• The Days of Childhood
    Dec 21, 2021 / By Sung Hsin-yin ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    Before producing the film On Happiness Road, my original intent was to make a Taiwanese version of Chibi Maruko-chan. After so many years of watching Japanese anime, it was inevitable that as a director I would want to make something for my fellow Taiwanese to watch.

    The 1980’s society was still in the closing years of martial law, but there was a wonderful feeling in the air. Things were simpler. If I had taken these everyday tales from the life of eternal first-grader Lin Shu-chi, with all their absurdity and wonder, and turned them into animated shorts, I’m sure the results would have been fantastic. At the time I wrote out the stories, I couldn’t help but be moved, or even laugh out loud when I read them. I was so pleased with myself, I even imagined that these animated shorts would outdo Chibi Maruko-chan.

    However, for a variety of reasons, I later decided to produce a full-length feature. I wrote the script from the perspective of the adult Lin Shu-chi. The stories of her childhood were all there, but when told from the perspective of an adult, these childhood memories inevitably became more sentimental.

    Later, the film toured the world, won various prizes, and received good reviews from a number of critics. I should have felt deeply satisfied and continued on with my life. But what a shame it would be to abandon those short stories that were still sitting on my hard drive! I wanted the world to see these little treasures. Thus, my mind got working on the idea of turning them into a graphic novel. After talking to a few artists I hired Lo He. The reason for my choice was simple. Just as I had throughout the entire process of making the movie, I followed my gut, and my gut believed Lo He was the best person for the job.



    In the end, my gut was right. Despite being twenty years my junior, Lo He’s handling of a story that took place before she was born was pitch perfect. She produced an outstanding work. Her layouts have verve, and her art brings out the absurdity and silliness of Lin Shu-chi’s school days. Being the first reader of this comic universe, I often laughed out loud while reviewing the drafts on my computer screen. Passing by, my husband would ask, “Are you all right?” I’m proud of the graphic novel now that it is finished, but there is also a sense of sadness. What will I do now that there are no new drafts to chortle over?

    Our childhood memories are a kind of eternal homesickness. I wasn’t particularly happy as a little girl, and I sought comfort by immersing myself in manga, movies, and TV shows. Now that I’m an adult, Taiwan is a radically different place, and I’ve become someone who tells stories for a living. Looking back on my childhood, an era of absurdities, of tragicomedies shaped by history, all I see are these wonderful stories everywhere. Recently it has become popular to say, “I laughed until I cried, then cried until I laughed.” To me, a good story has to play things up in this way. As a creator of stories, this is what I hope to deliver to my audience.

    I hope that readers of On Happiness Road will find that their laughter touched with tears, and their tears touched with love.



    Read more:
    - Sung Hsin-yin: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=369
    - Lo He: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=368
    - On Happiness Roadhttps://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=384

  • Rekindling the Passion for Classic Taiwanese Cinema: Jian Jia-Cheng on Creating Comics with a Purpose
    Dec 21, 2021 / By Jian Jia-Cheng ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    This graphic novel was published in conjunction with the Taiwan Film Institute. Could you describe the process of collaboration? How was the subject of the book decided? How were the historical materials gathered? And how did you organize these materials to create a compelling storyline?

    Actually, it was a very open process. The institute has a large historical archive – film, newspapers, data on actors and movie industry workers, old equipment – pretty much every kind of historical material from the post-war period. It’s a treasure trove. They gave me full rein to choose whatever topic I wanted. The bygone studio back lots setting of the first volume was meant to draw attention to the core work of the institute – film restoration – since this was our first collaboration.

