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Meet the Author

[Book Times]

Ian Wallace's latest book is Chin Chiang and the Dragon's Dance, which he wrote and illustrated. Recently, Ian spoke to Book Times about his career as a writer and illustrator for children.

BT: How did you first become interested in producing children's books ?
IW: I was a student at the Ontario College of Art when I heard there was a job at Kids Can Press to write and illustrate children's books. That first summer I wrote and illustrated a little book called Julie News – and I was hooked!

BT: Why are children's books important to you?
IW: I realized that doing that first book had brought together two very important aspects of my life – the written word and the visual image. My earliest memories are of all our family being in one bed and being read The Wind in the Willows. I can still hear those words and see the pictures as the pages flipped over.

BT: So the oral tradition was a strong one for you.
IW: Definitely. My grandparents started that. My grandfather was a coal miner in Gloucestershire and he told stories about working deep in the mines when he was a child and he'd come out with his hands bleeding. I think kids need to experience that oral tradition.

BT: After Julie News what came next?
IW: The Sandwich in 1975 and The Christmas Tree House in 1976.

BT: How long did Chin Chiang take you ?
IW: Six years from the first idea to publication. I worked on it for two years before I took it to a publisher in New York. I was really surprised at how well I was received in New York.

BT: It took a long time.
IW: Yes, I realize now that you can't spend that long on a single project. I'd like to do one project a year and then do smaller things as well. I've just finished doing a book-cover for Groundwood, my Canadian publisher.

BT: What interested you in the dragon's dance?
IW: I've always been interested in Chinese culture, and I'd sit where I work sometimes at the Art Gallery of Ontario, watching the parades which go through Chinatown. I felt the dragon's dance was kind of universal. There's something about the dragon, the way it turns and twists. Many people lose their traditions, but I think if you want to know your future, you have to know your past. The tradition is that if the dance is done well, it brings prosperity to the community.

BT: Why did you choose Vancouver as a setting?
IW: Chinatown there is very compact and tight-knit. The sea and mountain-scape are filled with drama – and it's an older Chinese community than Toronto's which is so neon.

BT Do you think the story has an appeal which goes beyond the Chinese community?
IW: Definitely. Regardless of where kids come from, there is a universality about children. Chin Chiang is a child of 12 who has a heavy responsibility and is scared of it – I think that experience is important for all children.

BT: Do you enjoy touring?
IW: Oh yes – that's my favourite part of it all. I like being with kids, presenting my books to them. Many times when other things aren't working out, that's what keeps me going.

BT: Best of luck with your career, Ian, and thank you.

Copyright © Ian Wallace