Checking in with Taeeun Yoo Before Breakfast

h1 March 1st, 2012 by jules

“‘Oh, all right. We’ll call her Pohn, then,’ Auntie Orchid sighed. ‘Pohn-Pohn!’
Tua called to the elephant. ‘Pohn,’ Auntie Orchid corrected her niece.
‘One Pohn is plenty Pohn enough.'”

In 2009, author/illustrator Taeeun Yoo visited for a cyber-breakfast, and it remains one of my favorite interviews. Not just because her response to the Pivot question about what turns her on was “Coffee. A sunny day. A stormy day, too. Music. Good conversations with friends. And cupcakes.” Mostly ’cause I love her illustration work.

Every now and then I like to check in with her, and it turns out she has at least (there could be more, for all I know) two titles out this year. And she’s here today to share some art from them.

First up: Taeeun illustrated the novel Tua and the Elephant, written by R. P. Harris (who now resides in Shanghai) and to be released by Chronicle in April. I’m currently reading this one to my own daughters, and we’re very much enjoying it. It’s about Tua, a ten-year-old girl living in Thailand, who meets an unusual and wise elephant in the market one day. Tua (her name means “peanut” in the Thai language) decides to free the elephant, who is being held captive by two mahouts, or elephant drivers. Evidently, she’s going to attempt to get the “fugitive elephant,” whom she names Pohn-Pohn, to an elephant preserve…

…But I’m not there yet. Still reading! I couldn’t tell you the ending if I wanted to — or if the novel will ultimately be a satisfying read, but again, I’m enjoying it so far, and it’s already been met with a starred review from Kirkus (which you can read here at Taeeun’s blog). “Yoo’s multiple illustrations,” the review states, “done in charcoal and linoleum block prints, catapult the story even higher. Foreign yet familiar, the action is often humorous and reinforces the sweet bond between pachyderm and ‘peanut.’ A rousing adventure that introduces the issue of elephant trafficking in a gentle and appropriate way.”

In an Author’s Note, Harris notes that he was inspired to write the novel after spending the day up close with elephants at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand. “It may not be possible,” he writes, “to look an elephant in the eyes and not want to get to know her better. I hope you get the chance to try sometime.”

As for Taeeun’s illustrations for the book, well … she had me at that gorgeous cover, as I noted over at Kirkus in January. Her two-toned block-print illustrations are infused with light and drama. (I may not be done reading the book yet, but of course I flipped through it to see her artwork.)

It’s also a beautifully-designed book. Here’s Taeeun’s picture of what you see when you remove the jacket flap:

(Click to enlarge)

In March, readers will get to see Taeeun’s newest picture book, You Are a Lion! And Other Fun Yoga Poses (Nancy Paulsen Books). Nope, haven’t read this one yet, but I’m still going to share the art here this morning that Taeeun sent. It’s excellent. (The book has also gotten good reviews from Kirkus—“This is a pleasingly uncomplicated introduction to yoga that can also simply be read as an invitation to play”—and School Library Journal.)

Below is more art from both titles (first up is You Are a Lion!), and I thank Taeeun for sharing…

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

* * * * * * *

“The alley Tua ducked down, soi 5, led her to the middle of the night market.
She stopped at the end with hands on hips, surveying her domain
as if waiting for a cue to enter the stage.”

“Tua and Pohn-Pohn followed a dirt path alongside vegetable gardens, orchards, and rice paddies. Some women planting shoots in knee-deep water rose up from their work to wave straw hats over their heads.”

“‘You can come out now,’ the boy called to Tua. ‘They’re gone.’ Tua led Pohn-Pohn back to the path, trying not to trample too many cornstalks.”

* * * * * * *

TUA AND THE ELEPHANT. Copyright © 2012 by R. P. Harris. Illustrations copyright © 2012 by Taeeun Yoo. Published by Chronicle Books, San Francisco.

YOU ARE A LION! AND OTHER FUN YOGA POSES. Copyright © 2012 by Taeeun Yoo. Published by Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin, New York.

All images used with permission of Taeeun Yoo.

3 comments to “Checking in with Taeeun Yoo Before Breakfast”

  1. Oooh! The Umbrella Queen artist is back! How I love her work. And how I love CLOTH BOOK JACKETS!!! – the deep royal purple with the gold accents – and lilac elephant! – is just delicious. That’s the kind of book I would have wrapped in tissue paper and petted at night as a kid.

    (Or, who am I kidding – I would do that now.)
    Beautiful and wonderful stuff – filled with light and movement, and this woman has seriously got to sell prints someday… although buying two copies of her book and framing art from one is also an option. Lovely, lovely stuff.

  2. Taeenu Yoo’s color pallet is fantastic. That image of the girl in the trees at nighttime with the moon…SWOON!

    These illustrations are so lovely! I LOVE them and I’m super excited about “You Are A Lion”
    Thanks Jules for a great coffee break!

  3. Agreed, I loooooove the image of the girl and cats in the tree! Beautiful work!

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