This gorgeous picture book biography, according to Kirkus Reviews in a starred review, is "a cheerful introduction not only to Wu Daozi, but to the power of inspiration."
Who wants to learn calligraphy when your brush is meant for so much more? Wu Daozi (689-758), known as China's greatest painter and alive during the T'ang Dynasty, is the subject of this stunning picture book. When an old monk attempts to teach young Daozi about the ancient art of calligraphy, his brush doesn't want to cooperate. Instead of characters, Daozi's brush drips dancing peonies and flying Buddhas! Soon others are admiring his unbelievable creations on walls around the city, and one day his art comes to life! Little has been written about Daozi, but Look and So masterfully introduce the artist to children.
About Lenore Look
I first began making picture books in kindergarten because my other career option at the time was stealing. But a life of crime requires practice and patience, neither of which I had, so I settled into industry, making what I coveted but what my parents could not afford to buy: beautiful books like the ones my teacher read to us in school.
Publishing was no problem in those days, not like it is now. By first-grade, I was my own publisher, making multiple copies of my books by hand. As for fame and fortune, I took care of that, too–I taught my brothers and the neighborhood kids how to wait in line for autographed copies, and I charged them 25 cents a book (an enviable paperback royalty today!), but also accepted candy.
By third grade, I had abandoned the literary scene. My parents had bought an old piano and signed me up for lessons and, thus, I began dreaming of becoming a world-famous concert pianist.
Then I came across a book on Maria Tallchief, and became a ballerina, just like that. I weighed only 40 pounds and could leap and pirouette all day without stopping. It was a lot easier than becoming a pianist.
Then I read a book about a surgeon, and one about a veterinarian, and another about a great tennis player . . . and I found myself wanting to become whatever I’d last read.
Eventually I grew up and became a newspaper reporter. It was the perfect job for me. I got paid to do the two things I loved most: writing and being curious. Working as a reporter taught me how to talk to people, how to find the story behind the story, and how to tell a story in a way that keeps a reader reading. I learned to listen to the way people talk. I learned to be precise and concise in my own choice of words. Best of all, the more I wrote, the more I was filled with a sense of wonder. I loved writing not only about what happens to people, but also about what happens inside of them, which is what writing for children is all about, but I didn’t yet know it.
It wasn’t until I became a mother and began reading children’s books again that I felt what the Chinese call yun fuen, a continuing of work begun in past lives. I had long forgotten my early foray into picture books, the thread I’d dropped in kindergarten, a thin rig, like the one a spider would use in rising. I had journeyed nearly 30 years down through space by then, unaware of my silken strand. Then one afternoon, with my two young children clamoring for something to do, I showed them how to fold paper into a book . . . picked up some crayons and a pen, and then . . . felt myself rising . . . returning to that place where I began, that brief age in which I had so many talents, and leapt and pirouetted into the sun, and could not stop.
About Meilo So
Meilo So has illustrated several award-winning books, including Tasty Baby Belly Buttons, by Judy Sierra; It’s Simple, Said Simon, by Mary Ann Hoberman; The Ugly Duckling, retold by Kevin Crossley-Holland; and Countdown to Spring!, by Janet Schulman. Meilo So was born in Hong Kong and lives in England with her
husband and daughter.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I have always made narrative into pictures . . .
I have been drawing from about the time I was five years old. My grandfather had a mannequin shop; I used to watch him painting eyes and lips on the models. I have always made narrative into pictures. My first children’s book was published in Hong Kong in 1987. I wrote the story; it was about a naughty angel with three black spots on her
face. It was semi-autobiographical.
I try to keep my life simple and I choose a simple, light-weight medium . . .
I enjoy using acrylics and recently gouache (as in Countdown to Spring!). I prefer a medium that you can make corrections with. My favorite is simple black-and-white drawings. I haven’t lived all over the world, but I have traveled a little bit, and it has influenced me to carry fewer and fewer tools with me when it comes to work, and I think a lot more in my head.
I like to write and illustrate books, whether they are for adults or children . . .
I like to write and illustrate books, whether they are for adults or children. I like the story to be kind and optimistic. I enjoy painting domestic settings.
Since the birth of my daughter I am now more attracted to bold and simple illustrations . . .
My work is also influenced by a Chinese artist named Feng Tse Kai, who worked in the 1930s to 1960s. His simple brush drawings about children, childhood, wars, ordinary people—they are very touching images, but not sentimental. I also admire Ben Shann’s work a great deal.
The whole working process flowed nicely . . .
I enjoyed illustrating The Beauty of the Beast. It is one of those projects that you know is going to look good. The whole working process flowed nicely.
THE BEAUTY OF THE BEAST
Poems from the Animal Kingdom
—An ALA Notable Book
“Meilo So does enchantingly unreal paintings: whimsical watercolors made with a wet-on-wet technique that reserves the spontaneity of her hand gestures. In very few brush strokes, she captures the essence of organisms from stallions to sea horses. Yet the images themselves are abstract, almost calligraphic pictograms.”—The New York Times Book Review
Starred Review, Booklist, May 15, 2013:
"The richly colored artwork is stunning in both its scope and particulars...and the words are equally well chosen. This combination of talents happily never forgets its audience in an offering as child appealing and whimsical as it is handsome."
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2013:
“A cheerful introduction not only to Wu Daozi, but to the power of inspiration.”
Starred Review, School Library Journal, May 1, 2013:
“Inviting and appealing, this title serves as a great addition to a unit on ancient China or Chinese Art.”
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, April 15, 2013:
"A fine biographical tribute to the enchanting power of art."