Creator Corner: Author and Illustrator Flo Leung


 

Welcome to Creator Corner, a blog series where we interview the creators of our recent books. For this post, we interviewed The Blue Bowl author and illustrator Flo Leung, whose book is publishing March 15, 2024!

Owlkids Books: How did you begin writing and illustrating children’s books?

Flo Leung: I entered into the world of children’s books in a slightly roundabout way – through food! I once worked in kitchens and eventually moved into food illustration, and then began developing stories that I wanted to share (all about food, of course).

OKB: What was the inspiration for this book?

FL: The initial inspiration for The Blue Bowl came from personal experience with my own family. My parents are from Hong Kong, and moved to Toronto, where I was born and where we all still live today. I grew up, started my own young family, and we would visit my mother and eat together. When my daughter was around five or six, she would help set the table. Grandma’s kitchen was set up very differently than ours, with one cabinet for standard dinner plates, coffee mugs, forks and knives, and then a completely separate area for more traditional Chinese items; rice bowls, steamer dishes, chopsticks. And so, depending on the meals, and who was cooking, we would always mix and match from these two separate setups. Growing up, I kind of took this situation for granted, but I started to realize that this might be an interesting way to talk about growing up with multiple cultures.

OKB: What was the most enjoyable part of writing this book? What was the most challenging part of the process?

FL: I loved illustrating all the dishes! The more challenging part, storywise, was to convey the ways that Max’s experiences with his favorite foods helped him navigate his feelings about his heritage and identity.

OKB: Which spread did you enjoy illustrating the most, and why? Which was the most challenging to illustrate, and why?

FL: I felt so happy illustrating the restaurant scene (p16-17, see below). It reminded me of many dinners out with my own extended family! A challenging spread to get just right was Ye Ye holding up the blue bowl (p22-23). I think I tried out several variations and expressions to get that important moment to feel just right.

OKB: What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

FL: I’d like to think that what Max experiences in The Blue Bowl is something that’s become more common in North America, where you’ll find parents that were born and raised in one country and culture, and kids who are born and raised in another country, with its own culture and possibly even a whole new language. In our story, we’re exploring a bit of what it means to be a part of this “third culture” that’s a unique product of these two communities. I hope readers that have similar experiences can relate to Max’s feelings of confusion, and then hopefully happiness that there are ways to celebrate belonging to this third culture.

OKB: What’s a fun fact people may not know about you?

FL: That I used to be a pastry cook! My favorite dessert to make is a lemon tart.

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