As you may know, the month of May commemorates the contributions and cultures of Asian Pacific Americans.
So it is notable that recently American publishers have recognized (again) that 90% of their children's books don't include diverse faces and themes.
A March New York Times article "Where are the People of Color in Children's Books?" rekindled the debate. The ensuing media coverage prompted New York publishers to form "task forces" to address the issue, get photographed doing so, and create Twitter hashtags - that's sort of like an interagency SWAT meeting without the guns or vans or deadlines. More concretely, School Library Journal dedicated their May issue to the topic of diversity.
There is nothing new under the sun, but the problem is real.
Capitalism is the wheel that drives industry. Superheroes, wizards, vampires, and female archers sell books. Publisher may wonder if Asians, Latinos, and Blacks buy enough books that feature characters like themselves. But it seems like publishing is even lagging behind TV and movies (which can't brag about their track records either) in including minority (soon to be the majority) actors. Even when you factor out the ubiquitous presence of Samuel Jackson, the boob tube is doing a better job than book publishing.
We founded Immedium in 2005 to address this very issue.
"An adventurous young boy takes flight on a friendly cloud in this
delightful whirlwind of a daydream. The story is artfully structured,
with reality turning to fantasy as Sora (a name that means “sky” in
Japanese) climbs a tree and hops aboard a cloud for a whimsical journey
above the city. His fanciful vision gently gives way to reality again
when he drifts to sleep on the cloud and dreams of pleasures grounded in
everyday life, like splashing in puddles and digging in sand at the
beach. Sora’s airborne fantasy is charmingly depicted with a dreamlike
palette of pastel colors. The San Francisco setting in combination with
the bilingual text deftly shows the child’s Japanese American identity."
Therefore we celebrate the symbolism of May with you. We hope to continue sharing your journey of cultural exploration and appreciation.
9 years already? Boy, time flies when you're having fun.
That we've certainly had in abundance during the past decade. Yet when we started, we knew we'd have a lot of ground to cover too. Think about it...when was the last time you've willingly embarked on a 12 year project where you had to make a product every year?
You parents out there know what we're talking about, when I say that having a child becomes much more than a 12 year project. But then would you want to have another baby the next year, and so on, and so on?
Well, without getting too philosophical about it (or straying into the familially fraught territory of TLC's reality TV show 19 Kids and Counting), let's just say we embarked willingly and with brio.
One of our goals was to publish fresh, meaningful stories about Asian American themes and characters. So this hitting upon concept was just too good of an opportunity to pass up. I mean no one had ever published a series of stories on each of the Chinese zodiac animals before in English (only later did we learn that a Chinese publisher had done so in Asia, but the tales were much different).
But let's get back to FUN.
2014's heroine is Hannah the Horse. She exemplifies the positive can-do attitude of kids who want to make their mark in the world and enjoy their journey at the same time.
Artist Jennifer Wood notches her 3rd straight hit (following Dragon and Snake) and displays her personal predilection for horses with vibrant scenes of Hannah and her pal Tom energetically romping through colorful vistas. These friends are simply joyful, just like any kids at play.
Meanwhile author Oliver Chin visits Southern California this week as well. He participates in the Bowers Museum's festival in Santa Ana tomorrow on 2/2 (quite a Super Sunday). Then he'll travel to many schools and libraries across Los Angeles - check out our event calendar.
In a way, the creators are emulating Hannah's trek to share the fruits of artistic creativity, one of which is the common experience of fun.www.immedium.com/products/yearofhorse.htmlwww.immedium.com/products/yearofhorse.htmlwww.immedium.com/products/yearofhorse.html
Sampan review the original story The Kung Fu Chronicles: "As society progresses away from gender stereotypes, it is nice to see children’s literature doing the same. Growing up in the ’90s, I spent my childhood wondering why all the heroes were male and females characters who needed saving. Julie Black Belt is a shining example of how things have changed for the better."
In the intervening years since the publication of the first Julie Black Belt story, Kung Fu Panda and mixed martial arts (MMA) have pushed the popularity of martial arts in two directions: comedy on one hand and violence in the other.
However, we still wanted to chart our compass to the true north. We wanted to create a new chapter for families that was substantive. Julie should continue to plumb the depths of emotions that kids actually grapple with, and discover practical lessons that youngsters could also learn from their own experiences.
CM magazine praised the sequel: "The character of Julie continues to give young girls a strong female protagonist with which to identify. This is further enhanced this time around with the introduction of Master Zhou. When Julie first learns that the Kung fu master is coming for a visit, she automatically assumes it will be a male teacher. It's a nice surprise to learn that the master who taught Sifu everything he knows is actually a woman. The character of Master Zhou serves to both further explore aspects of Kung fu and to provide young girls with yet another role model."
Artist Charlene Chua returns to bring Julie and a diverse cast of characters to life with vibrant colors and eye-catching motion.
