different). In fact, I always had a dreamed of having a pink dress just like the cover (which was just an interior in the version I had). In fact, I've often thought if I had a large amount of disposable income I'd try to purchase that painting to hang in my studio. Maybe someday!
But if the art seems too old-fashioned for you, there is a new version with a more modern cover. It's not bad at all, but I always have a soft spot for the original.

Monday, August 16, 2010

on my desk monday


The NY Times likes Ling & Ting! YAY!!!

None of my books have ever been reviewed in the NY Times before, so this is another first for me. I think I might cut it out and frame it. Good thing it was a good one, huh! (And check out the mention of my friend Meghan's book, Pop, in the column next to it.)

Friday, August 13, 2010

fashion fight!

So, On the Red Carpet at ALA has put up their Fashion Statement movie showcasing the attendees' finery. Viewers can vote on their fashion favorites. Even though I am the first one showcased, I was the last interview of the evening--it was just about midnight when I was filmed which is why I am babbling incoherently. I am never very good on camera anyway, but at that time of night I was especially unintelligible. I tried to tell the story of the dress but it came out rather jumbled. Sorry, Cindy!

Anyway, I think I am at a disadvantage for the fashion favorite voting. Not only am I inarticulate, I am so short that no one ever gets to see my whole dress. The skirt is the prettiest part, don't you think? Boo.

fortune cookie friday


“The great question is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with failure.”
-Chinese Proverb

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

book connections

I don't do a lot of school visits in the summer, but recently I visited Rutgers University where they were running a Chinese language for children program. Now, the extent of my Chinese is ordering at a restaurant (and even that is iffy) but they wanted me to come because they used my book Dim Sum for Everyone! quite extensively in their teaching.

I was told that the day before my visit, the teachers transformed one of the classrooms into a a dim sum restaurant and served food! The scallion pancakes and the egg tarts were quite popular.

Unfortunately, they had to take down most of the restaurant decor for my visit, but I did get to see some remnants. They even made the doorway to match the introduction in my book:



As well as super cute bulletin boards:
But what was most fun for me was seeing how they translated the book into Chinese! This is just a snippet of the they put together to document their program:

Isn't that grand! It makes me want to write bilingual books. Though, I'll have to get better at Chinese for that...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

book talk tuesday

B IS FOR BETSY by Carolyn Haywood

IndieBound Description: Betsy is scared about going to first grade, but it turns out school is a great place. She learns about tadpoles and the true meaning of Thanksgiving, makes new friends, and has more fun than she'd ever imagined.


My Thoughts: I love the Betsy books! I referenced them in my author's note in Year of the Dog, I loved them so. I'm thrilled that this one and a handful of others are still in print.They've changed the covers on all of them, which I felt mixed about until a librarian told me that kids weren't interested in them at all until they were repackaged. If that is the case, I guess I can live with it. The new covers are nice and fun--but of course I have a soft spot for the original. And I have a secret hope that Haywood's books will find a new popularity--then maybe they will reissue more of them. My favorite is Betsy's Little Star, which I fear will be forever out-of-print. At least I found an old library copy!

Monday, August 9, 2010

on my desk monday


This is a painting I am doing for my friend (and amazing illustrator/author) Dan Santat's Eyewitness Auction to benefit 826LA. It's a great charity and I'm glad to be a part of it but I have to admit that participating in it has been a bit of a lesson for me.

Because this is my 2nd painting for it. My first one I painted hurriedly while in the midst of writing my first draft of "Dumpling Days." And it was bad. Really bad. But I just couldn't paint anything of quality while consumed by first draft concentration as well as schedule (I was already a month late). But it was such a great cause that I wanted to help with that I threw my subpar painting into an envelope and mailed it out.

But it gnawed at me. I realized it wasn't even that the charity deserved more (though that would've been a more selfless reason), it was a point of personal pride. I was embarrassed to think that people would see my name on that piece of artwork. As the days passed, it bothered me more and more and finally I asked Dan if he could withdraw my piece. Which he did quite graciously.

So, as soon as my first draft was finished (and after I bought my cherry sheets) I got to work on a new one. I'm glad to say I'm much happier with this one. It's not my greatest work (unfortunately. the subject matter of chaos & destruction is not my forte) but I am not ashamed of it and I'm proud it's a part of the project.

However, this was a learning experience for me. I love creating art for good causes, it's something I will always feel strongly about. But, I've also realized that I need to be able to do it right. I have to be able to devote the time to it or else it's better to decline. People have asked me if I ever plan to revive Robert's Snowflakes and while there are many parts of me that want to, I realize that all of me has to be dedicated for it to happen. And, right now, there are parts of me that want to do other things instead.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

because of or in spite of?


real cover vs. a cover for an alternate universe(imaginary)

Last month, there was some controversy with the repackaging of my friend Cindy Pon's books. While I understand the repackaging, it makes me sad. As I mentioned earlier, Cindy's Silver Phoenix is kind of a YA/Adult version of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, in that it is an Asian quest-fantasy with a female protagonist (just so you know, it's a great book but it is much older than Where the Mountain Meets the Moon--includes an almost rape-scene--so might not be right for my third/fourth grade readers just yet!).

I thought one of the things that made Where the Mountain Meets the Moon the success that it was, is that the cover was so different from anything out there right now. But it seems in general, having an obviously minority character is not considered very marketable. I admit, I think my emotions about the Last Airbender, stemmed from the realization that the odds of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon becoming a movie are slim at best. It's just a hard sell with its ethnicity a strike against it in an already tight market.

So it makes me wonder--would my books have been more successful featuring non-Asian elements on the cover? Pretty much all of my books are Asian-American with obvious Asian covers, a conscious choice on my part. I'm delighted, honored and proud when my books are embraced. But being a multicultural author has always been a double-sided sword. On one hand there are some who feel "you got it easy, your culture is getting you published" and on the other side there are those who feel "those books will never be bestsellers, mainstream America doesn't read your kind of books."

For me, I realized the only way I could hold such a double-sided sword was just to stop fighting with it. And so far, it seems to be working. I'm extremely grateful that I've been able to build a career out of my books. I wouldn't change anything and have no plans to; but when something like Cindy Pon's cover change happens, I always wonder if the success I have had is because my books are multicultural or in spite of it? If Where the Mountain Meets the Moon had a different cover--say, with just a photograph of a misty mountain, would it have reached even more people? How would things be different?

**just to be clear, my publisher has NO intention of changing the cover of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon; the 2nd "alternative" cover is just a pretend mock-up to illustrate what my book could look like if it were "whitewashed"

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

book talk tuesday

STRIPED ICE CREAM by Joan M. Lexau

Description:

Becky knows her inner-city family is too poor even to buy her favorite ice cream for her birthday, but they seem to be going out of their way to be mean, whispering and planning something behind her back.

My Thoughts:
I usually try to feature books that are in print here, but I made an exception for this book because I loved it so. If you can find it in the library or a used copy, do! It's a great, sweet story with such heartwarming family themes. I have many fond memories reading this book over and over again during the hot summer months. For the younger reader (Magic treehouse level).

Monday, August 2, 2010