This week we’re celebrating the #Book Birthday of Benson shum’s newest picture book, CINDY AND PANDA, from Clarion. (Isn’t it adorable?) You might remember meeting Benson and the first book of his picture book series, ANJU THE GREAT KAIJU (Roaring Brook) here. We’re excited to welcome him back!
This guy’s been busy–and we have Questions!
Q 1. What was the inspiration for Cindy and Panda?
Benson Shum: I love Pandas and mini comic strips/stories like Calvin and Hobbes. The expressions with the posing and personalities really drew me to them. And Pandas are always a joy to watch. They are so curious!
Writing, Illlustrating, and Revision
Q 2. As the author/illustrator of Cindy and Panda, which came first, the characters, the story, or the illustrations?
Benson Shum: For this book, the illustration came first. I was watching videos of Panda cubs and their caretakers, How they latch onto their legs, preventing them from working. They just want to have fun with them. The Panda caretaker would be sweeping the leaves, putting them into baskets and the pandas would flip them over and take the basket. I did a few paintings of them and that was the springboard for Cindy and Panda.
Q 3. What was your revision process like?
Benson Shum: The revision process was a joy, I got to work closely with my editor when developing the story. My editor saw the painting I posted and reached out to see if I had a story. And from there, we developed it together. I would send in the story idea, and we would go back and forth on the manuscript, how to punch it up, create tension.
At one point, we started the story again as parts weren’t working. And after I’ve dummied the book out, I would work with the art director closely on how to get the most comedic aspect of it.
Launching Your Book
Q 4. Congrats on your 10+ published children’s books! It looks like the May 6th launch of Cindy and Panda was a hit! Any tips or suggestions on planning a Book Launch?
Benson Shum: Thank you! I feel very grateful to work with some amazing editors. Book launching can be intimidating. I try (sometimes not successfully) not to stress too much about it. Do what you can and that’s enough.
A few tips:
- You can post and share on social media about your book.
- If you have a local bookstore nearby, reach out to them a few months (or more) before your book comes out. See if they do local author or illustrator book events, or even a story time.
- I’ve done my launches during their story times, which puts less pressure on it, for me at least.
- It’s really about just sharing your book with readers.
- I usually make stickers to go along with the book. Kids love stickers.
Make the readers want more!
Q 5. Thinking about how your work as an animator crosses over to creating children ’s books, can you share how you layout a book, for example – how to direct the reader’s eyes, to.make the reader want to turn the page?
Benson Shum: Yes, I try to bring what I learned from animation to books. It’s quite similar in a lot of ways.
Sometimes I use the character’s thoughts as a way to make you turn the page, and those thoughts could be in the text leading to the next page, or even an anticipation of the character’s expression.
I sometimes use white pages to guide the reader to the focus point, or the environment to have subtle lines that lead the eye toward the character or moment.
Q 6. What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
Benson Shum: I hope readers have a great time with Cindy and Panda. I hope you enjoy their emotional journey. The great ups and downs of friendship. Forgiveness, joy and love for one another. And in this book, for their love of eating and baking together.
Q 7. Since we’re in a baking mood, what might be your recipe for creating a picture book for today’s market?
Benson Shum: That’s a hard one, but I find having heart and truth in our characters will always be the perfect recipe in any market.
Writing challenge: Check out your local grocery store and look out for inspiring ingredients for your next story!
Q 8. What’s next for you?
Benson Shum: Speaking of launches, I have another book called FIRST NIGHT OF HOWLERGARTEN coming out August 9th, 2023 with Penguin Workshop. (Look for a #BookBirthday blog celebration right here! ) So I’m excited about that, and will start to reach out to bookstores to do a story time/book launch. Currently I’m working on an easy reader called MOONCAKE MEANS FAMILY, with Penguin Workshop as well for 2024.
Did someone say #Giveaway?
YES! One lucky recipient will receive a copy of CINDY AND PANDA.
To be eligible:
Deadline 4th of July. Winner wil be notified on July 5th.
and Happy Book Birthday
to CINDY AND PANDA!
Learn more about Benson Shum and his work at
his website: http://bensonshum.com/
Happy almost SUMMER Reading to all!
Coming July 15th: CHRISTMAS AHOY! by Erin Dealey, Illus. Kayla Stark (Sleeping Bear).
I can’t wait to share this with you!!!!!