Friday, March 28, 2014

Leaving China - An Artist Paints his WWII Childhood

Leaving China
Story and Illustrations by James McMullan
Algonquin Young Reader
March 2013

Idgie Says:
This is an incredibly interesting book that Algonquin has added to their YA series.  As I have said before, their YA books contain no fluff - all the books they publish have real meaty content that you can chew on for a while.  

Now, this is a beautifully written story - each page and illustration is one chapter.  So for the short term attention readers this is perfectly set up.  But I'm rather torn with the Young Reader labeling.  

Reason being that not only is a lot of the subject matter very adult - depression, infanticide, war, and death, but it also speaks in ways that are perhaps interesting to an adult but not a young one.  There tends to be very little interest by a young reader about the obvious social and lifestyle differences in siblings via their home decor.  The language is also high level and the reader needs to have an excellent vocabulary.  Granted - this is a wonderful chance for the young reader to learn these new words. 

Basically, what I'm saying is that it is a good book with a strong story, but I don't feel it's for casual young reader - more for the accelerated student.  There is a link below for excerpts to get a feel for the book.

Book Description:
A memoir in paintings and words by internationally acclaimed illustrator, author, and teacher James McMullan.

“It is this dreamlike quality of my memories that I wanted to capture in some way in the paintings that accompany the text--to suggest in the images that the events occurred a long time ago in a simpler yet more exotic world, and that the players in that world, including me, are at a distance.”

Artist James McMullan’s work has appeared in the pages of virtually every American magazine, on the posters for more than seventy Lincoln Center theater productions, and in bestselling picture books. Now, in a unique memoir comprising more than fifty short essays and illustrations, the artist explores how his early childhood in China and wartime journeys with his mother influenced his whole life, especially his painting and illustration.

James McMullan was born in Tsingtao, North China, in 1934, the grandson of missionaries who settled there. As a little boy, Jim took for granted a privileged life of household servants, rickshaw rides, and picnics on the shore—until World War II erupted and life changed drastically. Jim’s father, a British citizen fluent in several Chinese dialects, joined the Allied forces. For the next several years, Jim and his mother moved from one place to another—Shanghai, San Francisco, Vancouver, Darjeeling—first escaping Japanese occupation then trying to find security, with no clear destination except the unpredictable end of the war. For Jim, those ever-changing years took on the quality of a dream, sometimes a nightmare, a feeling that persists in the stunning full-page, full-color paintings that along with their accompanying text tell the story of Leaving China.

Follow this link to the author's page for excerpts in the book.