New PaperTigers Interview: Gabrielle Wang

Friday, April 26th, 2013

Author Gabrielle WangHead on over to the PaperTigers site, where we continue our Journeys theme with an interview with Australian author and illustrator Gabrielle Wang.

Gabrielle talks about her journey as a writer, before and since the publication of her acclaimed first novel, The Garden of Empress Cassia, and introuduces us to her latest book, The Wish Bird, which is due out in August. I’m particularly excited about this book as it will feature “about ten full-page pen and ink illustrations throughout the book, more than I have ever done before.” Gabrielle started out as an artist before becoming a writer, so we defintiely have a treat in store.

Here are a couple of snippets from the interview:

I spent my teen years trying to hide my Chineseness as I think a lot of children of immigrant families did. At the same time, I always had the feeling that I didn’t quite belong in Australia, that perhaps I belonged in China. But after living in Taiwan and China for six years, I realised I did not fit in there either. Eventually, I think, we all need to realise that we are citizens of the world.

For me travelling is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Going to a new place is like being a child again. Now, I travel for research, which gives me added pleasure. But it is important to leave your own culture at home otherwise misunderstandings can ensue.

For example…! Head on over to the PaperTigers website to find out more and to read the whole interview.theme_2013_journeys

PaperTigers 10th Anniversary: Two Top-Ten picks of Chinese-themed Australian books by Chris Cheng

Monday, November 12th, 2012

In this final post in our 10th Anniversary Top-10 series, we present not one but two book lists from Australian author Chris Cheng, both with a Chinese theme.  The first focuses on picture books and the second on middle-grade/YA fiction.

Chris is the author of more than forty books for children of all ages, including two books in Scholastic’s My Australia series, The Melting Pot and New Gold Mountain, which explores racially-based conflicts on the New South Wales goldfields during the 1860s. Before becoming a full-time writer, Chris was a primary school teacher and then spent almost eight years teaching in the Education Centre of Taronga Zoo in Sydney, where he established Australia’s first Zoomobile.  He has written many non-fiction titles about animals and the environment, and do read this Personal View he wrote for us a few years ago, Drawing from eco-riches: Australia’s environment in children’s books.

Chris is just coming to the end of his stint as an ambassador for Australia’s National Year of Reading.  He is currently co-chair of the International Advisory Board for SCBWI and is Co-Regional Advisor for Australia and New Zealand.  As well as his website and author blog, do check out Chris’ New Kidz Books In Oz blog; and he reports on Asian, Australian and New Zealand books for Cynsations, where you can also read an interview.


(Current) Top-10 Australian Books with a Chinese theme X 2 by Chris Cheng

Far out… you want to limit this list to 10… that is night on soooooo difficult. We are a multicultural country with immigrants from many other places around the world coming to Australia and being integral to the foundation stones on which modern Australia is constructed.

So these are my ‘current’ top 10 favs of a multicultural nature – all by Australians and all have a Chinese theme … biased I know … and they don’t include my books!

Picture Books:

~ The Arrival by Shaun Tan (Lothian, 2006)

~ Big Dog by Libby Gleeson, illustrated by Armin Greder (Scholastic Australia, 2004)

~ The Boss by Allan Baillie, illustrated by Fiona O’Beirne (Scholastic, 1992)

~ Fang Fang’s Chinese New Year by Sally Rippin (Omnibus Books, 1996)

~ The Kinder Hat by Morag Loh, illustrated by Donna Rawlins (Ashton Scholastic, 1985)

~ Moon Bear Rescue by Kim Dale (Lothian, 2006)

~ The Peasant Prince by Li Cunxin, illustrated by Anne Spudvilas (Viking/Penguin Australia, 2007)

~ The Race for the Chinese Zodiac by Gabrielle Wang, illustrated by Sally Rippin (Walker Books Australia, 2010)

~ Rebel by Allan Baillie, illustrated by Di Wu (Phoenix Education, 2011)

~ The River by Libby Hathorn, illustrated by Stanley Wong (Asian Education Foundation/Curriculum Corporation (Australia), 2001)


~ The China Coin by Allan Baillie (Penguin Group Australia, 1992)

~ Dragonkeeper by Carole Wilkinson (Macmillan, 2003)

~ Foreign Devil by Christine Harris (Random House Australia, 1999)

~ The Garden of Empress Cassia by Gabrielle Wang (Puffin Australia, 2002/Kane Miller, 2011)

~ Garden of the Purple Dragon by Carole Wilkinson (Macmillan, 2005)

~ A Ghost in my Suitcase by Gabrielle Wang (Puffin Australia, 2009)

~ Hungry Ghosts by Sally Heinrich (Hachette Australia, 2007)

~ Just One Wish by Sally Rippin (Penguin Group Australia, 2009)

~ The Secret Life of Maeve Lee Kwong by Kirsty Murray (Paw Prints, 2008)

~ Year of the Tiger by Alison Lloyd (Penguin Group Australia, 2008)

Week-end Book Review: The Garden of Empress Cassia by Gabrielle Wang

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

Gabrielle Wang, author-illustrator,
The Garden of Empress Cassia
Kane Miller, 2011 (first published in Australia, 2002).

Ages 8+

In illustrator Gabrielle Wang‘s debut as a writer for middle-grade girls, she introduces her heroine, Chinese-Australian Mimi, with a distinctly off-putting description: the girl smells bad. Her father, it turns out, runs a Chinese herb shop. Between his concoctions and her mother’s cooking, Mimi’s clothes and body are infused so distinctively that she’s known at school as Stinky Loo.

Not surprisingly, Mimi is ashamed of her parents and her heritage and resentful of their strictness. Wang’s story takes her on a journey of discovery in which she and her parents become reconciled, she stands up for herself with a mean girl who taunts her, and she discovers her true talents as she grows into a more sensitive and fully realized character.

Mimi’s path is through art. A teacher gives her a beautiful box of Empress Cassia pastel crayons with the mysterious caution that they are powerful and she must not let anyone else use them. Taking the sidewalk outside her parents’ shop as her canvas, Mimi draws a miraculous garden that literally pulls people in. After their visits to the magical Garden of Empress Cassia, they return to normal reality with no memory of their trip but with a more appreciative sense of life and a more generous attitude toward others. It’s a healing garden, Mimi discovers.

Mimi’s mother takes advantage of the crowds the garden attracts to open a little tea house for visitors. Dad returns from attending his brother’s last illness and death a kinder, gentler man. A popular boy becomes Mimi’s friend. When the mean girl tricks Mimi and steals the pastels, the garden she draws sweeps her into a dark experience from which Mimi and her friends save her.

All’s well that ends well in this fantasy, but teachers and parents may have objections beyond Wang’s smelly introduction. Throughout the text, adult Chinese are quoted as speaking in pidgin-like English; a few initial quotes or scattered examples could do the job as well, without modeling muddled grammar. Wang‘s illustrated map of Empress Cassia’s garden in the back matter helps readers imagine Mimi’s adventures. While thoughtful readers may wish for better editing, The Garden of Empress Cassia nevertheless offers an exciting tale for young girls from any culture.

Charlotte Richardson
November 2011