Maplewood Ford by Cao Wenxuan
It all started when…
An editor from China’s CCPPG contacted me about illustrating a book by a well known Chinese children’s book author. That author turned out to be the incredible Hans Christian Andersen Award winner, Cao Wenxuan. I reviewed two manuscripts and ended up choosing to work on Maplewood Ford.
From the moment I read the first chapter, I was excited to Illustrate Mr. Cao’s, Maplewood Ford. The carefully conceived characters are woven into a richly layered story about a multigenerational family following years of great upheaval. They are so relatable that I found myself equally drawn into each person’s narrative. To fully enjoy a story, I feel it's important as a reader to be able to relate to something in each character. For me, this was true for all the characters regardless of age; from the young ones like Lan Lan and Dao Hu right up to the eldest, Wai Po and Grandma. As a Canadian, it's easy first to see only the differences in culture and setting. However, the lives, conflicts, and experiences of the characters in Maplewood Ford are universal, and ultimately, that is what makes it so exciting to read.
When it came time to create the sketches and artwork, I decided to use elements from the narrative such as light, shadow, and fog to represent the feeling of the characters. The hard contrast of light and shadow within the house conveys the harshness Lan Lan felt upon moving there, while the soft, gentle fog in the rural scenes speaks to the mysterious and fluid childhood she knew there.
Being an artist and illustrating something as evocative as Maplewood Ford, I felt lucky to immerse myself in such a delicate and thoughtful story. And so too for the readers, it's a gift to catch a glimpse of what life was like for people in another time and place.
Mandarin edition will be available in January 2019.