If you know picture books and diverse picture books, you probably know Eyes That Kiss in the Corners and Eyes That Speak to the Stars by Joanna Ho. But do you know Say My Name or Playing at the Border: A Story of Yo-Yo Ma? Or what about One Day or On the Tip of a Wave: How Ai Weiwei’s Art Is Changing the Tide? I have had the pleasure of reading them all (I was on a Joanna Ho kick recently, though have not read The Silence That Binds Us, or We Who Produce Pearls: An Anthem for Asian America but both are on my TBR). These books by Ho are diverse and relatable. They have strong themes and great imagery. (And all books below were read via online reader copies, even if available).
I was terribly excited about One Day illustrations by Faith Pray. And the book only had one small tiny bump for me. Ho says “sweet boy” instead of taking a gender neutral approach. And granted, not just for a gender neutral family/child, or if you do not know gender if giving a baby shower gift, but so this lovely story of the pride and love a mother has for the child could be used for everyone. The mother beams out her pride of the love she feels in his hands. The hopes she has for him to be with friends in love and unity. She is wondering if his hair, now dandelion fluff, will flop as he goes on adventures. Pray’s soft, almost unrealness to the art, brings out a fanciful sound to the theme. Yet, they are realistic with colors and details dreamlike and calming, and have pop to keep you moving.
Now a complete departure from the usual theme of diversity, but still with diverse characters and a contemporary twist, Ho has On the Tip of a Wave: How Ai Weiwei’s Art Is Changing the Tide. Due at the end of October 2023, this book is a highlighted biography of Ai Weiwei and their work. An activist artist and the powerful messages he has given the world about the injustices he has seen and knows is out there. You may or may not say his art is actually what you might consider art, but it does make a statement. To name a few: thousands of orange life jackets used by refugees on the columns of a German theater. Dropping an expensive vase. Painting over a historical vase with Coca-Cola. The illustrations, by Catia Chien, on the other hand are both creative, familiar and odd. The afterwards is a great compilation of all we saw, plus extras in a straightforward manner, in contrast to the more lyrical story, which heavily portrays waves in many metaphors, similes, and symbols.