2020 has been quite a year…

Hello, all! I hope you’re staying healthy and well as we soldier through these unusual times. And as the end of this crazy year approaches, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to all of you – my friends, family, readers, subscribers and fellow creators — for all your book love for The Paper Kingdom. Your friendship and support have meant so much to me!

What a tough year to launch a new book, with all the canceled events, production delays, shutdowns, etc. I was so stressed out when the book was first released back in late February, when the pandemic hit the world and we had to cancel one event after the next.

So it’s with immense gratitude (and great astonishment!) that I share with you that The Paper Kingdom has landed on some very cool year-end lists. It’s among the amazing books on Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2020, Amazon’s Best Children’s Books of 2020 and the 30 Best Children’s Books of 2020 by Parents Magazine!

Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2020

Most writers I know (including yours truly) are terrified of Kirkus bc they’re known to be the toughest trade reviewer. So what a HUGE honor (and enormous relief) to get their stamp of approval.

Thank you, Kirkus!! The full list is here.

Amazon’s Best Children’s Books of 2020

Such a glorious surprise to be selected by the mega-commercial giant, Amazon! When my publisher first informed me of the honor, I was STUNNED! Amazon noticed my little book about night janitors??! They apparently have an editorial staff who compiles these lists — who knew?? Good to know that humans, rather than algorithms, generated these results.


Amazon’s list is here. I love that my book sits next to a tiny T Rex — the concept makes me laugh…a tiny T Rex!! That book is part of a hugely successful series.

Parents Magazine – 30 Best Children’s Books of 2020

This list by Parents Magazine is very special because every book was selected by the magazine’s editorial team, and the final list was selected by…KIDS! I love that, especially because my inner 7-year-old is a very strong force in my life. I’m not kidding — that inner 7-year-old often dictates what I eat (filet o’ fish from McD’s), what I read and the stories I write 🙂

The slideshow of all 30 books is here.

I’m so honored and so moved by the recognition–it feels like a series of warm, welcoming hugs from the book industry. Not too long ago, all I saw were rejections from agents and publishers (as my subscribers know in great detail!), but the hope of seeing my books out in the world kept me going. Never did I imagine that my books could land on any “best of” lists!

Aspiring authors often ask me how I kept going during the Rejection Years. Apart from lots of venting to anyone who’d listen and consumption of dark chocolate, a big part of the answer is: I looked to well-loved books and cool authors for motivation. One of the authors was Linda Sue Park. When she won the Newbery Award (the highest honor for children’s literature) for her novel A Single Shard back in 2002, I started following her career and devouring her many books. And whenever she spoke at a writers’ conference, I would grab a front-row seat and take copious notes. So imagine my shock when she emailed me about a month ago, inviting me to join Kibooka, her webpage dedicated to fellow Korean American creators of children’s literature. It’s wonderful to see so many of us who are now working in a field that used to have only one prominent Korean American author: Linda Sue Park. For years, she worked hard to diversify children’s literature and to pave the path for the rest of us. I hope to pay it forward the way she has, with such generosity and grace.

If you’re reading this Linda Sue, just know that I’m your #1 fangirl!! Thank you for Kibooka!

Reflecting on Amazing Artists

The end of the year is traditionally a time of reflection and as I reflect on my writing journey, I realize more and more that one of the greatest joys of writing picture books has been working with illustrators. The collaboration has resulted in some truly wonderful friendships. I’ve been SO fortunate that my publishers have paired my manuscripts with such talented artists who are not only tremendously gifted, but also just good people. So a huge shout-out goes to Colleen Kong-Savage (for her wondrous & meticulous collages for The Turtle Ship), Pascal Campion (for bringing his cinematic vision to The Paper Kingdom and to the upcoming Rosa’s Song), and to Ji-Hyuk Kim (who is currently creating lush watercolors for the upcoming Sora’s Seashells).

What’s really cool is that you can acquire images from these wonderful artists (posters, prints, etc.) to grace your walls or to give away as gifts.

If you’d like to order any prints/cards/journals with images from The Turtle Ship or Colleen’s other cool designs, head over to RedBubble.

I’m in love with this design from Colleen, of a lion cub visiting one of the marble lions (come to life!) in front of the New York Public Library. Those marble lions are named Patience & Fortitude, and we all need both these days, right??

Here is Pascal’s latest cover for The New Yorker. Entitled “Hope Again,” I love it. And it makes me miss NYC so much. You can shop for Pascal’s prints here and here.

And now, I’m so happy to present Ji’s sketch of the cover concept for Sora’s Seashells, which will be published in early 2022.

Courtesy of artist Ji-Hyuk Kim and Candlewick Press. An early sketch of the cover concept for Sora’s Seashells.

I’m going to reserve a first glimpse of the finished cover for my subscribers, so that will come in 2021. Ji is a master of watercolor illustrations, and once you see the entire book, you’ll notice how Ji so beautifully captured the tenderness between Sora and her grandmother.

Other updates:

I hinted at some Big News in prior posts, but alas, I’m still not able to disclose the details. ERGH. So I will stop all this hush-hush, secretive whispering (so annoying, right?!) until it’s actually time to share the news, which will likely be in early 2021. I am literally pounding on the wall and screaming ARGGGH at the ceiling because I’m so tired of waiting!

I’m working on some exclusive subscriber-only newsletters, so if you’d like to join the fun and haven’t yet signed up, you can do so here 😊

Enjoy the holidays and be safe as we close out 2020, a year unlike any other in so many ways!