I love learning how different foods are made, so you can imagine how much I loved reading this new picture book by Helen H. Wu. TOFU TAKES TIME (Beaming Books) will make its appearance on April 19, and I can’t wait! Let’s get right to it and meet the author.
Welcome, Helen! Tell us a little about yourself.
Thank you so much Angie for having me! I am thrilled to share more about TOFU TAKES TIME and my publishing journey. I’m a children’s book author and illustrator, as well as a translator. I work as the associate publisher at Yeehoo Press, an independent children’s book publishing house which publishes picture books in Chinese and English.
I’m so excited about TOFU TAKES TIME! It makes me want to make tofu. Or at least eat some!
Congratulations on your new book! What was your inspiration for TOFU TAKES TIME?
The inspiration for this story was born of my tofu-making experience with my treasured grandma. When I was a kid, I often sat nearby and watched as she cooked—a process that sometimes involved tofu. She would wash vegetables, chop meat, stir porridge, and cook all the meals for our entire family. It was during these times that she would share stories that transported me to faraway places and other eras. After I moved to the US and had my own family, my kids would ask many questions about the process and tools we used to make tofu together: serving as a warm reminder of the sweet time I spent with my grandma in the small kitchen across the ocean. Hence, a story began to take shape.
I LOVE that this picture book is so closely tied to your family and wonderful memories. What a special treasure for your family!
What was your writing journey for this book?
A great book calls for multiple layers with varied messages readers can take away from the story. Though the idea behind the book was grounded in the tofu-making process, I knew the story must involve a bigger concept that is more relevant to kids. When I cooked with my own kids, I noted their preoccupation with imaginative play and occasional complaints about the time required to cook a proper meal: which inspired me to weave the topic of patience into the text. In examining the tofu-making process in a more imaginative way, I discovered an assortment of inherent elements that connect with nature and even the universe at large. I’m now so happy to have found a sweet spot that includes food, culture, patience, nature, and intergenerational love all tied into one story.
The way that TOFU TAKES TIME is told through the voice of a young child is pretty awesome! Learning patience is such a difficult thing for young people. I still struggle with being patient.
What special plans do you have to celebrate the book birthday of TOFU TAKES TIME on April 19?
I have a book launch event planned on the book birthday, April 19th! I’m so excited to present the book launch event of TOFU TAKES TIME with Avid Bookshop, with talented illustrator and bookseller Julie Jarema! The reading and conversation will take place on Tuesday, April 19, 2022, from 7pm – 8pm ET on Zoom. Preorders from Avid Bookshop will come with a special bonus: a 5”x7” print, bookmark, food stickers, and a bookplate signed by the author and illustrator created just for TOFU TAKES TIME. Don’t miss your chance. You can register here:
https://www.avidbookshop.com/tofulaunch (Isn’t it a cute URL for the event?)
LOVE it! So much fun!
I love the heart in TOFU TAKES TIME, the relationship between grandmother and grandchild, and the connections between tofu and the ingredients/resources needed to make it. How do imagination and your childhood experiences impact your creativity as you work on picture books?
Thank you! Speaking of picture book writing, I didn’t have typical picture books when I was a kid growing up in China. We had black and white comic books and only in the last two decades, picture books were introduced into China. My writing career started from being part of picture book projects. Reading, especially reading all kinds of picture books, is one of the best ways for me to foster imagination, expand my knowledge, and be open to new ideas. Picture book is a magical format that I feel can perfectly encapsulate a feeling, a moment, a subject, a place and time. And as an art lover, I also find it’s very entertaining and soothing to simply enjoy the artwork of picture books.
I don’t remember reading many picture books as a child, mainly Dick and Jane readers. I do remember jumping right into chapter books. Many of them are still favorites. I’m so glad that picture books are being published for much larger audiences. And the artwork of picture books is divine!
What are you working on now?
My next picture book, LONG GOES TO DRAGON SCHOOL, illustrated by Mae Besom, will be published by Yeehoo Press in February, 2023. Inspired by my experience as a minority immigrant student, this picture book follows a Chinese dragon who struggles to breathe fire in his new Western dragon school, only to discover he must carve his own path to finding a sense of belonging. Wrapped in Eastern and Western dragon lore, this fantasy tale celebrates perseverance, self-acceptance, and cultural differences.
Oh, dragons! This sounds perfect!
What tip would you give to a new picture book author or illustrator?
Read as many books as you can in the genre you intend to write. Take picture book writing classes. Find a critique group and get feedback on your stories. Revise, revise, revise. Most importantly, keep writing and keep going.
Excellent tips. Writers, let’s get busy!
Surprise us! What else would you like to share?
I started writing and illustrating in 2012 and since then I’ve self-published over 20 picture books. TOFU TAKES TIME is my first traditional published book, my debut book. Good things take time!
TOFU TAKES TIME is such a lovely, heart-warming story! I’m excited to see it out in the world. Thanks so much for stopping by, Helen! And CONGRATULATIONS!
Helen H. Wu is a children’s book author, illustrator, translator and publisher. She is the author of TOFU TAKES TIME, illustrated by Julie Jarema (Beaming Books, 2022) and LONG GOES TO DRAGON SCHOOL, illustrated by Mae Besom (Yeehoo Press, 2023). Helen is the Associate Publisher of Yeehoo Press, an independent children’s book publisher. Being fascinated by the differences and similarities between cultures, Helen loves to share stories that can empower children to understand the world and our connections. Currently, Helen lives in San Diego, California, with her family and two kids.
Learn more about Helen at: