Review: Paper Son by Julie Leung

Review: Paper Son by Julie Leung

Imagine boarding a ship headed for a new land. Imagine leaving behind part of your family, the country you love, the person you were before. For the immigrants among us, it isn’t a matter of imagining but rather of remembering our own families’ journeys.

Paper Son tells the inspiring story of a Chinese immigrant with a passion for painting. After growing up in Sacramento with his father who scrimped and saved enough to send him to art school, he developed the artwork for Disney’s Bambi and went on to influence burgeoning artists across North America. His name? Tyrus Wong.

The first thing that caught my eye about this book was its unique illustration style. Every page is a work of art that recalls traditional Chinese styles and honours the incredible creations of the real-life immigrant and artist after whom the story is modelled. Illustrator Chris Sasaki credits Wong for inspiring him in his youth and later in his career as an Asian American artist. Sasaki does an amazing job, like Wong did, of capturing the feeling of landscapes with simpler, watercolour-esque strokes.

Although the art is what initially draws the reader in, Julie Leung’s writing does not disappoint either. With a style somewhere in between prose and poetry, Leung recounts Wong’s journey from his life-changing sea voyage to his years as an older gentleman, walking along the beach with a homemade kite so vibrant you’d think you were dreaming.

By intertwining beautiful art with themes of identity, assimilation, and tradition, Leung and Sasaki draw a more complete picture of the immigrant experience in this touching tribute to Tyrus Wong.

Get your copy through Penguin Random House.