Happy Book Birthday to Arree Chung! Kids are going to love his debut picture book Ninja! Adults too! Who doesn’t want to be a Ninja?!
I am excited to interview Arree. My questions are in red followed by Arree’s thoughtful answers in black.
So did you want to be a Ninja when you were a kid? How about now?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be either an NBA basketball player or an artist. I’m okay with not making the NBA.
In becoming a published author/illustrator, I feel like I just got drafted by MacMillan and am playing my first year as a rookie.
Now, I just want to be the best picture book ninja I can be.
What was your inspiration for this book?
My inspiration for this book was just small idea doodle from my sketchbook.
After that, I just really wanted to capture the feeling of being sneaky and going on a secret mission. As the book developed, there were more layers of storytelling to put on. It was a lot of fun to make!
What advice would you give to my second grade students about being a artist and writer?
Follow your instincts. Follow that little voice inside of you.
Commit and stick with it.
Practice lots and don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t do it. Find great mentors. For as many people who say that you can’t do it, there are others who have done it and will help you grow and learn. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and really go for it. Try your best. When you get discouraged or frustrated, rest. Give yourself a break and when you’re ready, go at it again. You’ll get there.
If you don’t know what you want to do, that’s ok. Try lots of things. And don’t be afraid to quit if you aren’t passionate about what you are doing. Quitting things you aren’t in love with allows you to find things you can be passionate about. It’s much easier to work hard when you love what you do.
The world is craving for great things to be created so go do what you’re meant to do. Being an artist isn’t easy; it takes courage, heart and support but the end result is so rewarding.
I wrote a zillion words about my journey to being a picture book artist on my blog!
What were your favorite children’s books growing up? What are your favorites now?
Oh, so many! I really loved Ronald Dahl’s stories. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and Giant Peach were my favorite. I also loved Frog and Toad and Shel Silverstein’s poems.
Of course, there’s Dr. Seuss. (Horton Hears a Who and the Lorax), Richard Scarry, William Stieg, Leo Lionni and so many others.
More recent books I love: Olivia, Knuffle Bunny, Pigeon, The Day the Crayons Quit, Mr. Tiger Goes Wild…too many to list!
Any advice on how to channel your inner Ninja?
Ha, ha! I love this question. I don’t think kids need advice on how to do this. They do this on their own naturally. I love hanging out with kids and because they help me channel my inner Ninja. I learn a lot from kids. I love how they are unafraid and curious about the world. That is your inner Ninja.
Who inspires you and keeps you going as an artist/person?
Children. Other artists who dare to make amazing things.
My uncle is a big inspiration. His passion is physics and education. When he was in high school, he designed a physic experiment that worked so well, his teacher offered to buy it from him! Later, he founded his own company, PASCO, which makes products that focus on physics education.
I’ve always been so impressed with how he treated other people and how he lived his life. He used his ideas to improve the lives of others. He’s like a super hero to me in that way. He also married Aunt Shelley who gives me love and listens to me. She also used to send me cookies during valentines when I was in college. They are such amazing people.
My parents also are inspiring. My mom is the funniest and most spontaneous person I know. She is unconditionally loving and CRAZY. I think I get my creativity from her. My Dad was always the stern, steady, logical one in the house. My parents taught my brother and I the value of hard work and sacrifice. They immigrated to the US speaking very little English. They both gave up their professional careers and worked blue collar jobs to give us the opportunity to pursue our dreams. I don’t take that for granted and am very thankful to the both of them.
Thank you Arree for your thoughtful answers and sharing your book creation journey with us!