Book Spotlight: The Fog – Kyo Maclear and Kenard Pak

To learn more about Book Spotlight, read this first.

The Fog, written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Kenard Pak, follows the adventures of a girl and a bird as they fight to free their home from a mysterious fog.

What I liked:

  • Kenard Pak is a fantastic artist. In fact, I really think his use of colors and composition is what made the book, even more so than the story itself. It looks like his background is in animation, which would explain how his images function so perfectly as storytelling devices. I almost feel he could have created this book solo, without any words.
  • There is no mention of race in the text, but I never imagined the main human character as anything but Asian. I wonder if other POC/Asian readers felt the same way.
  • I feel this book would do well if translated into Japanese. When I consider possible translations in my head, the story almost flows better in Japanese – maybe because, to me, there is more linguistic latitude (does that even make sense?) for leisurely storytelling in Japanese as opposed to English. This is probably an extremely subjective point, since I’ve noticed I can read slower-paced stories in Japanese, but I quickly get bored with them in English. Also, I think the quiet underlying message about environmentalism would fit in well with the subgenre of Japanese children’s literature which I think of as, ‘make the world better.’

What I learned:

  • Quite frankly, I found the story a bit slow, though the cinematic effects of some of the illustrations reminded me of the movie Happy Feet, with its strong visuals and message about environmentalism. I don’t think kid-me would have found the story particularly appealing, either. Apparently, I like my picture books to be a bit more attention-grabbing in terms of plot.

Questions I had:

  • Whose idea was it to caption the human characters? I thought this was the most effective device in terms of conveying the bird-rather-than-human perspective.
  • Did Maclear or Pak come up with the initial concept of this book? What was their collaboration process like? Did one deliberately seek out the other as a fellow POC in the children’s literature field?
  • How have Asian kids responded to this book? Do many of them automatically see themselves in the main human character? Do their parents and/or other supervising adults make a point of drawing their attention to the Asian author AND illustrator?
  • How many young readers pick up on the book’s environmental themes? Do their parents and/or other supervising adults make a point of discussing these themes with them?

Follow-up:

  • Pak has written and illustrated several picture books of his own, so I’ll be checking those out!
  • I haven’t gotten much of a sense of Maclear’s writing style from her picture books, so it looks like I’ll be reading one of her novels sometime.