Book ReviewThe following book review from Susan Lundberg, past member of the American Library Association's Newbery-Caldecott Committee, provides an inspiring preview of Tofu Ling.
"I was instantly drawn to the spinning movement and characterizations of Tofu Ling..... It is the embodiment of the values our committee tried to find in a children's book. I found this book memorable in the rhythmic unfolding of a strong story line progressed beautifully by the imaginative, fantasized images. On all levels, the imagery has the strength of endurance. It swings to life with flowing sweeps that draw us forward. There is a constant thread of identification with a creature that seemingly goes through life unnoticed. Tofu pulls us on so many levels. We identify with him as he realizes that in the long run we must have both work and imagination in our lives."
From the Author: Rosanna Porter
Tofu Ling was a character that I have thought about for a long time. I had chosen a mouse to depict this character because his size is small and this creature has to always look up to see the world just as children do. I wanted children to understand that even though they are small and young that they offer the world a fresh and interesting view of it and that there are so many things that they can do. I wanted the readers to stop and see the beauty of the world as if seeing it for the first time. There are many symbolisms and lessons throughout the story and I hope that the readers will take the time to discover them as they read the story many times.
The book is meant to be a read-to-me story and that is why the vocabulary is a higher level than the average children's book. I believe that it is important that a higher vocabulary be modeled for children to cultivate their literary knowledge. The size of the book was selected so that while reading the story Lynda's breathtaking illustrations surround the reader to create a full experience of beauty and literature.
Although the story can be read at one sitting, I hope that adults/parents will read the book over several days. Breaking the story down into several sittings allows children to contemplate what will happen next and learn that stories do not have to culminate in fifteen minutes. When children reach the third and fourth grade many of them struggle with the concept of chapter books. It is my hope that this will also help them to understand the concept of a theme developing over several days of reading.
I also hope adults/parents will continue to read to children even after they have learned to read. Time spent reading together is priceless.
From the Illustrator: Lynda Porter
Tofu Ling offered the opportunity to give visual life to his character, story and his world. A book leaves everlasting memory if it offers visual imagery. This element is strong in Rosanna's descriptive writing style as she melds mood, dreams and reality into her stories. When she approached me to illustrate Tofu Ling, I felt the images forming immediately as I read the words. Tofu's character was sketched from his day dreamer, artistic quirkiness. He was not a typical mouse and demanded a lovable, yet uncontained persona. Therefore the scruffy hair and soulful eyes emerged.
I intuitively selected water color and tech pen as the medium. It offered the flowing, dream like quality of the pond in the morning frost; the night's mystical stars, and the harvesting of imagination. The introduction of origami immediately juxtaposed the contrast between fluid elements and angular design. The first illustration of the swans on the pond, with their magnificent wings and splashing drops of water began the journey into Tofu's creativity. These led to the contrast of transformational illustrations between reality, painterly expression and brightly angled origami representations. As Tofu Ling recalled events which were important to his family members, the transformation became quite visual to me. The progression of time and life cycles became apparent as caterpillars became butterflies and as snails became folded paper swirls.
I enjoyed incorporating the elements of line, form, shape, color, texture, contrast, positive negative space and composition into each illustration. I found that research helped me to add the realistic detail that I sought and Rosanna's words guided my way to the portrayal of the characters, mood, emotions and themes of the book. All of the images were created to closely represent the written word as my imagination perceived Tofu's world. The final "Harvest Your Imagination" illustration is intended to be an inspirational collage of visual images from the book which represent the possibilities of life.
I have read and observed many children's literature books in which the words and potential for visual imagery were vivid, but the limited style of illustration fell short. The child as a reader, and an adult as a reader, equally deserves quality as the words are brought to life. As Rosanna states that she utilizes a high vocabulary for enrichment of children's vocabularies at an early age; I believe that their visual and artistic exposure can be equally as rich and sophisticated. The illustrations in Tofu Ling are an integral part of the book and offer much opportunity for observation, imagination and discussion.