Category: Illustrations for Stories

Book Review w/ Author Q&A | The #picturebooks of Muon Van (“In A Village by the Sea” and “Little Tree”) with a lovely convo about her creative style of writing stories for children.

Posted Sunday, 3 January, 2016 by jorielov , , , , , 0 Comments

Ruminations & Impressions Book Review Banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Sergey Zolkin.

Acquired Book By:

I was selected to review “In A Village by the Sea” by JKS Communications: A Literary Publicity Firm. After I was putting together this showcase, to highlight both the story and a conversation with the author, I learnt of her second picture book “Little Tree”; enabling me to combine my showcase to feature both releases. JKS is the first publicity firm I started working with when I launched Jorie Loves A Story in August, 2013. I am honoured to continue to work with them now as a 2nd Year Book Blogger. I received my complimentary copy of In A Village by the Sea (hardback) and Little Tree (PDF) direct from the publicist at JKS Communications in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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I decided I wanted to switch things up a bit today, and offer the conversation before my thoughts on behalf of the illustrated stories contained within the picture books of Muon Van! In this way, I wanted the author’s own words to help define the stories and in some ways, give an extra layer of enjoyment to my readers as they read this ahead of knowing what I found inside the books themselves! Enjoy!

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My convo with Muon Van on her creative way of giving children a beautiful ‘first start’ towards embracing creative stories built on family, hearth and love:

How did you create In A Village by the Sea to bespeak of such a grounding of autobiographical inspiration and homage to your heritage whilst renewing the spirit of Vietnam for those of us who are not as familiar with the country?

Van responds: I come from a long line of fisherfolk on both sides of the family, which is pretty unusual for both an American and Vietnamese-American. I grew up with my dad at sea most of the time, and eating seafood for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so I wanted to write a story that would reflect those experiences.

Whilst your father was away fishing, how did your mother encourage you and your siblings not to worry about his safety and well being? Were the passages of home and hearth reminiscent of your mother tending to the home? I ask as there is such a lot of warmth and love set inside this story, it softens the concerns of dangers at sea. 

Van responds: Even though fishing is considered one of the most dangerous occupations around, my siblings and I didn’t consider it as such while we were growing up–it was just what our dad did. My mother definitely tended the home–cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping, dressing, educating nine kids! I always knew she was a superwoman and supermom but after I had my first kid, I was amazed!

I was curious about the process you took with April Chu to bring your story to life through her illustrations – can you explain how you worked together to give the reader such a wellspring of living realism whilst deepening it with thought-provoking narrative?

Van responds: Unlike what most people think, April and I did not collaborate in real-time on the book–we only met once it was completed! April only received a plain, unannotated manuscript and knowledge that the story was dedicated to my father, a Vietnamese fisherman. With just those pieces of information, she was able to imagine and execute the brilliant art in the book. I, and the readers, are truly lucky!

The spirit of Vietnam is strongly lit inside you, as the story that is set inside this picture book is alarmingly clear and visually stunning – when you wrote the words that are featured against the illustrations did the final copy read to you like the internal visuals you had whilst you had written the story?

Van responds: I believe the published visuals are faithful to the story but in my imagination, they were spare and monochromatic, sort of like the verse. I was surprised, and delighted, by the outcome.

What has caused the fishing lifestyle of the villages in Vietnam to disappear? Is it the culture of the time that is changing or is the fishing industry unable to support itself, as this happens in other countries as well?

Van responds: I can’t speak to all fishing lifestyles in Vietnam–just the one in my ancestral village. The villagers there, and the ones who have migrated to America, have found the the income derived from fishing is not as great, or sustainable, as it is through other means. While most of my relatives worked in fishing when they first arrived in America, most now work in the cosmetic (nails) industry, as it’s lower-risk and more profitable.

In your heart, your drawn to the sea as it states in your biography you live near it; what do you find the most alluring balm about the sea and how it’s set a harmonic pulse inside your life?

Van responds: Probably that it seems so vast and unknowable (you can only see a bit of it at a time, from a beach or a boat or an airplane). I also like the color blue :)

In The Little Tree the colour contrasts are brilliantly bright and pop with vitality whereas the colour contrasts in In A Village by the Sea is more traditional and classic. Did you have input about the colour spectrum for the illustrations and books?