    Film restoration requires a lot of technical knowledge, but (I focused on) the why of it. What makes these old films so important that we need to restore them? If readers don’t understand the lost era of Taiwanese-language cinema, if we can’t generate an emotional connection to these films, they will lose their significance. Then who cares whether they are restored? So the story had to help readers understand the 1960s golden era of Taiwanese cinema. Just setting this premise was already a huge undertaking. I had to acquire a thorough knowledge of the filmmaking process of the era – cinematography, lighting, printing, tracking… Only with this knowledge could I understand the difficulties faced by filmmakers of the time. What were the post-production costs? Why were budgets so limited? Only then could I depict the passion of these characters who persisted in making movies despite living in an era of such limited resources. I hope readers will feel that passion, and perhaps better understand why we should treasure these films. Then maybe they can appreciate why it is such a precious opportunity to see them shown again on the big screen.


    Your previous book focused on the subject of film restoration. The current one focuses on the art of hand painted film posters and billboards. Are there any interesting anecdotes you can share from the process of developing these graphic novels?

    While drawing the previous book I accompanied the Taiwan Film Institute team on a trip to Taichung to better understand the film restoration process. We went to a warehouse on the outskirts of the city, where, along with a bunch of other junk, there were these neat stacks of film canisters. The family of the warehouse owner once ran a business showing open air movies in the squares in front of local temples. That’s why all of this stuff was there.

    The team carried out all these dusty canisters and stacked them in their truck one by one – it was hard physical labor! I thought about everything that would happen next – each would have to be carefully inspected back at the archives and ones that were too badly decayed would be thrown out – so much work. But somewhere in that stack of canisters they might find a lost film. The work of saving old films is so labor intensive, and sometimes you find nothing at all. It’s a bit like panning for gold. But it is still necessary.

    While I was collecting material for the second book, I came across an interesting fact: sometimes the people painting the posters didn’t know what would be in the movie! Because there was a mad rush to produce these Taiwanese-language films, sometimes studios ran short of cash, so they would go to the movie theaters begging for capital. The movie theaters needed to show movies to make money, and generally the movies would be profitable as long as they controlled costs. So the theaters would agree to invest, but they needed some kind of guarantee that the studio would actually complete the film. The movie poster was the guarantee. The studio would take photos of their actors and some preliminary plot sketches to the poster artists, and from this limited information they would have to create a poster as if the movie already existed. The studios could then take the poster to the movie theater to request funding. To me, this was a really interesting way of doing things.



    We’ve heard that the character of the painter in the book is derived from Chen Tzu-Fu, an famous painter of movie posters from the period. How much of the original Chen Tzu-Fu remained once you were finished molding the character? Why did you retain these parts of Chen Tzu-Fu’s life?

    Two painters, Chen Tzu-fu and Juan Ta-yung, supplied elements of the character, though I took greater inspiration from Chen Tzu-fu. Because Chen Tzu-fu was recruited into the Japanese army, and because at the time I was reading Wu Ming-Yi’s The Stolen Bicycle which talks about the experiences of Taiwanese soldiers in Southeast Asia, I started to form this image of a macho, tough-guy sort of painter. Since he lost his arm in the war, the image also became associated with the character of Yang Guo from Legends of the Condor Heroes, and that set the form of the character.



    What’s your impression of Taiwan’s hand-painted movie posters? Can you share with our readers your favorite poster?

    The beauty of hand-painted movie posters can’t be captured in reproductions. The way the text and images are arranged reveal a lot about the careful thought that went into compositions, as well as each artist’s individual style. You can spend a lot of time just admiring this aspect of the art form.

    There are so many that I like, but I’ll share a bit about one from the movie Son which left a deep impression. You see three siblings on the train tracks. The son is blind. The middle sister is mute, and oldest sister leans on the middle sister because she can barely stand. Behind them, you can see the train hurtling towards them. From this image you can get a sense of the tragic character of so many Taiwanese-language films. You break out in a cold sweat seeing what could happen to the three siblings. I think this is a classic example of a poster that can stir the viewer’s curiosity about the movie.


    A number of movie posters make appearances throughout the course of the graphic novel. Is there one that you particularly liked? Can you tell us why?

