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It's the book birthday of Escape: One Day We Had to Run, an "arresting collection of deep, accessible stories of people on the move" (Kirkus Starred Review). We asked authors Ming & Wah and illustrator Carmen Vela to share some fascinating facts about the book and their work. Let's dive in!
On the writing
Carmen: Hi Ming and Wah! I think what everyone wants to know is: Why was writing this book important to you? And why do you think it is overall an important book nowadays?
Ming & Wah: Originally we wanted to write an entire picture book about how our Chinese nanny left Mainland China and came to British Hong Kong: she SWAM. Literally, she swam almost two and a half miles in cold, shark infested, and patrolled waters in search of more opportunities. Then, as we brainstormed the idea more, we quickly got excited about using more action verbs to tell other incredible refugee and migrant stories.
Carmen: True stories around asylum seeking and escape are unfortunately too many, and there are many kinds of stories from around the world and throughout history. How did you get to decide on this set of stories specifically? Or what factors did you consider when deciding which stories you wanted to share?
Ming & Wah: Our wonderful publisher wanted to share more hopeful stories for children, so several of our original but darker verbs like HIDE (Rwanda neighbor to neighbor genocide), THRASH (Cambodia to Thailand to escape the Pol Pot regime), and FORD (North Korea via the Yalu River to China) did not make it into the final galley.
Ming & Wah with their Cantonese nanny, Ah Ping Jie, who used to carry them around "like two hot water bottles" (Left). And younger Ming & Wah, strong and fierce even then (Right)
Carmen: I am aware you both have children, nieces and nephews. Did you have them in mind when giving words to this complex issue illustrated in Escape?
Ming & Wah: We are both proud working mothers and borderline outrageous aunties to young ones ranging from 2 to 29. We have written picture books and middle grade chapter books but hope that our audience is ageless because that is when you know you have written a classic. We hope our kids enjoy learning about history and reading thrilling adventure stories as much as we do.
On the illustrations
Ming & Wah: Carmen you are such a talented graphic artist and now, picture book illustrator. What was it like to illustrate Escape as your first foray into picture book illustration? How was it similar and/or different to graphic art?
Carmen: Thank you! My love for books and all around storytelling is what brought me first into the world of graphics and design. Even though I had plenty of experience making books and other visual materials, creating an entire picture book is a major and meaningful task with its own intricacies and process that should not be taken for granted. I'm so glad you thought of me when coming up with the concept for Escape and that our publishers supported me along the way.
Thank you, Ming, Wah and Carmen, for sharing your creative processes with us!
Last May 4th, we celebrated the international launch of Escape: One Day We Had to Run with a virtual event hosted by the Holocaust Museum LA! Meet Ming, Wah and Carmen below and learn more about their amazing book. Then, buy your own copy HERE and donate a book to children who need them most with your purchase.
CLING. Don’t let go. Hold tight. Never give up. FLY. Rev up. Lift off. Soar. PEDAL. Set off. Cycle. Pedal for your life.
Throughout history, ordinary people have been forced to leave their families and homes because of war, famine, slavery, intolerance, economic and political upheaval, or climate change. These remarkable true stories of escape show how courageous people all around the world have overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles in their flight to freedom.
Click HERE to buy the book!
You'll be donating a book to children who need them most with your purchase.
Ming & Wah are identical twins who love history, plucky heroes and anything by Agatha Christie. Graduates of Harvard and Columbia Universities respectively, they have published two previous children's books and live in Hong Kong and Los Angeles. Learn more about their work on mingandwah.com or follow them on Twitter and Instagram.
Carmen Vela is an independent art director, designer and illustrator from Spain. For over a decade she has been living between Hong Kong, Brooklyn and Europe, fuelled by her love of books, paper and stories. Visit carmenvela.com to see more of her striking work or follow her on Instagram.