Van responds: No, but I love that they are so different.

The Little Tree is philosophical and intuitive, giving children a pause to think about the larger scale of life and how the circle of life evolves during our lifetime. How did you tap into this life lesson whilst writing such a cleverly witty story?

Van responds: I was inspired after my first (and so far, only) trip back to Vietnam in nearly thirty years. I thought about how my parents must have felt when we left and how they would felt about it now, thirty years later.

I love how you’ve stitched familial history inside your stories – you write from the heart and your stories have a living spirit about them. How did you capture the moment of recognition to be given to the Little Tree by the Little Seed’s leaf? It was such a warm gesture of love from a child to a mother.

Van responds: Parents will always know their children, right? (Ask me this again in thirty years; my older child is only four :))

You give so much of your own heart to your writings and you leave fingerprints of affection in your closing statements where your ancestry and your family are illuminated in short stories of recollection. How did your family react to the picture books and of your continuance of carrying forward your living histories to inspire children and adults alike?

Van responds: My family likes to play it cool but I think one day soon, one of them will get choked up reading it to their daughter or son. Three, soon to be four, of my brothers just had their first child!

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Truly blessed to have had the chance to ask these questions of Ms Van and to have your responses threaded inside my showcase! I was truly touched by the warmth of her words in her stories and wanted to gain a bit more insight into how she created the world in which I lived for the time I soaked inside her picture books! I can definitely foresee many Mums and Das appreciating ‘reading time’ with their children as they pick up either volume and enter a world of family and timeless love!

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Book Review w/ Author Q&A | The #picturebooks of Muon Van (“In A Village by the Sea” and “Little Tree”) with a lovely convo about her creative style of writing stories for children.In a Village by the Sea
by Muon Van
Illustrator/Cover Designer: April Chu
Source: Publisher via JKS Communications

Written in a spare, lyrical style using fresh, evocative imagery, this richly illustrated picture book is about longing for the comforts of home while braving the adventures and perils of the wide world.

In a house by the sea, a woman is cooking. Near the woman, a baby is crying. Under the floor, a cricket is painting. In the painting, a fisherman rides stormy seas, longing to get home to his wife and infant…

The perfect book for teaching about diverse cultures and lifestyles, children will delight in this beautiful story which pays homage to the vanishing fishing culture in Vietnam, honors courage and sacrifice, and celebrates hearth and home.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781939547156

Genres: Children's Literature, Early Reader Stories, Illustrated Stories


Published by Creston Books LLC

on 9th June, 2015

Format: Hardcover Edition

Pages: 32

Published By: Creston Books, LLC (@CrestonBooks)

Available Formats: Hardcover and Ebook

Converse via Twitter: #MuonVan

#picturebooks and #JKSLitPublicity

About (Illustrator) April Chu

April Chu

APRIL CHU began her career as an architect with a degree from the University of California, Berkeley, but decided to return to her true passion of illustrating and storytelling. April currently lives and works in Oakland, California.

About Muon Van

Muon Van

MUON VAN was born on the run in the southern port city of Rach Giá, Vietnam. When she was nine months old, she left Vietnam as part of the “boat people” mass exodus. She now lives in Northern California.

Her previous book, In a Village by the Sea, is also a family story and received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus, as well as rave reviews from The New York Times and School Library Journal’s Fuse #8 Production.

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Posted Sunday, 3 January, 2016 by jorielov in #JorieLovesIndies, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Review (non-blog tour), Children's Literature, Compassion & Acceptance of Differences, Debut Author, Early Reader | Chapter Books, Equality In Literature, Illustration for Books & Publishing, Illustrations for Stories, Indie Author, JKS Communications: Literary Publicity Firm, Multi-cultural Characters and/or Honest Representations of Ethnicity, Picture Book, Story knitted out of Ancestral Data

Book Review | A wicked science-based series for #MGLit readers: Galactic Academy of Science: “The Contaminated Case of the Cooking Contest” by Peter Y. Wong & Pendred Noyce

Posted Sunday, 3 January, 2016 by jorielov , , , , 0 Comments

Ruminations & Impressions Book Review Banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Sergey Zolkin.

