Amah Faraway by Margaret Chiu Greanias and Tracy Subisak

Hello, Margaret Chiu Greanias and Tracy Subisak! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read.

Thank you so much for stopping by to discuss Amah Faraway, a heartwarming story that made me want to drive to the airport and fly faraway.

Tracy, please take us on a tour of the cover.

Tracy Subisak: When I was in college, my brother and I traveled to Taiwan together to visit our waipo (grandma) and explore. The first thing we did when we got to Taipei was climb up Elephant Mountain (Xiangshan 象山) to get a view of Taipei 101 – it is the tallest building in Taiwan, and back then, it was the third tallest building in the world. The second we got to the top, we were at awe at the view of the beautiful city.

This memory and view is so strong and special that I knew I wanted Amah and Kylie to visit it in the book and on the cover.

Margaret, imagine you’re booktalking Amah Faraway to second-grade teachers. What do you share with them?

Margaret Chiu Greanias: Amah Faraway is about a girl named Kylie who lives so far away from her grandmother (Amah in Taiwanese) that visits are few and far between. When Kylie finally visits Amah in Taiwan, the language, customs, foods, extended family, and most importantly, Amah all feel a bit unfamiliar. At first, Kylie clings only to what she knows. However, when she finally opens her heart, she experiences everything in a whole new light.

Amah Faraway can serve as a mirror for and window to immigrant families who have left their ancestral homeland and loved ones behind. It's a story about long-distance family, the grandparent-grandchild relationship, experiencing new things, and connecting with one's ancestral culture. Many children regardless of background will be able to relate to the emotion of feeling nervous about the new or unfamiliar. They will be able to practice their inference skills as Kylie's emotions change from the beginning to end of the book. They may even learn some Taiwanese culture and simple Chinese words. Finally, because of the unique reverse poem structure of the story (where lines in the first half repeat in the second half of the story with in a new meaning), students can also study the power of punctuation and context.

Tracy, what materials did you use to make the art?

Tracy Subisak: I used Chinese brushes my mom gave me to paint with Gansai Tambi watercolor and India ink on Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper. I added texture using Neocolor II crayons.

Margaret, please finish the following sentence starters:

Tracy Subisak’s illustrations made me laugh and cry, and they transported me back to Taiwan.

Picture books nourish the eyes, ears, and heart.

Tracy, please finish the following sentence starters:

Amah Faraway’s endpapers are eager to teach more about Taiwan while hopefully teaching some Mandarin too!

Kylie experiences what so many children of immigrants, third culture kids, and kids with family overseas experience. She shifts from one culture to another, and ultimately finds herself at ease and in love with the culture she is born in.

Margaret Chiu Greanias is the author of Maximillian Villainous. The daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, she grew up in New York, Texas, and California, while her Amah lived faraway in Taipei. This book was inspired by her childhood memories visiting her Amah—exploring night markets, splashing in hot springs, and connecting with relatives—and by her children experiencing Taiwan with their Amah for the first time. She currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, three children, and a fluffle of dust bunnies.

Tracy Subisak is the illustrator of several picture books, including the award-winning Shawn Loves Sharks by Curtis Manley and the nonfiction picture book Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane by Kirsten Larson. Tracy is from Ohio and now lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Look for Amah Faraway on January 4, 2022. 


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