    My favorite is probably the poster for Heaven and Earth Sword, an wuxia, or martial-arts adventure film. Chen Tzu-fu had a lot of experience painting wuxia posters. He once said painting wuxia posters was second nature to him, and it really shows in his compositions and technique. I wanted to draw something like one of his posters, so for me it was a pleasure to envision this poster and draw it into the graphic novel.



    Read more:
    - Jian Jia-Cheng: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=93
    - The Movie Painterhttps://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=383

  • A Flash of Recognition: How Go, Manga, and Stefan Zweig Cross Paths in THE LION IN THE MANGA LIBRARY
    Dec 21, 2021 / By Xiaodao ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    One intriguing aspect of the graphic novel is how it brings together two seemingly distant subjects: the strategy game go, and Taiwan’s manga rental industry. Can you share how you came up with this setting for your book?

    I’m obsessed with the idea of rebellious acts, like “escaping from the world”, or “straying from the usual path”, so I decided the main character should be an “escapist”. I made her a professional go player since the game has been an interest of mine for many years. The decline of the manga rental shops makes them a setting that can evoke a lot of stories and memories, and they are just the sort of place an “escapist” would go to get away from the world.


    How did you organize the materials gathered from your interviews and observations and apply them in the graphic novel? Can you use some concrete examples from the book to demonstrate?

    The presentation of the basic information about go and the psychology of the game came from my personal experiences as a player in addition to what I learned from interviews with professional players and my observation of tournaments. The specific game layouts (used in the graphic novel) were taken from recorded professional games in Taiwan, and from the records of AlphaGo games.

    For information about the world of manga rental shops I visited a platform called Zu Meng Wang (Dream Rental Net) where industry people gather, interviewed some shop owners, and did on-site observations of their workflow and working environment. All the details of the process of closing down a shop and the warehouse environment that appear in chapters four and five come straight from my memories of those visits.



    The plot is mostly driven by the two main characters. Could you walk us through your process of developing these characters?

    The model for Winter is Dr. B from Stefan Zweig’s novella The Royal Game. Dr. B developed his prodigious chess ability as a distraction while imprisoned by the Nazis, but when he exercises his abilities in an intense game, it nearly drives him mad. The source of Hsia-sheng’s character is the suffering and pain I’ve witnessed in people around me. He is a composite image of all victims of abuse, bearing witness to the intergenerational trauma, and the deep and seemingly irresolvable resentment that results.


    Your graphic novel has go scenes drawn in the style of shonen manga (action comics targeted at teenage boys), the emotional content of shojo manga (sentimental manga targeted at teenage girls), and the real-world observation and detail of workplace manga. Taken together, it becomes hard to categorize. How would you define your work, or, how would you suggest that readers approach it?

    My creative work always contains elements that are rearrangements of my own experience. But because I am limited by what I know, I also have to draw from others. This graphic novel grew out of the life experiences of quite a few different people, incorporating them into a collage of life-fragments. Within these somewhat arbitrary experiences, I hope that readers will feel a flash of recognition, a resonance of feeling that lingers even after they put the book down.



    Read more:
    - Xiaodao: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=367
    - The Lion in the Manga Libraryhttps://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=382

  • Easy on the Eyes: Comic Book Maestro Ren Zheng-hua on Mastering the Art of Visual Storytelling
    Dec 21, 2021 / By Ren Zheng-hua ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    This humorous comic is a light read. For the most part I avoided using screentones, kept the linework simple and clean, and eschewed distorted perspective and composition, the goal being to make it easy on the reader’s eyes. My hope is that it can easily be read while seated, or lying down, or lying flat on ones stomachs, or on the toilet… or maybe even while stuck in traffic, or while the colors of sunset melt into the sea, or while taking a break from playing mahjong, or at anytime it might help you thoroughly relax and regulate your emotions. For this reason, while drawing it, I tried out lots of different light and reading angles, and only after being sure something wouldn’t strain the eyes did I dare set it in ink. After all, unveiling a work of comic book art means assuming a responsibility to the public. Think about all the parents who scold their children, screeching, “Those comic books are ruining your eyes!” The creators of comic books, never being in the position to make a rebuttal, can only accept this calumny as one accepts an oncoming natural disaster.



