By Carrie Charley Brown
I first interacted with Sylvia Liu through the 12 x 12 picture book challenge in 2013. Since that time, we have participated in many of the same writing challenges. Sylvia also partners with Elaine Kiely Kearns to bring us KidLit 411. I was so excited to hear that Sylvia had won the Lee & Low New Voices Award. Now that her debut picture book is here, we can celebrate and learn from her, as well!
Thanks for being here, Sylvia! Do you utilize picture books as mentor texts? -If so, how?
I do, for both writing and illustrating. When you’re an art student, you learn by copying the masters. So for writing, I often type out the text of picture books I admire. Doing so helps me figure out the cadence of the language, the length of the sentences, and the feel of the words.
My friend Kathryn Ault Noble also suggested copying the illustrations by making thumbnails of great stories. I’ve done this with many books, and it’s an excellent exercise that helps illustrators learn about pacing, page turns, and variation of spreads.
How has reading picture books helped you discover who you are as a writer?
By paying attention to the picture books that really move me or make me laugh, I have figured out my sensibility as a writer. I read a lot of picture books that are fun, fine, but fleeting. When I find one that causes me to pause, I notice what about them I like. For example, sometimes the lyrical language hooks me. Other times it’s the intricacies of the illustrations or the off-kilter view of the world. I expect all of these to influence my storytelling.
Were there any particular mentor texts that inspired you in the creation of your debut picture book, A Morning With Grandpa?
Funny enough, no. I was inspired by my dad practicing qi gong (a Chinese mind-body practice involving breathing to move your qi, or life energy, through your body) while on a family vacation. That morphed into a story about a grandfather teaching his granddaughter tai chi and she in turn teaching him yoga.
About A MORNING WITH GRANDPA
In A MORNING WITH GRANDPA, Mei Mei eagerly joins her grandpa in practicing tai chi. As Gong Gong teaches her the slow, graceful movements, Mei Mei enthusiastically does them with her own flair. When Mei Mei takes a turn, teaching Gong Gong the yoga she learned in school, he is not as flexible as she is. Though they have different styles, Mei Mei and Gong Gong enjoy each other’s company while learning new things together. Kirkus Reviews said: “Liu’s lively text and Forshay’s playful illustrations effectively capture a true-to-life relationship that transcends cultures and generations.” Kirkus.
Congratulations, again, Sylvia! Sylvia is giving away one copy of A MORNING WITH GRANDPA. Follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below. To jump on Sylvia's blog tour bus, visit HERE. To read more ReFoReMo goodness from Sylvia, visit the KidLit 411 reflection post from 2015.
|© K. Woodard Photography|