I found out about hapa Canadian writer Kyo Maclear on the BookDragon blog's post about Virginia Wolf (Kids Can Press, 2012), a children's book Maclear wrote with amazing illustrations by Isabelle Arsenault. Maclear and Arsenault also collaborated earlier on Spork (Kids Can Press, 2010).
Both of these books are just incredibly delightful. Spork is the story of Spork, who finds that he is not quite a fork and not quite a spoon, and he is always passed over as a utensil of choice for the table. He embarks on a quest to transform himself and then to find others like him so that he won't feel so lonely.
The illustrations by Arsenault, as you can see, are just perfectly whimsical. I love them so much!
Maclear writes about the story of Spork: I was born a spork at a time "'when forks were forks and spoons were spoons. Cutlery customs were followed closely. Mixing was uncommon.'" There is an obvious parallel between sporkness and mixed-raceness, and it's quite a clever way to explore the feeling of being not quite like others. Here's a delightful trailer for the book in which Maclear discusses her own mixed-race background as the impetus for writing Spork:
I really wanted to look up Maclear and Arsenault's Virginia Wolf when I saw the BookDragon review because I am a (closet?) fan of the British writer Virginia Woolf. I read her when I was in college, lost in my own confusions and anxieties about who I was, and I found her writing to be just the most exquisite examination of interiority and art. Maclear and Arsenault's book takes its inspiration from the real-life sisters Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell (who became a painter), and it deals with Virginia's depression (some of you may know that Woolf battled lifelong depression and killed herself by filling her pockets with stones and walking into the river).
Playing on Woolf's name, Maclear's story has Virginia in a wolfish mood, and the story takes on her sister Vanessa's perspective as she tries to bring Virginia out of her wolfishness. Vanessa tries all sorts of things to cheer Virginia up, but Virginia just growls at her and yells at her to stop.
This story of sisterhood is touching, with Vanessa showing Virginia such care despite Virginia's surly wolfishness. I love the enshadowed version of Virginia as a wolf!
Kyo Maclear is also a writer of books for adults, including a nonfiction book about photography and war called Beclouded Visions: Hiroshima-Nagasaki and the Art of Witness (SUNY Press, 1999) and two novels The Letter Opener (HarperCollins, 2007) and Stray Love (HarperCollins, 2012; as A Thousand Tiny Truths in Australia). Unfortunately, I think the novels may be in one of those situations where they are not widely distributed in the United States, but I am interested in tracking them down.