Year of the Cat by Richard Ho and Jocelyn Li Langrand

Hello, Richard Ho! Hello, Jocelyn Li Langrand! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read.! Thank you for stopping by to celebrate Year of the Cat.

Richard Ho: Thank you John for having us!

Jocelyn Li Langrand: Hello Mr. Schu! Thank you for having us.

I won’t give anything away, but whoa, whoa, whoa! I read the ending multiple times. I cannot wait to discuss it with children. Whoa!

Richard Ho: I’m so glad the ending got such a strong reaction from you… I can’t wait to see how kids respond!

Me, too! What inspired you to write Year of the Cat?

Richard Ho: As a first-generation Chinese American, I’ve always considered my birth year within the Chinese zodiac to be an important part of my identity. I was born in the Year of the Monkey, so naturally I had a mild obsession with monkeys growing up. (The number of monkey-themed gifts I’ve accumulated over the years is truly staggering!) Like other Chinese kids, I was also familiar with the story of the Great Race, a popular folktale in which the 12 animals of the zodiac were assigned their years based on their order of finish. But it was the Rat’s betrayal of Cat—resulting in Cat missing out on a year entirely—that always captured my imagination. Once I started writing picture books, I knew I had to explore the aftermath of this dastardly act.

Jocelyn, what materials did you use to create the beautiful art?

Jocelyn Li Langrand: Year of the Cat was drawn with Pencils and Procreate on iPad. I first sketched out the book on paper to figure out the page turns and rough compositions. Then I used Procreate to create the final art. With the huge amount of brushes these days, I was able to explore and achieve the hand-drawn feel I want while taking full advantage of the layering and “Ctrl+Z” features. I love this process!

Richard, please finish the following sentence starters:

Jocelyn Li Langrand’s illustrations
are like she reached into my childhood imagination and pulled these characters from my brain—but before she transferred them to the page, she breathed so much life and originality into them that they are infinitely more adorable and dynamic than I could have dreamed! Jocelyn style is so expressive, and I remember gasping when I saw her beautiful illustrations for the first time. I’m honored that Year of the Cat is the first book written by someone else that she’s illustrating, and so thrilled that we got to team up on this book in particular. After all, we both grew up with this beloved Chinese story!

Rat is hard to categorize. Is he a hero? A villain? A bit of both? He plays the role of the cunning trickster because that’s how he’s wired, but his quest to find Cat and apologize seems genuine—at least at the beginning. Will all of the tricks he’s pulled in the past come back to bite him in the end?

The Lost Package is the story of a package that gets lost—and then found—on the way to its destination. But it’s really a story of hope and long-distance connection and new friendships, as well as a tribute to my father and the United States Postal Service!

Jocelyn, please finish the following sentence starters:

Year of the Cat’s cover has all eyes on Cat. Finally! With Richard Ho’s brilliant humorous twist to this ancient myth, all of the 12 zodiac animals found themselves wondering about Cat’s fate, especially Rat. It was such a treat to illustrate this epic tale that I grew up with. The cover is an invitation for our readers. The 12 zodiac animals are lining up clockwise in the order of their years, from Rat to Pig. And Cat, who purposefully hide her face in the cover make you wonder if she is secretly enjoying the spotlight, or simply doesn’t care. The readers will find out. After illustrating the whole book, I just want to say Cat is cool, I’d like to be her friend.

Cats are mistaken all the time. They are often portrayed as villains as they chase ‘poor’ rats. But why did Cats chase Rats in the first place? This book will tell you all about it from a Chinese ancient perspective, and leave you second guessing all that. Personally, I found Cats mysterious. I once babysat a cat in college, till these days, I still wonder if it was the other way around.

If You Miss Me is my debut picture book as author and illustrator that just came out last December. It’s a tender tale about loss and the power of love to help and heal. Charlie who loves to dance her way through life with her Grandma. They may not always be together, but each time they part Grandma says, “If you miss me, look at the moon. I will do the same.” These words and their unique connections live on even after Grandma passed away. It reminds us that the people who we love the most are always with us.

If You Miss Me, as you probably guess, doesn’t involve any cats or rats, although there is a rabbit throughout the whole book. It represents my Grandpa, who was born in the year of Rabbit like me. Out of the 16 grandkids my grandparents have I’ve always felt extra special having this bond with my Grandpa. The Chinese zodiac means so much to me that it’s fate I illustrated Richard’s Year of the Cat. Did I mention my Grandma was born in the Year of Monkey, like Richard? I can’t explain it, but everything is connected.

Thank you, Richard Ho and Jocelyn Li Langrand! 

Richard Ho is a children's book author who was once himself a child. He is a former journalist and currently an editor at Newsela, an education website that provides leveled reading content for students.

Jocelyn Li Langrand is an author/illustrator and visual designer. Originally from China, she now lives in the California Bay Area, and finds that her heritage and travel influence everything she creates. 

Look for Year of the Cat on November 1, 2022. 


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