Ed Young has written and/or illustrated more than eighty-five books. He is the winner of the Caldecott Medal for Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China, he is also the author-illustrator of Seven Blind Mice and the illustrator of The Emperor and the Kite, both Caldecott Honor Books.
1. Where do you get your inspiration?
Where ideas come from is less important than how they are received. It’s not unlike the airwaves that radios pick up from the atmosphere. We all come equipped with the hardware, but we don’t all learn to use it. Occasionally we experience the strange phenomena of thinking of someone, the phone rings and lo! It’s that same person. Coincidence? A sixth sense? Perhaps, but how about picking up the frequency of a thought? I believe inspiration comes in the same way. To get it, we must surrender our ‘demand’ mode to ‘request’ mode and remain in stillness. My best inspirations come when falling asleep or waking up, when my critical mind isn’t active. All of a sudden the solution to a big puzzle shows itself like a miracle.
2. In your experience of bookmaking, who makes the decisions?
In my case, it always is the story. It comes to my presence by intuition and by intuition it assembles like-minded people to overcome every obstacle that might stand in its way. Time can sometimes be an obstacle, for it does not allow for thorough enough research or revision; but more often the real obstacle is money. When money comes into the weighing process, the book suffers — and in those cases, time may be an ally. I simply wait for the right time to produce that book. Often, this works. Some of my books took two years; The House Baba Built took twenty years and three failed attempts before the right story and people emerged.
3. Which of your books are your favorites?
I love all good books. Often I like others’ books more than my own, but I can’t really say which are my favorites, because my opinions change as I change. In general, however, for my own work, the books which were the most trouble turn out to be the ones I like best. In retrospect, most of these books met some insurmountable resistance in the process of their making. Sometimes it was due to time, sometimes to my own fears about confronting issues that I wasn’t ready to take on. When I did overcome the obstacle, the book provided an indescribable satisfaction — a sense of finding a lost friend. Because of these books, I became more of what I am meant to be. At these times the strangeness of my world disappears and only wonder remains.
Nighttime Ninja, written by Barbara DaCosta, a simple, is a fun story about a pint-size ninja on a midnight mission. Young creates wonderful illustrations using cut paper, cloth, string and colored pencil.
A Strange Place to Call Home, written by poet Marilyn Singer, focuses on 14 different animals and shows kids the dangerous places which some animals call home.