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Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist



by
Julie Leung
illustrated by
Chris Sasaki

Edition
Library edition with trade jacket added
Publisher
Penguin Random House
Imprint
Schwartz & Wade
ISBN
9781524771881

Awards and Honors
- 2021 Asian/Pacific American Award - Picture Book
POTENTIALLY SENSITIVE AREAS
Discrimination: Reference/Discussion
$10.80   $9.00
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Before he became an artist named Tyrus Wong, he was a boy named Wong Geng Yeo. He traveled across a vast ocean from China to America with only a suitcase and a few papers. Not papers for drawing—which he loved to do—but immigration papers to start a new life. Once in America, Tyrus seized every opportunity to make art, eventually enrolling at an art institute in Los Angeles. Working as a janitor at night, his mop twirled like a paintbrush in his hands. Eventually, he was given the opportunity of a lifetime—and using sparse brushstrokes and soft watercolors, Tyrus created the iconic backgrounds of Bambi.

Author’s note. Illustrator’s note. Photographs of Tyrus Wong. Full-color illustrations rendered digitally.

POTENTIALLY SENSITIVE AREAS
Discrimination: Reference/Discussion

Details

Format

Print

Page Count

40

Trim Size

11" x 9"

Dewey

B

AR

4.7: points 0.5

Lexile

890L

Genre

Nonfic

Scholastic Reading Counts

2

JLG Release

Feb 2020

Book Genres

Biography, Picture Book

Topics

Tyrus Wong (1910–2016). Chinese American artists. Emigration and immigration. Walt Disney Company. Biography.

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Praise & Reviews

Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:

Publishers Weekly, Booklist*, School Library Journal, The Horn Book Magazine

School Library Journal

From humble origins as a nine-year-old Chinese immigrant with false papers, Tyrus Wong challenged adversity to become a professional artist. Celebrated as the man behind the design for Disney’s Bambi, Wong worked for other film studios as well. Leung’s smooth exposition emphasizes the difficulties facing young Wong Geng Yeo, who traveled in 1921 under the identity of Look Tai Yow, a merchant’s son, in order to evade the restrictions of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Days of practice on the long voyage allowed him to pass his immigration interview and be released to join his father, but only after an extended detention on Angel Island. Wong finished high school and art school, but continued to face discrimination as a Disney employee. Sasaki’s digital illustrations portray him as the single non-white man among a group of Disney animators drawing the repetitive “in between” frames of movies. The art often reflects the style of Chinese watercolor and ink paintings. One notable spread shows the artist working as a janitor, swirling his mop trails to paint a running horse on a tile floor. Other images are stylized but recognizable and appropriate to the mood and the period. The helpful back matter includes author and illustrator notes and photos from the Wong family albums, including his immigration card. The endpapers feature the kites Wong designed and flew on the beach near his California home. A well-told story that spotlights the too-often unrecognized talent and contributions of America’s immigrants.

Horn Book

This picture-book biography focuses on two pivotal experiences in artist Tyrus Wong’s life—his emigration from China to the United States at age nine of 1920, and his work as an animator at Disney Studios. Leung’s well-paced text describes Wong’s journey as a “paper son” (a child carrying forged immigration papers, following the restrictive Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882). After he and his father settle in Sacramento, calligraphy lessons lead Wong to art school, where he learns to draw in a Western style but also continues to study Chinese art from the Song Dynasty. When he blends the two styles while working as an “in-betweener” at Disney, his ideas inspire (and he creates) the scenic design for the 1942 film Bambi. (However, he is credited only as a background artist, and was later fired during a workers’ strike.) While it would have been nice to see an example or two of Wong’s work, Sasaki’s digital illustrations are striking and are particularly effective in scenes that juxtapose hard and soft images (for example, impressionist-inspired ocean waves and tree blossoms subtly decorating a ship’s machinery). An arresting spread shows Wong working as his art school’s janitor and using his mop as a virtual paintbrush, a trail of soft colors spreading across the floor. The back matter includes an illustrator’s note, photos of Wong, and an author’s note offering more detail about the artist’s life (he died in 2016 at age 106!) as well as information about the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Praise & Reviews

School Library Journal

From humble origins as a nine-year-old Chinese immigrant with false papers, Tyrus Wong challenged adversity to become a professional artist. Celebrated as the man behind the design for Disney’s Bambi, Wong worked for other film studios as well. Leung’s smooth exposition emphasizes the difficulties facing young Wong Geng Yeo, who traveled in 1921 under the identity of Look Tai Yow, a merchant’s son, in order to evade the restrictions of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Days of practice on the long voyage allowed him to pass his immigration interview and be released to join his father, but only after an extended detention on Angel Island. Wong finished high school and art school, but continued to face discrimination as a Disney employee. Sasaki’s digital illustrations portray him as the single non-white man among a group of Disney animators drawing the repetitive “in between” frames of movies. The art often reflects the style of Chinese watercolor and ink paintings. One notable spread shows the artist working as a janitor, swirling his mop trails to paint a running horse on a tile floor. Other images are stylized but recognizable and appropriate to the mood and the period. The helpful back matter includes author and illustrator notes and photos from the Wong family albums, including his immigration card. The endpapers feature the kites Wong designed and flew on the beach near his California home. A well-told story that spotlights the too-often unrecognized talent and contributions of America’s immigrants.

Horn Book

This picture-book biography focuses on two pivotal experiences in artist Tyrus Wong’s life—his emigration from China to the United States at age nine of 1920, and his work as an animator at Disney Studios. Leung’s well-paced text describes Wong’s journey as a “paper son” (a child carrying forged immigration papers, following the restrictive Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882). After he and his father settle in Sacramento, calligraphy lessons lead Wong to art school, where he learns to draw in a Western style but also continues to study Chinese art from the Song Dynasty. When he blends the two styles while working as an “in-betweener” at Disney, his ideas inspire (and he creates) the scenic design for the 1942 film Bambi. (However, he is credited only as a background artist, and was later fired during a workers’ strike.) While it would have been nice to see an example or two of Wong’s work, Sasaki’s digital illustrations are striking and are particularly effective in scenes that juxtapose hard and soft images (for example, impressionist-inspired ocean waves and tree blossoms subtly decorating a ship’s machinery). An arresting spread shows Wong working as his art school’s janitor and using his mop as a virtual paintbrush, a trail of soft colors spreading across the floor. The back matter includes an illustrator’s note, photos of Wong, and an author’s note offering more detail about the artist’s life (he died in 2016 at age 106!) as well as information about the Chinese Exclusion Act.

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