Tomorrow Is New Year's Day: Seollal, a Korean Celebration of the Lunar New Year by Aram Kim

Hello, Aram Kim! Welcome back to Watch. Connect. Read.! I loved writing about Sunday Funday in Koreatown in The Gift of Story, and I’m so happy you’re here today to celebrate Tomorrow Is New Year’s Day: Seollal, a Korean Celebration of the Lunar New Year! What planted the seed for this beautiful book?

Aram Kim: Hi, Mr. Schu, it’s so wonderful to be back! Since I started making stories about Yoomi and her Korean family in the books including Sunday Funday in Koreatown, and No Kimchi for Me!, many Korean American families have reached out to me. It was inspiring to talk with them and see many of them share their Korean cultures with others. I was especially impressed that many families went to the kids’ schools to share the traditions of Seollal. Lunar New Year is celebrated by a lot of Asian countries but many people in western countries know it as Chinese New Year. One of the readers I connected with in 2018 asked me if I could write a story about Seollal as there were not many books about it. I thought it was a great idea, but didn’t feel that I had the right story in me. Then, in 2020, Joy Peskin, the editor at FSG saw the image I created for Lunar New Year and asked if I wanted to make a story about Seollal. I jumped on the chance, and by the fall, I had the first draft of the story inspired by the families I met who went into kids’ schools to share their Seollal cultures.

What materials did you use to create the art?

Aram Kim: I went almost fully digital this time. I always start with sketching and drawing in my moleskin notebook to solidify my ideas and try different thumbnails. From there, I would normally sketch on the piece of paper that I would scan later, but this time, I sketched directly on the iPad mini using the software called Adobe Fresco. While I sketched, drew, and colored on my iPad, I frequently printed them in size to make sure that they looked good printed. Looking at the art printed on paper gave me a good sense of how they would look in the actual book and let me catch the errors I might have missed on screen. As the last step, I transferred all the images to the computer to put more details in Adobe Photoshop.

Please finish the following sentence starters:

Bokjumoni is a colorful, decorative pouch that can be tied to the hanbok to carry money or small items. “Bok” means luck and good fortune which includes every aspect of life, and “jumoni” means a pocket/pouch. Simply put, it’s a lucky bag! I included a direction on how to fold a paper bokjumoni at the beginning of the book. Take a look and make your own bokjumoni!

Hanbok is a Korean traditional outfit. As a kid, I didn’t like wearing one like Miro, Mina’s younger brother. It felt itchy! I cried so much when my parents tried to dress me in hanbok for the one-year birthday photoshoot that they had to give up and put me back in a sweater. My one-year birthday photo in which I’m happy again holding a blue rubber ball in an old sweater is included in the book as an author photo. For a fun comparison, I also included my older sister’s one-year birthday photo in which she’s smiling in her beautiful hanbok! Now, as a grown-up, I love hanbok. It is so beautiful and well-crafted, that they seem like a piece of art. I had a lot of fun drawing them for this book.

Mina is a little girl character who’s been showing up in my illustration works for many years and I’m so happy that I finally got to give her a proper story of her own. She’s also implied to be the same girl who appears at the end of my debut picture book Cat on the Bus. It took me a long time to decide on her name. I had several other names I called her by throughout many rounds of drafts. In the end, I realized that one of my friends’ name, Mina, would be a perfect match for the little girl. It’s a common custom in Korea that siblings share one syllable in the name, so the little brother’s name became Miro.

John Schu, you should have asked me why I love seollal. For kids, seollal is exciting because they do sebae (a deep bowing on the floor for elders to show respect), and get to receive money (called sebae-don) in return along with good wishes for the new year. As a grownup, I don’t receive sebae-don, but seollal is still exciting. Seollal usually comes around by the time the new year’s resolution fades away, and it gives you a refresher and a new start again. It feels like you get to have the second start of the new year!

Thank you, Aram! Congratulations! 

Aram Kim is a writer, illustrator, and designer of children’s picture books. She has written and illustrated several books, including Cat on the Bus and No Kimchi For Me!. Her books Let’s Go to Taekwondo! and Sunday Funday in Koreatown are Junior Library Guild Gold selections. She was born in Ohio, raised in South Korea, and lives in Queens, New York, happily surrounded by diverse food and culture.


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