Picture Book Memoir by Caldecott Medalist Ed Young Portrays Childhood Home as Refuge in World War II China
Caldecott Medalist and New York Times-bestselling illustrator Ed Young has crafted a poignant and powerful memoir of his childhood home in China, a house built by his father that sheltered family and friends during World War II. The House Baba Built: An Artist’s Childhood in China will engage readers of all ages with the story of a home filled with warmth, laughter and imagination, stunningly illustrated in mixed-media collage and told with consummate artistry by one of the world’s most celebrated children’s book creators.
This moving and beautiful book, a Junior Library Guild Selection that has already received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Booklist, comes just in time for the author-illustrator’s 80th birthday this fall. “It was in 2004, when I visited Shanghai with my family, that I decided the story of my father’s house must be told,” says Young. “Seven years and four versions later, I have come to realize that creating this book was also about discovering a part of myself that I never knew before.”
As war spreads over Shanghai like crows that blacken the summer sky, Young’s father, Baba, builds a house to safeguard his wife and children. Baba is an engineer, and the large house soon shelters not only the Young family, but cousins, friends, and refugees. Food is scarce and fighter planes circle in the sky, but through it all, Eddy and the other children play safely in the house Baba built, roller skating on the roof, trading silkworm eggs, and enjoying giddy games of hide-and-seek.
Exquisitely illustrated with torn and cut paper, pencil, chalk, pastel, ink, paint, and photographs, The House Baba Built has an astonishing eight gatefolds. Pages open to reveal touching moments, such as Eddy’s older cousin showing him how to draw a cowboy; surprising features of the house, such as the swimming pool that was one of only three private pools in all of Shanghai; and dramatic anecdotes, such as Baba entertaining the family with stories during an air raid. Backmatter includes a timeline, floor plans, and an author’s note.
Also coming this fall from Ed Young are illustrations for The Masterwork of a Painting Elephant, by Michelle Cuevas. In this novel for kids ages 6-12, a boy named Pigeon and the artistically gifted white elephant on whose back he has lived since infancy, set out in search of fame and a lost love. Part fantasy, part fable, and all fun, Booklist praised Young’s “spare ink drawings” for “conveying remarkable emotional weight in a few gestures.”
Ed Young, www.edyoungart.com, has written and/or illustrated more than eighty-five books. Winner of the Caldecott Medal for Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China, he is also the author-illustrator of Seven Blind Mice, and the illustrator of The Emperor and the Kite, both Caldecott Honor Books. Young has twice been the U.S. nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the “Nobel Prize” of children’s literature, and has received six other international awards and honors and three body-of-work awards. A three-time winner of both the Boston Globe Horn Book Award and the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books of the Year, his other honors include five School Library Journal Best Books, five Booklist Editors’ choices, nine ALA Notable Books, thirteen state and regional honors, a Parenting Magazine Reading Magic Award, two Reading Rainbow Choices, and four Parents’ Choice awards. Ed Young’s books have been translated into 12 languages, including Xhosa, Thai, Norwegian, and Afrikaans.