    The Human Bun was first serialized in China Times Weekly starting in February of 1992. An extended version was printed in New Youth Express starting in February of 1993. I want to give special thanks to these two periodicals for giving me the opportunity to test my abilities and hone my craft. Prior to The Human Bun I went through a period of struggling and eventually reinventing my style. Much of the credit goes to the “drills” I went through at China Times Weekly. It was at New Youth Express that I first began working on composition and panel layout with the goal of making everything “easy on the eyes”. I had to cut up my original art, add new material, and re-edit everything back together. It was a lot more tiring than simply re-drawing from scratch, but it forced me to understand the relationship between the eyes and the pacing of the story. I treasure these experiences for the lessons learned, and hope to continue to improve in whatever works I produce in the future.



    Read more:
    - Ren Zheng-hua: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=366
    - The Human Bun: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=381

  • From Peking Opera Actress to Superhero
    Dec 21, 2021 / By Chang Sheng ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    I’ve heard that my grandfather was quite the dandy when he was young. His favorite pastime was acting in amateur Peking Opera performances.

    According to my admittedly fuzzy memory, when I was a toddler, my grandfather and I often went to watch Peking Opera performances at Pao Fu Kung, a temple in Taipei’s Yonghe District. I didn’t know a thing about opera, but the female characters in particular left a deep impression. They cut such striking figures on the stage, sometimes delicate and graceful, sometimes sharp and forceful. Those impressions have stayed with me, and often linger in my thoughts. It might be a snatch of reserved and elegant song, or the thrust of a sword or spear in a martial dance. To me, all of these performances are beautiful.

    About five or six years ago, a thought occurred to me. Iron Man, Batman, Kamen Rider… so many superheroes wear masks to conceal their identity. But if a superhero were to paint their face like they do in Peking Opera, they wouldn’t need a mask.

    I’ve always believed good stories usually arise out of a core concept that is powerful, yet ridiculously simple. But combining science fiction and traditional opera seemed far too ambitious. I hesitated, wondering if I could pull it off. However, one concept was just too compelling. It captivated me and became a vehicle for all those beautiful impressions of Peking Opera from my childhood. I simply had to draw it.

    That concept was Yan, the story of a Peking Opera actress turned superhero.



    About the Title Calligraphy

    It is a great honor, and my good fortune, that the calligraphy of octogenarian manga master Hirata Hiroshi appears as the title characters of this graphic novel. Mr. Hirata is famous throughout Japan for his samurai-themed manga. His vigorous calligraphy also appears on the original posters for world-renowned anime classic Akira.

    When I received the original of this monumental calligraphic work, I felt it as a blessing for the project. Of course, I also felt immense pressure. I had to produce the best graphic novel I could, no matter what the cost. My deepest gratitude to Mr. Hirata Hiroshi and to Mr. Wu, who surreptitiously arranged everything and made the trip to Japan to collect the artwork and deliver it to me.



    Read more:
    - Chang Sheng: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=89
    - Yan: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=380

  • Meat-Loving Cheetah or Gentle House Cat?
    Dec 17, 2021 / By Chen Ying-Hui ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    One of the most interesting parts of picture books are the clues and messages that arise in the moments when the text and illustrations seem to spar with one another. 

    Readers are often taken aback by the combination of the cover illustration and the title Cheetah 57 scrawled across the image in large letters. The animal in the image is clearly a cheetah but it’s difficult for us to reconcile his chubby body, his innocently wide eyes and his docile stance lounging on a giant piece of meat with our standard image of a cheetah. What exactly does this so-called cheetah look like?

