I’m so happy to share the picture book life of Kyo Maclear today since she’s one of my very favorite writers. Her one-of-a-kind work has a simultaneously intellectual and daydreamy quality. In my view, she embraces the unexpected—whether that be taking inspiration from historical figures to taking risks—in the best way and never underestimates young readers. In a word, she’s brilliant.
“‘My picture books start with text and image. I weave an ‘art script’ into my text manuscripts because my stories are visually driven, but these art notes are always open for interpretation by the illustrator,’ Maclear explains. ‘The word-image dynamic is so enmeshed in my books and often so amplified by the metaphoric intuition and intelligence of the illustrator, I find it hard to separate one aspect (or intelligence) from the other. By the end, the collaboration is pretty seamless.'” (From the CBC)
Kyo Maclear was born in London and was raised, and now lives, in Toronto. She’s studied fine art and art history and cultural studies and, I believe, is working on a PhD.
From Kids Can Press:
“Kyo now resides in Toronto, where she shares a home with two children, a cat, a musician and a lot of books. In addition to writing, she likes to listen to music, watch old movies, do yoga, make art and play around in her bright, open kitchen… As well as writing for children, Kyo is a novelist and a visual-arts writer.”
“‘When I visit schools, I meet a lot of kids who are first-generation immigrants and I see myself in them,’ Maclear says. ‘Many of these students have super-strong linguistic skills (often serving as interpreters for their families, as I did for my mother). Yet, if asked, many of these verbally dexterous, multilingual kids would not imagine themselves as future writers.
‘I think it would be a great public service to explore how children’s linguistic hesitance (both in reading and writing) is tied to experiences of migration, social marginalization, and a dearth of role models. There are children with amazing verbal/narrative imaginations who are simply not finding their way to the language-based arts. And I believe that’s a loss for our literary cultures.'” (From the CBC.)
Spork, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault (2010).
“Her first children’s book, Spork, a delightful tale of a mixed-identity kitchen utensil, was inspired by the birth of her first child, and Maclear’s own dual British-Japanese heritage.” (Link to feature/quote here.)
Virginia Wolf, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault (2011).
This one is inspired by the relationship between Virginia Woolf and her sister, Vanessa Bell, and a different spin on Bloomsbury. It’s for anyone feeling upside down and not themselves.
Julia, Child, illustrated by Julie Morstad (2013).
Two friends (one of whom is named after Julia Child) whip up a feast filled with sweetness, wonder, and imagination to remind busy, worried adults of what they’re missing. A couple of years ago, Lyndsay from Coco Cake Land made the chocolate almond cupcakes from the book for this blog! Check it out!
The Wish Tree, illustrated by Chris Turnham (2016).
A book about journeying, wishing, and kindness. And I made a craft for this one at the start of this year—a picture book wish tree for classrooms or families. Come see!
The Specific Ocean, illustrated by Katty Maurey (2015).
A lyrical picture book full of the most wonderful language and the truest of feelings.
The Liszts, illustrated by Júlia Sardà (2016).
A family of list makers, fabulous lists, fantastic references, and one unexpected guest. I love this book.
The Fog, illustrated by Kenard Pak (2017).
This super clever book includes a bird who watches humans a la birdwatching and who notices a change in the land where it lives. A story of coming together over a common observance and care for the world. The wordless spread is especially arresting.
Yak and Dove, illustrated by Esme Shapiro (September 2017).
A delightful story in three parts following Yak and Dove’s friendship, the ups and downs of opposites with a special bond. Altogether charming.
You can find all Kyo Maclear’s picture books on her website.
A special shout out to all the talented illustrators she collaborates with as well!
You can see all my “Their Picture Book Life”posts here.
And here’s the one I did on the late Amy Krouse Rosenthal.
Danielle!! I have been on a Kyo PB reading binge since I read her Birds, Art, Life–I just loved it so much. Such wisdom, intelligence and poignancy. If you haven’t yet read it, you must!
Oh neat! Yes, it’s definitely on my list. 🙂
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