Publishers' Preview: Picture Books and Graphic Novels: Five Questions for Gene Luen Yang and LeUyen Pham

This interview originally appeared in the November/December 2023 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Picture Books and Graphic Novels, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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Two notable author-illustrators divide the labors in Lunar New Year Love Story, a graphic-novel romance for all seasons.

1. Gene, is it hard to give up the pictures to another illustrator?

Giving up the pictures to Caldecott Honor recipient LeUyen Pham was the easiest thing in the world. The settings needed her eye, the characters her voice, the plot her instincts.

2. LeUyen, is the sheer number of pictures required for a graphic novel ever daunting in prospect?

No. For this book, Connie Hsu (our editor) and I added at least forty pages. I’ve never worried about how long a book is, but I’ve spent many sleepless nights thinking about whether a story point works.

3. Gene, do you have a go-to among the saints for help?

St. Mark Ji Tianxiang of China, who was martyred during the Boxer Rebellion. He wrestled with an opium addiction; to me, his life shows that perfection isn’t a requirement of sainthood.

4. LeUyen, favorite love story?

A couple of my own made it into this book; I’ll leave that up to the imagination to figure out which. I love the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, the musical Hadestown, Pride and Prejudice, and the Before movie
trilogy. Sigh!

5. There’s a page that says “The End,” but the story goes on! What literary convention do you most enjoy breaking?

GLY: I love clever ways of leaving out panel borders. LeUyen does this to great effect, especially during the lion dance sequences.

LP: Anything I can tweak from convention, I will. But the “The End” on this one seemed appropriate for a rom-com graphic novel, no? Cue the music!

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Photo of LeUyen Pham: Anouk Kluyskens.

Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton

Editor Emeritus Roger Sutton was editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc., from 1996-2021. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his MA in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a BA from Pitzer College in 1978.

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