Book Review! Brandon Goes to Hong Kong

In Eugenia Chu’s latest book, you don’t just get the delight of a journey to another land. There’s a mystery right away, in the form of a tantalizing flash of red in the air!

Book: Brandon Goes to Hong Kong Xiānggǎng (香港) (out now!) by Eugenia Chu.

Age range: 7-11 years, but adults will enjoy it, too!

Description: While on a trip to Hong Kong, Brandon thinks he sees a great red dragon – but is it real or imaginary? Join Brandon as he tours the city and learns about dragons in this multicultural, multigenerational chapter book which includes some Mandarin Chinese (Simplified) with Pinyin pronunciation throughout, adding educational elements of the Chinese language and culture. Is Brandon the only one who sees the dragon? Can legendary or mythical creatures ever be real? What do you believe?

I received a copy for review.

I love how real this book feels.

A child can get right into what Brandon is experiencing and is excited about. Speaking of which, I also love how Brandon gets so excited about learning Chinese words, there’s a part where he wants to say different greetings all at once!

And you don’t just get the delight of a journey to another land. There’s a mystery right away, in the form of a tantalizing flash of red in the air! This mystery, soon revealed to be the enticing “Could it be a dragon?” follows you throughout the book and appears in many delightful ways.

The author does a superb job of anchoring the reader in the environment Brandon is in while acknowledging that the reader may not know some things, such as time differences and the effect they have on us, and what dialect is. The explanations and asides are both very welcome and non-intrusive, and are easy for a child (or adult!) to retain as they go through the story.

I also appreciated other connections made with Brandon’s life back home, such as the smell of chlorine from the hotel pool reminding him of playing with his friends.

As well, Brandon shows maturity and depth that are good guides for the children reading this story: Empathy, curiosity, relief, respect for his parents and other elders, and compassion. This is balanced out by the dragon mystery that it seems only the children and animals in the book believe in!

The descriptions in this book are marvelous. The author shows a superb command of language to use concise descriptors that set the scenes and fill the imagination. Accompanying illustrations appear at just the right time with the perfect amount of detail that a child can spend time gazing at.

Also, this book made me hungry. I won’t soon forget the delectable descriptions of the food.

The questions at the end of each chapter are outstanding. Thought-provoking and provide a way for solitary readers to dig deeper, or for an older reader to interact with the child.

And perhaps best of all, the author chooses to leave the question of belief up to the reader.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Eugenia Chu is one to watch. Start collecting her books now!

Buy: Brandon Goes to Hong Kong Xiānggǎng (香港)!

Good fortune with #PitMad today!

If you are participating in #PitMad, I hope you have many agent hearts today! We have from 8 a.m. EST to 8 p.m. EST to try.

I started out tweeting all four of my current picture book manuscripts, but I may end up concentrating on just two for the remainder of the day. I am not sure yet.

If you’d like to retweet mine, here they are. Follow me on Twitter and let me know if you’ve got some to retweet as well!

Do you have a book aesthetic?

“Post a link to your book aesthetic if you have one.” This was an optional field in an agent’s online query form for a manuscript I was submitting. I had no idea what this was, so went searching.

I am now indebted to this marvelous, detailed post by author Tina Hogan Grant. As she says, a “book aesthetic is a group of pictures/photos that relate to a story or even possibly tell the story.”

And fortunately, it’s really easy to do! Thanks to Tina, here’s how I formed my most recent one:

  1. I picked out key elements of my story. This included attributes of my main character, experiences of peripheral characters, and the driving force behind the story.
  2. With these elements in mind, one by one I searched for them using free stock photo sites, such as:
  3. I then opted to create a page here on my WordPress site to host these pictures.
    • WordPress lets you build collages of images you upload, and you can even pick a gallery template when creating your page.
    • You can keep your page “off-menu” and have it accessible only if you send someone the link.
  4. Another image-building option is Canva, a free design site with a huge array of templates.
    • Tip: Select a “social media post” size of canvas or enter your own dimensions, then in Elements, search for “grid” to use ready-made collage tiles.
    • Then download your design to upload to any site you can share a link to, such as WordPress or Pinterest.

So let’s say I wanted to show a story of a little girl who makes a wish that the rather plain old bridge in her town is actually a beautiful, magical bridge that leads to a land where stuffed animals were waiting to find their friends? I might put together something like this to start with:

I rather want to go there myself!

What this does not mean (at least, what I don’t take it to mean) is that any images you find are the ones that have to go into your book as the actual illustrations. This is a conceptual, visual companion to the story without replacing what’s in the reader’s mind or what will be accompanying the text.

You can keep adding to your collage, or have multiple collages. Your focus and intent are entirely personal, so please experiment with what works for you. And get all the details from Tina’s post!