Acquired Book By:

I was selected to review “The Contaminated Case of the Cooking Contest” by JKS Communications: A Literary Publicity Firm. JKS is the first publicity firm I started working with when I launched Jorie Loves A Story in August, 2013. I am honoured to continue to work with them now as a 2nd Year Book Blogger. I received my complimentary copy of The Contaminated Case of the Cooking Contest direct from the publisher Tumblehome Learning in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Why I am finding Tumblehome Learning such a great publisher:

My introduction to the publisher was by way of The Walking Fish, a story that left a firm impression on my mind and heart about two authors who were attempting to make ‘science palpable for young readers’ and turnt out a wicked good story! As you will see in my review of that particular story, I applaud writers who can create a niche out of science and bring science to an audience of younger readers who may not already find science a stimulating entreaty into understanding life and the environs in which we live.

Being able to ‘try out’ one of the serial installments for the Galactic Academy of Science was a special treat because this series has sparked supplemental materials for both teachers and parents, who want to encourage their science-curious young minds to explore more than what is contained inside the book itself. I find it quite wicked that a publisher has found a cross-media way to explore stories and how those stories are evolving into thought-provoking projects to get kids interested in science. Anything that engages with hands-on learning and thought-producing after effects is something I will be standing behind as I grew up learning science at the community Science Center where nothing was off-limits and topics of discussion grew out of natural bourne curiosity. It was a lot of wicked fun over the Summers, but more than anything, I appreciated a stimulating environment to ask ‘how’ and ‘why’ and find answers that re-inspired me to continue to learn even more.

If books and publishers can bring that same sense of curiosity to readers, who might not even have a Science Center to attend – what explosive fun that would be! Definitely applaud Tumblehome Learning to continue to bridge the gaps between where those of us who are naturally curious about science and those who are not entirely sure they want to love science can come together through the craft of stories with characters who inspire everyone who picks up this series to read.

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Book Review | A wicked science-based series for #MGLit readers: Galactic Academy of Science: “The Contaminated Case of the Cooking Contest” by Peter Y. Wong & Pendred NoyceThe Contaminated Case of the Cooking Contest
by Peter Y. Wong
Source: Publisher via JKS Communications

Middle school students Mae and Clinton are excited to be aboard a Caribbean cruise that features cooking contests for adults and teens. But when passengers start falling ill, Selectra Volt, their Galactic Academy of Science guide from the future, challenges them to find the cause. Is the outbreak a result of poor food handling, or is someone purposely sabotaging the ship’s food supply?

Mae and Clinton learn about food safety through a series of visits to scientists, doctors, and inventors of the past and present. They visit Nicholas Appert, who invented canning to feed Napoleon’s army; Clarence Birdseye, who learned about freezing fish from the Inuit in the Arctic; John Snow, who discovered the cause of a cholera outbreak in Victorian London; Typhoid Mary, who unknowingly caused illness in seven families she worked for; Ferran Adria, a master of creative cooking; and present-day scientists studying food-borne illness at the CDC in Atlanta and a U.S. Army research facility in Natick, Massachusetts.

Between trips, Mae and Clinton make new friends, compete in the kids’ cooking contest, help out in the ship infirmary, test food samples for bacteria, gather clues, and follow suspicious characters. As the ship sails through the edge of a hurricane and the ship infirmary fills to overflowing, the Clinton and Mae risk their lives getting medical supplies, gather evidence, and sift through a pile of suspects.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9780990782926

Genres: Children's Literature, Cookery, Cosy Mystery, Middle Grade


Published by Tumblehome Learning

on 1st June, 2015

Format: Paperback Edition

Pages: 174

Published By: Tumblehome Learning (@TumblehomeLearn)

Available Formats: Paperback and Ebook

For more information check out this Galactic Academy series page!

Converse via Twitter: #GalacticAcademyOfScience

#TumblehomeLearning and #JKSLitPublicity

About Peter Y. Wong

Peter Y. Wong

Peter has been involved with engineering research and education throughout his career as a Research Associate Professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Tufts University (Medford, MA); Director of University Relations and Director of Middle School Engineering Curriculum at the Museum of Science, Boston, MA; Founder and Director of the K2 Enrichment Program in Newton, MA; and Board Member of the Massachusetts State Science and Engineering Fair. He has taught undergraduate courses ranging from fluid mechanics to gourmet engineering (heat transfer in the kitchen). He has produced over 85 technical journal and conference publications, one patent, three middle school algebra and engineering supplemental books, and one women in engineering outreach guide. He has directed dozens of undergraduate students in research, advised 13 graduate engineering students, and reviewed 18 graduate students as a thesis committee member. His after-school program, K2 Enrichment Program, has been running since 2005, generating science & engineering interest in numerous young children ever year.

