Doing the Write Thing: J.H. Low
Can children truly be free to forge their own paths in life—without adults always telling they can't do this or that? That’s the key question that author J.H. Low addresses in his new picture book, Lemonade Sky.
In the story, a boy ruminates on the idea of freedom. He feels that people are always giving instructions, imposing rules and regulations and always telling others what to do, such that he cannot express himself properly. So, he brings his friends—his toy friends Mr Wang and Dino—along on a journey to search for the “lemonade sky”—a place where he believes he can truly be free.
For Low, although this is a picture book is meant for children, he also created it with adults and parents in mind, whom he hopes can use Lemonade Sky to engage with their children and talk about their dreams, hopes and aspirations; and the ways they look at the world.
To begin, why don't you tell us a little about yourself?
Hello, I’m JH Low, and I’m the author and illustrator of Lemonade Sky. I’m an artist, illustrator and author of picture books.
What is Lemonade Sky about?
It is the story about a boy and two of his favourite toy figurines: Dino and Mr Wang. The trio are tired of the mundane experience of everyday life; so they decide to go on a journey to find the Lemonade Sky. You will also find many illustrations of animals in the book. I used these animals to suggests the emotions that I wanted to express and create a sense of marvel.
Maybe the boy has a special power to see animals that others can’t see. Or maybe the animals are just his imagination. Why is the boy wearing a helmet? Who is the omniscient voice that speaks to the boy? What is the boy running away from? What is the Lemonade Sky? These are questions that you will have to answer for yourself.
What made you decide to tell this story in a picture book?
I love picture books of all kinds. I create picture books for children but also picture books that express more mature content. Lemonade Sky is a story that is somewhere between the two. There are many child-like elements in the book, such as the wonderful dreamlike illustrations, but there are also more mature components, such as the enigmatic storyline. This type of picture book is also known as a crossover picture book, meaning that it is suitable for readers of all ages.
One of the things I like most about picture books is the double-page spread. Unlike stories in words or comic frames, picture books use an abundance of double-page spreads as its main syntax. I see every double-page spread like a painting, so creating a picture is like creating many paintings and putting them together into a narrative. Curiously, this was how Lemonade Sky came about, I did not start with a story in mind, I created three painting to express my thought about my growing up year. But when I put them together, suddenly the idea for a story was formed. I then developed the idea further and it became Lemonade Sky.
What inspired Lemonade Sky?
The inspiration for Lemonade Sky came from my personal experience. I have loved art from as far back as I can remember. Maybe from the very first time I held a pencil in my hand. I think the best thing about art is that the artist can draw anything and everything. There is no limit to one’s imagination. But as we grow older, people around us, and society in general, often impose many invisible limits and restrictions on us.
Some of these limits are necessary or even good. Some, not so much. I once saw I once saw a little girl making a drawing of her and her friends playing in the garden. She was vehemently and passionately filling in the sky with her yellow crayon. And then her teacher came by and told her that the sky should be blue. The look on her puzzled face left a big impression on me. Why can’t the sky be yellow or pink or green? It was her drawing—she should decide what colour she liked. Well, that’s how the title Lemonade Sky came about. Maybe the sky should be lemonade.
What would like readers to take away after reading this book?
My hope is that this is a book that will make you wonder and ponder about the things around you. If you are a young reader, I think Lemonade Sky will be a really interesting book for you. The enchanting artwork, the familiar yet magical settings are sure to capture your imagination.
I hope you will enjoy wandering around the streets with the protagonists: the boy, Dino and Mr Wang in search of the lemonade sky—wherever that might be. Remember, your imagination and creativity should have no limits. Be adventurous, be curious and be brave, if you have a dream chase after it—don’t let anyone hold you back. One day, I’m sure you’ll find your own lemonade sky.
Get J.H. Low's Lemonade Sky here.