Happy Chinese New Year (on January 28, 2017)! Congratulations to Andrea Wang and her debut picture book! Stayed tuned below to win a signed copy.
The Nian Monster by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Alina Chau (Albert Whitman & Co./2016)
Xingling is preparing to celebrate the New Year in Shanghai with her family, but the Nian Monster has other ideas. He threatens to eat Xingling and destroy her beloved city! Clever Xingling comes up with ways to thwart and trick the monster, first by offering him noodles for long life and then fish for good fortune. Bit by bit, Xingling stalls the Nian Monster until she sends him away spectacularly. This fun and adventurous story is also full of great information about customs and traditions of Chinese New Year, accompanied by bright gorgeous illustrations. THE NIAN MONSTER is a fabulous story about a brave and smart girl in modern Shanghai outwitting a monster.
Spotlight on Andrea:
How did the idea for this picture book come about? What were some of the challenges and the highlights of your journey to publication?
I stumbled upon the ancient folktale of the Nian monster when I was looking for information about Chinese New Year to tell my sons. I did more digging and found several videos on YouTube with different versions of the story. I was intrigued by the representation of the old year as a ferocious beast that ate everyone until it was scared away by three simple things – fire, noise, and the color red. I thought I’d try re-telling the old folktale in a modern setting.
One of the first highlights of this book’s journey was receiving a Letter of Commendation from the SCBWI Barbara Karlin Grant contest. It was a wonderful validation and encouraged me to keep querying. I also think it helped the manuscript make it to acquisition meetings at two different publishing houses, although it was ultimately passed on for different reasons. The third time was the charm, though! My editor at Albert Whitman found my manuscript in the slush pile and made an offer on it (definitely a highlight)! Since then, I would say that the biggest challenge was waiting for the book to be published, and the one of the biggest highlights was seeing the artwork. Illustrator Alina Chau did such a fantastic job making the story come alive, as well as adding layers to the story that gave it a depth and richness I could never have imagined.
Xingling is clever and brave. She not only faces the Nian monster, but she comes up with ways to trick him. Without giving away the whole story, how did you come up with ways Xingling could thwart the monster? Did you know how she would trick him from the beginning, or did you have to figure things out and/or discard ideas?
I had lots of ideas from the very beginning on how Xingling was going to trick Nian, but they were all bad! J At one point, there were laser guns involved… (See? I told you they were bad!) None of them felt right until I thought hard about what I loved about Chinese New Year and the Chinese culture. My parents immigrated to the U.S. from China and always tried to make Chinese New Year special, even though we lived in rural Ohio and didn’t have access to cultural events or ingredients. This was the in the 1970’s and you couldn’t just run out and go to the Asian grocery store, because they didn’t exist. I remember my mom making tofu in the basement! Anyway, once I connected to the foods of my childhood, the ways that Xingling tricks Nian fell into place almost immediately.
Food is a big part of this book, which is another reason I love this story. I love food! What is your favorite Chinese food item and why?
I love food, too, which makes this question impossible to answer! When I was around Xingling’s age, though, my favorite Chinese food was a steamed bun filled with sweet red bean paste. I know, it sounds kind of gross (Bean paste? What is that?) but it was a huge treat at the time because it took so long to make. My mom made the filling by cooking the beans, adding sugar and a dollop of lard, and blending it into a smooth, creamy “paste.” She made the dough for the buns, too, and showed me how to roll out circles of dough, fill them with the bean paste, and twist the top to seal them. Then the buns were placed on squares of waxed paper and steamed until done. I loved spending the time cooking with her as much as I loved the final product!
Andrea Wang grew up making dumplings and taking baths with orange peels to prepare for Chinese New Year. She loves to travel and try new foods and has tasted camel in Beijing, mantis shrimp in Hanoi, and emu in Perth. A longtime resident of Massachusetts, Andrea now lives in Colorado with her family and their dog, Mochi, named for the sticky rice dessert.
To win a signed copy of The Nian Monster for yourself, a young reader, or a school or library, follow these directions to enter in the drawing:
1. Comment on this post by Saturday, January 28 by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and contacted on Tuesday, January 31 (be sure to include your email address).
2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.
EDITED TO ADD: Congratulations to Kathryn E. for winning a signed copy of THE NIAN MONSTER! Your prize will be on its way to you this week!
Happy New Year!