    Our preconceived notions often affect our judgement. As expected, Cheetah 57 is swayed by peer pressure to look more like a typical cheetah and he embarks on a sinister plot reminiscent of “Aunt Tiger” (a Taiwanese legend similar to “Little Red Riding Hood” that features a tiger who disguises himself as an aunt in an attempt to eat three children). Illustrator Fu Hsinyi uses a dull green color to show that if Cheetah 57 can’t live up to these expectations then this might be “the end” for him and shows the cheetah looking heavy and out of breath. After this, Cheetah 57 starts to exercise and practice howling. For these scenes, Fu has a few small, bright illustrations which show Cheetah 57’s determination but in the end he’s shown helplessly giving in to the huge black shadow on the wall and choosing to hide. Seeing him crying in the corner, you can’t help but feel sad about everything that’s happened so far in the book. Surely it can’t be so important to look like a cheetah that he’d shed this many tears over it?  



    He starts to dig a tunnel but is shocked when he ends up out in broad daylight and two children think he’s the son of a large Bengal cat. The image is from Cheetah 57’s perspective so we see the innocence in the children’s eyes as they’re filled with surprise. He spends the day living among humans and feels the kind of warmth he has never had the chance to experience before. The little boy tries to drag Cheetah 57 around in an upturned umbrella and his older sister persuades their parents to be thrilled about it all, then they tell stories together, they give Cheetah 57 a bath, and he even eats cat food!

    Then the story turns to another challenge: deception. Cheetah 57 senses that his human friends feel like he is family to them and this is something he craves so he pretends to be what he hopes they will like. However, he also worries that one day they will discover that he doesn’t just look like a cheetah but actually is one, and then he’ll have to deal with the unimaginable consequences. Those deep-rooted fears push against his longing to be looked after by his human friends, so he lives in fear of being exposed. The projected stereotypes and various threats, meaningful or otherwise, gnaw away at his self-confidence and leave him feeling panic-stricken like he’s walking a tightrope.

    No one could have guessed that being exposed would actually turn out to be a liberating moment for him. The siblings look at their Bengal cat and realize that he’s actually Cheetah 57. The incident makes the news and the public feel a lot of love for this cheetah who looks like a big cat, so by the end of the story he has thousands of fans! It turns out that his distinctive “look” means that he can be both: he can eat a lot of meat and be a gentle house cat, it’s these differences that make him multifaceted and full of surprises. Even though the children decide that they can’t tell their parents, maybe we as readers can try to be the kind of adults where if we found out that our new cat was actually a cheetah we could still appreciate him all the same, then give him a piece of meat. The unique American-style illustrations feature flexible, unrestrained lines that hint at the possibility of freedom for Cheetah 57 and the kind of brilliance that arises when you dismantle limiting framework.



    Read more:
    - Tina Kuo: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=364
    - Fu Hsinyi: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=365
    - Cheetah 57: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=379

  • An Interview with the Creators of I DON’T WANT TO EAT BROCCOLI
    Dec 17, 2021 / By Kang Hsuan, Sui Ri, Hsueh Hui-Yin ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    Publisher: Kang Hsuan

    Q: What was the collaboration process like for the author and illustrator? Did the story come first and then an illustrator was asked to draw the images, or did the two of them create the book together?

    A: You could actually say that there were three parties involved in the creation of this book. Almost every year, Kang Hsuan puts out a call for picture book submissions and our team votes on the winning story. After I Don’t Want to Eat Broccoli won the prize, our editor discussed various modifications to the story with the author before inviting suitable illustrators to draft artwork for the book. An early editorial suggestion was that the illustrator should use photographs of different types of broccoli to create a collage. However, when the illustrator tried to use photographs for the entire book she was filled with a slight sense of horror, so instead she revised the brief and decided to use other materials to create the images. This added a degree of playfulness to the story and the end result was an extraordinary book that encapsulates a very personal illustration style. Our editor helped coordinate the author’s and illustrator’s ideas right up until the end when the book was finally complete. By tying together the author’s story, the illustrator’s creativity and the editor’s professionalism, the three of them were able to produce a truly wonderful picture book.



