Thursday, July 16, 2020

Q&A with Teresa Robeson

Teresa Robeson is the author of the new children's picture book Two Bicycles in Beijing. She also has written the picture book Queen of Physics. Born in Hong Kong and raised in Canada, she lives in Indiana.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Two Bicycles in Beijing?

A: The seed for the story was planted when my dad took my family--me, husband, and the kids--to visit China. We visited Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an, and Hong Kong (where I was born). But that seed didn't germinate until a few years later when I was looking through the photographs we took on the trip and I saw one of a row of bikes next to colorful lanterns and flowers. 

I recalled reading something, possibly apocryphal, about there being a million bikes in Beijing, or something like that, and started to think about how I could show readers around the city on a bicycle. Eventually, that turned into a friendship story centered on bicycles as characters.

Q: How did you choose the sights in Beijing to include in the story?

A: When conceptualizing the chase around the city, I pulled out the map of Beijing that my family used on our visit. It's a pretty nice, laminated one by DK Eyewitness books. I tried to plan a route that would take readers near some of the most well-known sites in Beijing but that would also have to be a plausible one for a delivery boy on a bike. 

After tracing a few different ones, I settled on the one presented in the book. 

Q: What do you think Junyi Wu's illustrations add to the book?

A: Most of the time in the picture book business, an author has little say about who is chosen as the illustrator. But I was absolutely thrilled when my editor showed me the preliminary art by Junyi Wu. 

Junyi's art has a bit of anime feel (perfect for my Asian characters) and a gorgeous, dreamy palette that evokes Beijing on a beautiful autumn day. I could not be happier if I got to pick an illustrator myself. I think she brought my story to life in the best possible way!

Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?

A: It's my hope that kids will learn a few Mandarin words and be introduced to the famous landmarks of this amazing ancient city, in addition to savoring a tale of friendship lost and found, old and new. 

A lot of kids don't get to do international travel (especially during these pandemic days), and books are the perfect way to transport them afar and to experience different cultures.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I'm currently revising or drafting a couple of picture books, a contemporary middle grade, a nonfiction middle grade, and a fantasy young adult. All but the nonfiction are own-voices, drawing inspiration from my culture. 

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I almost always bring my ethnic background and love of science and nature to my writing. They are what I'm the most passionate about and I hope my enthusiasm for them is infectious. I want to spark the same kind of interest for them in readers.

I'm also an artist and I would love to be able to illustrate my own books one of these days. 

Thanks so much for inviting me to share about my books and myself with your readers, Deborah!

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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