Simply 7 with Maple Lam: DIM SUM, HERE WE COME!

Am I the only person who celebrates the new year with a Dim Sum feast of pot stickers, bao, etc.?  No?  Then you won’t want to miss this book!

Maple Lam Headshot-Credit Karen ChanMaple Lam is a Los Angeles based illustrator/author. Her illustrations feature expressive characters and a soft color palette, all of which wins the heart of many fans. Her books include MY LITTLE SISTER AND ME, SHAKE MY SILLIES OUT (written by Raffi), FRENEMIES IN THE FAMILY (written by Kathleen Krull), WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH A TOOLBOX? (written by Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri), and TWO GIRLS WANT A PUPPY (written by Ryan and Evie Cordell).

Some of her upcoming books include a graphic novel series inspired by various mythologies (Razorbill, Winter/2023).  You can learn more about her at her website or follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Post (@maplelam though this is new and she is still exploring it), or Twitter (though she is planning to phase out Twitter in 2023).

DimSum COVERDIM SUM HERE WE COME is a story of a young girl with a weekly tradition.  Every Sunday her entire family (Grandma, Grandpa, Aunties, Uncles, and cousins) gathers together to eat Dim Sum together.  But don’t be confused.  This is not just a book about eating delicious food (though it certainly shares about that).  This is a book that shows familial love, teaches customs (in a very subtle and tactile way), and leaves you with an Aww! ending.  Plus, Maple’s soft and appealing art work illustrates the whole thing (including the end papers!).  It’s simply delightful in so many ways and trust me when I say that it’s a book you won’t want to miss!

Welcome Maple!

Me: What was your artistic journey? When did you start drawing or painting?  How did that bring you to writing and illustrating this book?

Maple: I have drawn ever since I can remember. Both my parents majored in art. They taught at high schools in Hong Kong, and they gave private art lessons over the weekends. I always tagged along on those lessons. During school breaks, the whole family would go on hikes. When we reached the destination, we would each pull up a sketchbook and started drawing. Kids largely emulate what parents do, and my sister and I were no exception. My parents didn’t give us many art lessons in terms of crafts, but they believed that developing passion and creativity in the process were more important. I have my parents to thank for those wonderful memories. That’s how my artistic journey began.

To be honest, when I was a kid, I didn’t particularly enjoy dim sum. It was a loud environment, and I preferred quiet ones, like the library. But when I moved to the states at eleven, something in me changed. Perhaps the taste and the sound brought a sense of home and familiarity. I learned to enjoy the entirety of the experience. I wanted to capture that in a book, so Dim Sum, Here We Come was born.

I still love the library though. That hasn’t changed.

Me: Can you talk about your art process?  Do you use traditional media or digital?  Or a blend of both?  What made you decide to use this as your illustration medium?

Maple: I made quick sketches in the computer to generate layout options. They were mostly scribbles, but they gave me a good sense of composition. Once that’s done, I printed out the roughs and made more refined sketches on watercolor paper. I then stretched the paper, let it dry, and started layering in the watercolor. When that dried up, I went in with colored pencils to add in the details and texture.

The artwork was drawn traditionally for this book because there is a unique sense of joy in the hands-on process, for me at least. I could feel the teeth of the paper when I sketched, noticed the right amount of dampness each time I layer in another wash, and switched back and forth with different tools for the desired effect. Maybe because the creative process for me has a human touch, I felt more warmth in the artwork, and I hope that warmth and joy would come through to the readers.


Me:  I love a good dim sum, but I love how youve included family traditions around it.  What gave you the idea to combine these two things into a story?

Maple: I have always wanted to make a book about family love, and showing family love through food sharing is a common experience. While dim sum might not be the food other families go for, the act of sharing food with loved ones is universal. I wanted to weave that theme into the book. 

Me: I am blown away by the text in this story.  It incorporates cultural references, yummy food, repetition, and a heart felt message.  Thats a lot to include in such a short manuscript!  Im also astonished at how easily you worked in explanations of things like what tapping your fingers on the table mean. You do it so subtly that it doesnt feel like teaching!  Was this story always this tight?  Or did it become this polished through many revisions with your critique group?

Maple: Oh, how I wish I could do this on my first try! No, the story went through many stages of revisions, and it got tightened up bit by bit. There were scenes that got cut in order to advance the story. That’s the wonderful part about storytelling – it gets better and better through chiseling and sculpting, but you have to know when to stop to find the best balance. I truly thank my critique partners, my agent, and my editor in helping me find the best way to deliver this story.


Me:  You are both the author and the illustrator of this wonderful story.  What was harder, the writing or the illustrating of it?  Why?

Maple: They are both challenging in their own ways.

With picture books, I juggle a lot of pieces when I write: the pace, the choice of words, the page-turn, the story rhythm, the theme, etc. It requires a lot of thinking and rewriting. Personally, I always prefer very short manuscript for picture books, so I try my best to balance what I wrote in the text versus what could be shown in the artwork.

The hardest part in illustrating DIM SUM, HERE WE COME was the large cast and the vast array of dishes. It was a time consuming process to execute. There were also dishes that proved challenging to illustrate, such as the fried taro dumplings. I tried a few different ways to draw them before finalizing on a solution. But it worked out. Phew!

Me: Any advice for new picture book writers and/or illustrators?

Maple: You truly need to love what it is you are working on. Picture books take a long take to make, which means you will be working on that project for a long while, and if you don’t like the topic enough, it will tire you out quickly. Your passion shows through in the work, and that love is the undercurrent in everything you write and illustrate.

Another tip is to develop thicker skin. Book publishing is largely a game of rejection. Keep in mind it is not personal. It might just means it’s not a good fit for that particular editor at that particular time. Or it could be a great opportunity to learn more about storytelling through revisions. Perseverance is the key. If you can appreciate the opportunity to learn, the journey will be much more enjoyable.

Last but not least, find people to journey along with. In the end, maybe you’ll discover that’s what gives this entire journey meaning.


Me:  I love that!  Perhaps there is a reader out there who has never been to dim sum before.  You have some yummy examples of what they can find in both the book and the end papers.  What would you recommend they start with?  What is your favorite thing to eat at a Dim Sum?

Maple: The most popular dim sum dishes are Har Gau (Shrimp dumplings) and Siu Mai (Pork dumplings.) They are the default staple for many. Cha Siu bun (BBQ pork buns) and egg tarts are also very popular. My personal favorite is the Cha Siu baked buns – I preferred the baked ones over the steamed ones. They glazed the top of the baked buns with honey. The combined sweet and savory taste is simply exquisite.

One of the biggest challenges for beginners is not knowing how many dishes to order. (There are so many to choose from! And they all look delicious!) The general rule of thumb is that, for every one person, you should order two dishes. So if you have a party of six, ordering twelve dishes should be a good amount. Of course, you can always add on more as you see fit. Go for it! Dim sum, here we come!

That’s wonderful advice.  Thank you for stopping by my blog today Maple.

Dear readers, if you’ve ever enjoyed a Dim Sum before (or any meal with your family), then trust me when I say that this book will tug at both your heart strings and your appetite.  You won’t want to miss it!

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