Peter graduated from Boston Latin School in 1986. He received his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (senior thesis work related to thermal processing of High Temperature superconductors) and Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering (master thesis work numerical modeling of zone-melting recrystallization of silicon wafers) from Tufts University in 1991. His doctoral research focused on numerical modeling of radiant thermal processing of semiconductors. He received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Tufts University in 1995.

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Posted Sunday, 3 January, 2016 by jorielov in #JorieLovesIndies, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Review (non-blog tour), Children's Literature, Debut Author, Debut Novel, Illustrations for Stories, JKS Communications: Literary Publicity Firm, Juvenile Fiction, Literature for Boys, Middle Grade Novel

Blog Book Tour | “PJ Mouse” a Children’s Chapter Book series inspired by the author’s daughter. Gwyneth Jane Page brings “PJ Mouse” to life through adventurous tales!

Posted Wednesday, 16 December, 2015 by jorielov , , , , 0 Comments

Ruminations & Impressions Book Review Banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Sergey Zolkin.

Acquired Book By: I was selected to be a part of the blog tour for “PJ Mouse series” hosted by iRead Book Tours. I received a complimentary copy of the books: “The Travel Adventures of PJ Mouse: in Canada” and “The Travel Adventures of PJ Mouse: in Queensland” direct from the author Gwyneth Jane Page. Initially when I signed up for the blog tour we were meant to select one or the other, rather than both titles to review. I cannot remember which title I marked myself down to read these many months later, however, I’m yielding to thinking it was Queensland, as dearly curious I am about Canada I think I opted to read the one about Australia. Therefore, only one of these were sent in exchange for an honest review whereas the second book I was not obliged to post a review, but rather elected too as I was most delighted in reading it. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Continuing my appreciation for Canadian Lit:

For most of 2015, I have happily spent inside the covers of Canadian author’s works of story-craft, most of whom turnt out to be for Children’s Lit, as I explained on my review for Hannah Both Ways on the last blog tour I hosted for Canadian Indie Pub: Rebelight Publishing. There have been other stories I’ve happily soaked inside this year writ by other Canadians, however, what I appreciated the most is the diversity of their stories and the heart-centre of the stories they craft for children. They re-establish the innocence and the mirth of coming-of age whilst giving adventure and light-hearted humour a bit of a nod as well! It’s been an incredible year for #CanLit for me, and I am quite enthused I get to round out December with another chance to spotlight my appreciation for my dear neighbours of the North!

My review of The Travel Adventures of PJ Mouse in Canada:

The Travel Adventures of PJ Mouse in Canada by Gwyneth Jane Page

PJ Mouse, an adorable little stuffed animal, was lost and alone until young Emily heard his cries for help. Now, along with his new family, PJ gets to travel the world-discovering exciting new places and people along the way!​ ​ Come join PJ on his first adventure across Canada as he hikes on a glacier in the Rockies, finds a salt lake in the prairies, and walks on the ocean floor in Nova Scotia.

As soon as you pick up the Chapter Books, you can re-direct your mind back to your own childhood – where crayons and colouring were the key highlights of your afternoons, and where adventure lurked around every experience you were more than excited to become a part of. Childhood has it’s own sensibility and exploration of the world around us in such a fashion as to lend eyes to observational nuances and a heartfelt centering on life as a whole. What I appreciated about the artwork in the Chapter Books is how transporting they were to etch back memories of my own childhood days, as they felt like illustrations any child would have loved to have had hung on their wall. There is a slight cheeky bit of humour in most of the illustrative plates but there is also a twinge of childhood reverie where you can re-gather a sense about what it was like to first see ‘everything’ the world presented to you.

