Interview with Benson Shum

It’s time for #ChatWithThePBLady ๐Ÿฅณ๐ŸŽ‰ I had the pleasure of chatting with the amazingly talented Benson Shum! Check out our interview below to learn more about his book ANZU THE GREAT KAIJU.

๐Ÿ“šIf you were the ruler of your own country, what’s the first law that you’d enforce?

Hmm… I would hope that everyone would have access to food, health care and BOOKS!!!

๐Ÿ“šDo you have any funny or exciting vacation stories?

When I was a kid and learned about buffets on a cruise. I ate so much that my mom would always tell the story of the ONE time I ate so much on a cruise, A belly grew after the one week trip. And we have photos to prove it. Haha!

๐Ÿ“šWhat’s your favorite restaurant or fast food chain?ย 

My favorite fast food is Burger King!! I usually order at least two whopper jr. I don’t know what they says about me. ๐Ÿ˜›

๐Ÿ“šWhat teacher or teachers made a difference in your life?ย 

My art teacher. He was always encouraging and supportive of my art. When I published my first book, he even came to my launch! I was so happy to see him. My music teacher was another person that made a difference. Learning and playing music taught me how rhythm plays into everything we do. When we read, there is a rhythm to it. And I try to do the same when I write.

๐Ÿ“šNow, let’s talk about ANZU THE GREAT KAIJU. This story is so creative. What’s the inspiration behind this wonderful book?

Thank you so much! The inspiration came from my love of giant monsters on the screen. For those that donโ€™t know what a Kaiju is, a kaiju is a Japanese term for giant monster. For example, Godzilla is a Kaiju.  

The expectation of how we need to be or act was another inspiration. Monsters are usually seen as destructive, in this case, like Godzilla, he destroys everything in his path. But what if some kaijus don’t want to create chaos or destruction to their city?  What if their superpowers aren’t like the well-known monster we know?  I wanted to tell and showcase those monsters.

๐Ÿ“šThis book has so much heart and Anzu is such a loveable main character. What are your thoughts on writing picture books with heart?

Thank you for saying that. When writing, I try to get into the character’s head. What are they thinking, why are they feeling this way? This is something I do when animating as well. To get the performance of the character, we should know how they feel and that will dictate their actions. 

๐Ÿ“šI feel like many children will be able to relate to Anzu. Do you agree? How might children relate to him?

Yes, thank you. I believe kids and adults will relate to Anzu. We all feel this way at some point or still do. We have an expectation of us that we hope we can live up to. But what if that expectation isn’t us?  And I hope we can find our courage like Anzu and show the world who we are and be proud of that. And others will see that as well.

๐Ÿ“šLet’s talk a little bit about the illustrations. They’re so colorful and inviting. What are the main things you think about and consider before you start the illustration process?

Thank you, I wanted the character’s colors to represent who they are. For Anzu, I chose yellow, which has a bright, sunny, innocent and lively feel. With Mom, she was blue, to represent her superpower of water. Dad’s superpower was earth/boulders, so I went with oranges and browns. Whereas Grandma’s superpower was fire, so she has more red hues.

The overall book is colorful and bright, because I wanted it to showcase how lively and joyful Anzu is on the outside and inside.

Even in the character design, I tried to implement their superpowers. If you look at the designs in the spines of Mom, Dad, Grandma and Anzu, it resembles their superpower. I try to incorporate subtle design elements to enhance the character.

Thank you so much, Jenny, for sharing Anzu the Great Kaiju and having me part of your #ChatWithThePBLady

And I can’t wait to share the second book of Anzu called Anzu the Great Listener, coming out Jan 2023

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