Author Oliver Chin read it for the first time to kids at Miraloma Elementary School in San Francisco this week, and will autograph copies tomorrow (Friday, 1 pm) at the NCIBA annual book show at the South San Francisco convention center.
David Derrick (www.davederrick.com) is a veritable creative font. A story artist at DreamWorks Feature Animation by day, he has contributed to the movies Rise of the Guardians, How to Train Your Dragon, and Megamind. But at the same time, he has been imagining new stories chock full of animals that have the same bubbly enthusiasm and curiosity that kids have.
In 2010, we produced Dave's 2nd tale Animals Don't, So I Won't!, which is now sold at venues such at the Los Angeles Zoo and Hogle's Zoo in Utah.
This year, we complete the hat trick with Dave's newest romp I'm the Scariest Thing in the Jungle!In the wilds of India, the Bengal tiger is the king of the land but the saltwater crocodile is the master of the water. What will happen when the kids of these two fearsome beasts meet? Well, this will make the UFC look like kindergarten playtime...let's get ready to ruuuuuuumble!
Earlier in September, we displayed our sample copy at the annual convention of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in Kansas City, MO. As expected, it was a big hit among these professional animal lovers and we took a bunch of pre-orders! Now you too can get your own copy - this time autographed by Dave himself with a unique animal sketch and free postcard!
Enjoy the trailer which features Dave's expressive character designs and beautiful watercolors:
Like most kids, Justin really wants a pet...and the bigger the better. In no time flat, he and his buddy Squidgy find themselves on the Asian subcontinent. There their friend Olive is a royal pet keeper...and Justin is a rajah - an Indian prince!
Monarchy has its benefits as Justin discovers he does have a pet - an elephant aptly named Tiny. Now everyone discovers that caring for a pet takes a little bit more effort than they had imagined!
These official adaptations of Justin Time episodes are available at bookstores nationwide, including Barnes & Noble.
As you may know, May is America's annual month to commemorate the heritage and contributions of Asians and Pacific Islanders.
We at Immedium are happy to do so, since one of our publishing missions is to create more stories with Asian American themes and characters.
On tap is our upcoming September sequel in our series Julie Black Belt. The first story, The Kung Fu Chronicles launched in 2007 and readers have been asking for a follow up ever since. We are finally pleased to oblige them!
Julie is a girl that kids relate to - like any child, she wants to do well and learn new things but discovers that life is full of experiments, trials, and errors. Ultimately Julie understands that challenges require her to open her mind, revise her expectations, and grow with her body.
The notion of kung fu centers around practicing a discipline and honing one's skill. Though it normally is discussed in relation to sports and physical activity, kung fu really is about any endeavor one would want to improve in. Seeing themselves walking in Julie's shoes, youngsters understand what she is going through and, by extension, reframe their own experiences.
Now in The Belt of Fire, Julie is gunning to earn her next belt - orange! She continues to admire her movie idol Brandy Wu, a martial arts superstar. Julie starts watching Brandy Wu's latest adventure on DVD, but soon observes her heroine's success getting stifled by a mysterious stranger. But life starts to imitate art, as Julie discovers that a new kid in town has enrolled in her kung fu class. And her teacher Mr. Fong (aka "Sifu") may think he is better than her!
The amazing illustrator Charlene Chua has returned to draw Julie. We look forward to entertaining young and older martial artists with Julie's continuing adventures!
Back during the era of the Garden of Eden, snakes didn't have Reputation.com to manage their public profile. On that fateful day when Eve ate a simple apple, the street cred of snakes took a big hit and it has never really recovered since then.
From then on, every little snakelet has had to deal with bad PR that would tax the abilities of even the most well-funded Washington lobbyist to spin.
And were not even mentioning the negative Q ratings of G.I. Joe's nemesis Serpentor or of the Lego Ninjago's enemies the Serpentine (Hypnobrai, Fangpyre, Venomari, Constrictai, Anacondrai - boy that is a mouthful - who thinks of these names?!).
Well the new year is as good a time as any to reverse millenia of stereotyping. February 10, 2013 is the start of The Year of the Snake. Therefore, we are proud to introduce the 8th in our annual children's picture book series Tales from the Chinese Zodiac.
We personally cannot think of a better animal to carry the banner than our heroine Suzie. This gal has a lot of fire in her belly and won't take put downs lying down! Suzie and her bff Lily are soon joined at the hip. Together they set out to defrost the others' hoary preconceptions of snakes.
Jennifer Wood (www.artofjwood.com), the artist of 2012's uber popular The Year of the Dragon, has done a bang up job of making Suzie a contemporary 21st century reptile. No bashful skulking in shadows. No boring greens in Suzie's wardrobe, no sirree Bob. She is bright-eyed and bushy tailed. She's is ready to shake, rattle, and roll. She takes the world on by the horns.
Spoiler Alert: Suzie proves, once and for all, people born in The Year of the Snake have no reason to be ashamed. They are stellar characters and have great qualities. They can walk tall and proud and accomplish fantastic things!