by: Sarah Momo Romero
Happy Memorial Day everyone! I hope you are all enjoying the long weekend and taking a moment to remember and honor those who died in military service for our country. This month, I also wanted to pay tribute to the month of May and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with a few picture books written and/or illustrated by Asian American authors and illustrators.
In the kidlit world, as with the world at large, we still have a way to go before everyone is on equal ground. But as far as these picture books go, I am excited and proud to be a part of a growing number of Asian American writers and artists creating diverse picture books. These are just a handful of my top picture book picks for May and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month; stories with characters who represent the young Asian American readers with characters like Hana in Hana Hashimoto: Sixth Violin (a character I would've loved to see when I was a little girl), but also stories to resonate with readers young and old, regardless of their ethnicity or background, such as Sam & Eva.
Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin, written by Chieri Uegaki and illustrated by Qin Leng is one of the first picture books to come to my mind to write about this month. As someone who tried, but did not continue with the violin as a young girl, I immediately felt drawn to Hana, her sweet charm and spunky determination. Leng’s illustrations of pencil outlines and soft water colors create the vivid scenes of Hana’s world beautifully. I especially loved the illustrations of Hana’s grandfather playing violin for his grandchildren, the music wafting through the evening air, and the stark contrast of the moment right before Hana’s big recital for the talent show, with all eyes on her.
Another more personal and deeply connecting picture book is A Different Pond, written by Bao Phi and illustrated by Thi Bui. A story drawn from Phi’s own memories of early morning fishing for food with his father, this unforgettable story offers a glimpse into a life many children with immigrant, working class parents lead, but are not often represented in picture books. Bui’s inky midnight blue hues gracefully create the hazy late night/early morning hours and the more somber but bittersweet tone of the story. Her gestural line work and simple silhouettes also emanate the warmness between the father and son.
What Do You Do With An Idea written by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom, brings the energy and inspiration, along with the uncertainty, a new idea sparks to this refreshing story. Written as an encouraging push towards following a new possibility, this playful character will connect with anyone, at any age, who has ever had an idea that seemed a little unrealistic, but just won’t go away. Yamada’s heartfelt story along with Besom’s textural pencil work, and gradual build of vivid watercolors from start to finish, just might inspire a new little idea to life.
And last, but not least, Sam & Eva, by Debbie Ridpath Ohi, one of my favorite picture book author illustrators. This unexpected “creativity clash” between young Sam and Eva are a treat to see. In the spirit of Journey by Aaron Becker and Dog Loves Drawing by Louise Yates, these two frenemies literally draw worlds and characters of the imagination with crayons and paint brushes that eventually take over and spin out of control. In this hilarious story, Ohi brings a playful edge to a friendly competition full of fun confetti, expressive kid-drawn dinosaurs, even capturing a chaotic, wordless moment in between.
I hope you’ll check out the expressive characters, lively colors and beautiful and heartwarming stories of each and every one of these picture books. And please share any recommendations for picture books discoveries you love. I’d love to check those out too.
Sarah Momo Romero is a Japanese Peruvian American artist, a graphic designer by day and children's book author and illustrator by night. She’s loved drawing and painting since she was a chiquita and now crafts stories of adventure and wondrous creatures. Sarah is an active SCBWI member who draws inspiration from her life in sunny Los Angeles with her husband/creative partner and dog/infamous escape artist, Peanut. Look out for her first picture book, "Wake Up, Little Bat!" coming out in the Fall of 2018!
We are so excited to be mixing things up at the Children's Book Academy, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with Clear Fork/Spork editor/art director, former agent and former kidlit professor Mira Reisberg PhD who is also the Director of the Children's Book Academy.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with new books coming soon.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature the fabulous soon to be debut author/illustrator Sarah Momo Romero.
And 5th Mondays will feature awesomely irreverent and super funny Aussie author Brydie Wright.
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