What duress – what despair! PJ Mouse is betwixt a rain downpour and an insistent instinct to be sheltered by a kind soul who would give him friendship rather than abandonment. Little PJ Mouse is found shuddering under a bench by a daughter and her Mum; the only two who found him, and thankfully the ones who meant him goodwill rather than harm. PJ Mouse has quite the personality, as he’s keenly developed in this first installment of the series – his voice is true and his manner of speaking not only appeals to the context of his character but he speaks how you would think he might, and that’s most satisfying!

In Chapter Two, before I could read the text of this section, it’s the despondent look upon PJ Mouse set ‘awash and a whirl’ that truly struck my fancy of taking away my attention! Love when Chapter Books for children have such a hearty tone and a beat to them; almost as if they were put to song, as their rhythm is quite cheerful, and this one has an up tempo that has a lovely rhyming sync of words about it!

There is a bit of a cleverness at getting children to ‘think outside the box’ as you come to notice how creative the story takes on it’s pacing. Even the illustrations start to shift and collide with the words themselves in order to provide new perspectives and new meanings within the confines of expression and showing of actions. It’s a lovely learning lesson nearly set to the pace of a word game – as young children I would imagine would be in a fit of giggles listening to PJ Mouse (and his woeful me expressions) and seeing how his curiosity and his enthused approach to his adventures with Emily take him to places he never imagined were possible to visit.

Geographically speaking, this is a good primer to introduce children to Canada and the driving route of how you can cross-sect the Provinces; especially keen for American children, who might not get the best overview in their lessons. It’s a clever way to entice children to think about geography but also, locale and place in proportion to where your visiting. Too often I think there is a bit of a rush to get from Point A to Point B without truly appreciating the in-between bits; and those are the most dear to remember years lateron! Definitely shows how a slowing down and keeping an awareness about your surroundings is the best approach to adventuring because you learn from where you go and you takeaway bits of those places with you when you leave them.

Blog Book Tour | “PJ Mouse” a Children’s Chapter Book series inspired by the author’s daughter. Gwyneth Jane Page brings “PJ Mouse” to life through adventurous tales!The Travel Adventures of PJ Mouse in Queensland
by Gwyneth Jane Page and Megan Elizabeth
Illustrator/Cover Designer: Megan Elizabeth
Source: Author via iRead Book Tours

PJ Mouse, an adorable little stuffed animal, was lost and alone until young Emily heard his cries for help. Now, along with his new family, PJ gets to travel the world - discovering exciting new places, people, and animals along the way!​ ​

Come join PJ on this, his second adventure, along the coast of Queensland, as he snorkels at the Great Barrier Reef, chats with a Loggerhead turtle in the midst of a great undertaking, and explores the tropical rainforest- until he has to be rescued by one of the local friendly wildlife.

Places to find the book:

ISBN: 9781770845084

Genres: Artistic Adaptations &/or Picture Books, Canadian Lit, Children's Literature, Early Reader Stories


Published by First Choice Books

on 27th June, 2015

Format: Paperback Edition

Pages: 60

Available Formats: Paperback and Ebook

Converse via: #PJMouse

About Gwyneth Jane Page and Megan Elizabeth

Gwyneth Jane Page and Megan Elizabeth

Gwyneth Jane Page (Jane), who holds an MBA from Simon Fraser University, has called many countries home. She grew up in such places as England, Peru, the USA, and the Caribbean, and has also lived in Australia and Canada. She now resides in Victoria, BC with her husband and four children. The PJ Mouse books are based on Jane's family trips with the real stuffed animal, PJ, who was found by Emily, Jane's youngest daughter.

Megan Elizabeth, Jane's second oldest daughter, has lived in Canada and Australia and travelled extensively with her family​ ​and PJ. Having been artistic since she was a little girl, illustrating the PJ Mouse books has enabled her to combine her love of travel with her love of art. Megan completed her studies at VanArts and is now building her career as a professional photographer as well as an illustrator. She currently resides in Victoria, BC with her family.

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Posted Wednesday, 16 December, 2015 by jorielov in Animals in Fiction & Non-Fiction, Biographical Fiction & Non-Fiction, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Bookish Discussions, Canadian Literature, Childhood Friendship, Children's Literature, Early Reader | Chapter Books, Illustrations for Stories, Indie Author, Life in Another Country, Nature & Wildlife, Rescue & Adoption of Animals, Social Change, The Natural World, Travel Narrative | Memoir, Travel Writing, Travelogue