    Q: Can you share the unusual story of how you chose the cover design?

    A: The illustrator designed two covers and our editors found it difficult to choose which one to use, so on a whim we decided to conduct a poll on Kang Hsuan’s Facebook page to let readers vote on it. To our surprise, one of the covers won by an overwhelming majority and that is the cover we ended up using.


    Author: Sui Ri

    Q: Do you like broccoli? Why did you want to create a story about not eating broccoli?

    A: I didn’t like broccoli until I was an adult. When you consider it on a visual level, broccoli’s appearance is quite unusual in the vegetable world. On several occasions when I had no choice but to eat it, I wondered whether it was the heads or the stalks of the broccoli that I disliked so much. I think it’s alright to be picky about food to a certain degree, but every now and then I feel it’s good to be flexible and give these foods another try. Maybe one day you’ll suddenly find it tastes okay.


    Q: In the book, the mother gets the child to chop up the broccoli by making it into a game where the child is a barber giving the broccoli a haircut. Where did the inspiration for this come from?

    A: It’s always easier to do eat food you don’t like in small mouthfuls, and making it into a game is a great way to divert a child’s attention.


    Q: Did you encounter anything interesting during the creative process? Or anything frustrating?

    A: The evening I sat down to edit the pages, I ate my favorite pizza and was in a pretty good mood. The illustrations hadn’t been done at that point so I imagined what the images would look like and that was the basis for separating the text into pages. It felt relaxing to split it into paragraphs and then have the words leap to the next page. I’m also used to dividing up paragraphs when I write novels and screenplays, but when you’re cutting between scenes in picture books there needs to be a concise, nimble rhythm to it. After readers finish the last line of a page, they can flip to the next page and experience a whole new atmosphere. When I’m writing novels and screenplays with big overarching structures, I occasionally find myself wishing that I could turn the page in the same brisk, straightforward way I can with a picture book. Lastly, I also felt extremely grateful when the editor sent me the vivid images that the illustrator had created.


    Illustrator: Hsueh Hui-Yin

    Q: What were your thoughts on reading the story? Do you worry about picky eaters too?

    A: It’s a lovely story about parent-child interactions and as I was reading I immediately saw the scenes unfold in my mind. Although I can be picky about food, I still quite like broccoli.


    Q: The book presents broccoli in all kinds of different ways, why did you design it like this? And which broccoli is your favorite?

    A: There are some spreads in the book where broccoli fills the entire page, so the editor suggested that I use a range of source materials (physical objects, collages, drawings) to portray the broccoli and give it a richer appearance. My favorite is the broccoli where I used bubble wrap to create the pattern of the florets.



    Read more:
    - Sui Ri: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=363
    - Hsueh Hui-Yin: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=330
    - I Don't Want to Eat Broccoli: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=378

  • Notes from a Fishing Village Residency
    Dec 17, 2021 / By HOM ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    Before I had the chance to visit the Zhengbin Fishing Harbor, I was quite unfamiliar with Keelung and like most people I just held the preconceived notion that it was an “overcast, rainy mountain town”. When I came here in mid-May, I left Keelung Station and saw several black kites circling overhead in the gloomy gray sky which matched the image of the place in my mind. The misty, overcast sky continued for about a week and then the weather gradually turned, becoming more summery as the sky over the harbor steadily turned to blue. The veil of my initial impression of Keelung lifted and the harbor’s beautiful scenery appeared before me.

