Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Grace Lin Visits Our Library!

Author and illustrator Grace Lin visited Lawrence School today, speaking with Grades 2 and 3 and then Kindergarten and 1st Grade. And what a visit! Right off the bat she showed us her very first book – a handwritten and illustrated story bound with scotch tape and staples, written when she was in 6th grade – and then she showed us her very first PUBLISHED book: The Ugly Vegetables, a hardcover printed in many copies, that readers can find at a bookstore or a library.

Grace described the process of getting a book published. First, she sends her story to an EDITOR at a publishing house. The editor decides if the story is good enough to be published and, if so, makes suggestions for improving it. When the story is just right, Grace does rough drawings of the story, and the editor sends them to the ART DIRECTOR. The art director comments on Grace’s drawings and when necessary changes are made, Grace makes the final color paintings to go into the book, and words are added in the printing process. Can you see the difference in the pictures below?

The BOOK DESIGNER scans Grace’s artwork and puts it all on a CD (compact disk). Then everything goes to the PRINTERS who use a very big printing press to print all the pages of the book on one big piece of paper. The BINDER folds up the big page, cuts the pages and binds them together to make a book. All together, eight people are involved in making a book! Does it take three days, three months or a year to make a book, from start to finish? Usually a year!

Grace’s books start with her IDEA notebook, where she jots down ideas she has for stories. Her writing in the notebook can be sloppy or neat; what is important is to write down her ideas when she has them so she won’t forget. Grace has had 15 books published but she has written about 50 stories from the ideas she has. She writes chapter books too, such as The Year of the Dog.

Grace works at her home, where one whole room is her studio. The final pictures for her books are all done in paint. Why does she use so many swirls in her pictures? She likes swirls a lot. Also, she was inspired in art school by the painting “A Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh that has swirls in it. The third reason she uses swirls is that a swirl is symbolic, in Chinese culture, of the eternal circle, and she enjoys having elements of Chinese culture in her books. Why do some of her books have fancy end papers and some are plain? It depends on how much money the publisher can spend on making the book; it costs more to have colorful end papers.

Grace’s first book, The Ugly Vegetables, is mostly true (her mother did grow Chinese vegetables in their garden, and the neighbors did come over for Chinese vegetable soup!) but maybe a tiny bit made up. For example, she left her sisters out of the book, so it didn’t show her whole family. Grace is Chinese American, born in New Jersey and living in upstate New York later; now she lives in the Boston area. Her two sisters live in other parts of the country but now she always puts them into her picture books because they like it when she does.

Grace did drawings of some of the animals of the Chinese zodiac -- and Lawrence students knew just what they were! She also presented each student with a beautiful autographed bookmark, a special memory to take away from a very informative and lively presentation. Her web site is: www.gracelin.com, for further exploration. Thank you, Grace Lin, for visiting Lawrence School Library!