    During the month I lived in the village, I often walked to the harbor. It was a small, secluded space where fishermen gathered. I quietly looked out at the dark green sea and followed the path beside the harbor before coming to the colorful buildings now known as the “Rainbow Houses”. I frowned, I didn’t really like bright colors. Later when I searched online, I found some old photos of the harbor and saw that the Rainbow Houses had previously been a row of buildings that alternated between white and light blue in a way that was simple but elegant. As well as feeling it was a shame, I began to use my own perception of beauty to size up these heavily-painted buildings. Pretty much every day, there were tourists who came to the Rainbow Houses specifically to take photos and you could even see newlyweds doing wedding photoshoots. Clearly the Rainbow Houses were a powerful form of publicity and had already become important to the local area.



    As I passed the Rainbow Houses every day, I looked at them from the same angle as all the tourists taking photos. The colors reflected on the water and the light of the sky varied at different times of the day, together they magically transformed the surface of the water and every day I took lots of photos of the harbor. The sky, whether it was blue, violet, pink, or gray, embellished the colors of the Rainbow Houses and made them feel even more fleeting and ever-changing. I don’t know when it started but my gaze gradually became drawn to them.

     After carefully thinking it through, I realized it didn’t have anything to do with the colors of the houses but rather that the history and geography of Zhengbin Fishing Harbor were what gave the place its charming retro appearance and made the scenery what it is today.

    This residency has given me the chance to get to know more places in Taiwan. Thank you very much to the team at Zhengbin Art for inviting me to the residency, it gave me plenty of time to discover so much of the fascinating scenery that Zhengbin Fishing Harbor has to offer.   



    Read more:
    - HOM: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=151
    - Watching the Sea: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=377

  • As Deep as the Ocean
    Dec 17, 2021 / By Sung Pei ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    A vast expanse of blue-green water unfurls in front of you as if lit from behind, enveloping you in a fantasy-like atmosphere where fish large and small swim beside you and come up close to meet you.…

    The pictures in A Place Like the Sea evoked memories of the dazzling and unforgettable experience I had the first time I entered an aquarium. The pictures don’t just portray the underwater world separated by a curtain of glass, but also the penguin exhibit and the theater where the dolphins perform. These small human-made oceans are teaming with marine life, some of the species were moved here while others were raised within its walls, all to be exhibited before our very eyes.



    Lin Po-Ting uses a drawing technique that makes his illustrations feel reminiscent of printmaking, he draws silhouette-like figures whose black outlines contrast with the dappled light of the brightly colored seawater, creating a unique atmosphere in the space. The book is filled with illustrated double-page spreads which feel like movie screens, they have an immediate emotional impact and go far beyond what the text describes. There are very few words in the book and they are only used to state the boy’s inner thoughts. When the boy walks into the huge aquarium with his parents, we see his initial amazement and curiosity turn to fear and then panic as he gets separated from his family, then the nervousness and anticipation that set in when he’s on his own. These various emotions form the content of the text.

    The first-person narrative mostly conveys they boy’s subjective experience, while the illustrations usually take an omniscient perspective to objectively depict the environment around him. Sometimes the words and illustrations are not completely consistent, and at times even go so far as to contradict one another, which lets the reader discover another layer of hidden meanings in these small gaps and contradictions. There are also places where there aren’t any contradictions but the text and illustrations create a play on words, where the text is describing the boy’s subjective experience but at the same time is also conveying the thoughts of other characters in the pictures.

    A Place Like the Sea uses these puns between the text and illustrations to cleverly tie the characters and setting to the marine life as the young boy’s inner thoughts and feelings can become those of the aquatic creatures themselves. By expressing their situation from the boy’s perspective, the book prompts readers to think about it from the creatures’ point of view and raises the question: Do aquariums force marine animals to leave their homes forever?

    Moreover, comparing the front and back endpapers raises an additional question: If we take the sea creatures who have lived in captivity and return them to their natural habitats, will they even still be able to live in an ocean which has been so heavily polluted by humans? What a profound question for the author to hide in amongst the book’s beautiful illustrations and missing-child plot! 



    Read more:
    - Lin Po-Ting: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=256
    - A Place Like the Sea: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=376