Hi Math is Everywhere Readers,
I hope you’re ready to dive in because today we’re talking with wonderful writer Tina Cho about her beautiful book THE OCEAN CALLS, illustrated by Jess X. Snow as the anniversary of this book is upon this!
Kaitlyn: Hi, Tina, thank you so much for joining us! And happy anniversary for THE OCEAN CALLS! I’m especially excited to share about this because my parents were abalone divers, too, here on the west coast. There’s only one dive I recall being at as a kid, but I can still recall the feeling of such a beautiful community of togetherness and was reminded of this when reading your beautiful book.
Tina: Wow, I’ve never heard of abalone divers in America. That’s awesome! Was this something they did for fun or for a career? Thanks again for having me!
Kaitlyn: My parents definitely did it for the pleasure though they were very dedicated – my dad would practice holding his breathe throughout the day often times. Now that we know about about my parents’ story, Tina, can you share what inspired THE OCEAN CALLS and a bit about its journey into the world?
Tina: This story started with a tweet on Twitter! Someone tweeted about haenyeo. I googled them and discovered haenyeo were in Korea just like I was at the time. I found these elderly women fascinating. Haenyeo, most of whom are between the ages of 50-80 years old, dive without breathing equipment, catch creatures to sell. This tradition has been ongoing for hundreds of years.
Kaitlyn: Twitter can be such an amazing resource for discovery; I just love that! Can you share why you think stories like these are so important for our little ones to read about?
Tina: I think children need to see that elderly can be strong, brave, and mighty in different things. Not all grandmas sit on a rocking chair. And culturally, it’s important to show grandparents and child characters from different walks of life. Representation matters. Children can learn so much from their grandparents or elderly. I still talk weekly with my 97-year-old grandma.
Kaitlyn: I agree, it’s so important to see such powerful representations of older people, and I love that you take a weekly walk with your grandma; those must be the most beautiful and exciting times – I bet she has the best stories! I never got to meet either of my grandmas, but some of my favorite times in life have been spent listening to stories of people much older than me, and wow, those stories are amazing! Can you share a bit about traditions, how they play a role in your books, and why it’s important to keep them alive?
Tina: History books record the haenyeo tradition as far back as 1392. On this island, women were the breadwinners, while the men served in the army. Haenyeo passed the tradition to their daughters, until recently. Daughters would rather study on the mainland than do dangerous dives. In 2016, UNCESCO inscribed this tradition on their list to preserve this way of life.
All countries have their own traditions, even here in the U.S. Since Korea is a much older country, they have many traditions that Korean parents want to pass to their children and grandchildren. I think it’s important for children to know past stories and where they came from. There’s a special closeness or bond, so-to-speak, among those from the same culture. I’ve written about these traditions in The Ocean Calls and in my 2nd picture book, Korean Celebrations.
Kaitlyn: I totally agree that it’s so powerful to know the past and learn about where you and others have come from; also so interesting! In THE OCEAN CALLS, the illustrations are just as stunning as the beautiful relationship you wrote between characters in the book. Can you share a bit about how you went about creating such a beautiful relationship and what you thought when you first saw Jess X. Snow’s art for THE OCEAN CALLS?
Tina: Illustrator Jess. X. Snow did a beautiful job showcasing the island of Jeju and the ocean. I just love all the scenes. Thankfully, Kokila, the publisher, shared illustrations with me, and I was able to make comments. Since I had been to Jeju twice, I shared my photos with them, and they shared them with Jess. One of Jess’s strengths is painting murals, and that really shines through in my book. As far as Grandma and Dayeon’s relationship, again since I have such a good relationship with my own grandmother, I wanted to highlight that in this story.
Kaitlyn: I love that you got inspiration from your own strong and wonderful relationship, and I can definitely see that your team chose the perfect illustrator, too. Can you share a bit more about your team? Specifically, who was your editor for this book? And what did you enjoyed about working with this editor?
Tina: I loved working with editor Joanna Cárdenas. She always gave such wise advice and edits that really moved the story to its greatness. All the hard work paid off. This book garnered four stars! (Kirkus, SLJ, PW, Booklist) And will soon be an animated special!
Kaitlyn: Oh my goodness, super congratulations to you and your whole team! I love to see that your hard work is still paying off. Another important person on your team is you agent. Can you share who your agent is and why you enjoy working with this agent?
Tina: My agent is the lovely Adria Goetz of Martin Literary who is such a great champion for not just my work, but for all her clients. She has a keen eye on what will sell, has great ideas, and is just a wonderful, kind person to know!
Kaitlyn: Adria sounds just lovely! I’m so glad you’ve found the perfect person to represent you and your stories. Can you share some advice you like to give to aspiring authors?
Tina: Never give up! If I can do it, so can you. Read picture books. Join critique groups. Take classes. Again, never give up!
Kaitlyn: I think it’s safe to say that you should never give up, and I agree! It’s long, winding roads, but they’re filled with wonder, beauty, and awesome people, like Tina! Now, can you please share with us what’s next for you or what you’re working on now?
Tina: For now, my next book debuts in 2023. The Other Side of Tomorrow is a lyrical middle grade graphic novel, illustrated by Deborah Lee, coming out with Harper Alley. It’s about two North Korean kids who escape along the Asian Underground Railroad. I also have stories out on submission, so we’ll see!
Kaitlyn: I can’t wait for your The Other Side of Tomorrow! I just ordered The LEGEND OF AUNTIE PO by Shing Yin Khor; I’m so excited to dive into more graphic novels, and especially excited to see how you and Deborah Lee portray a lyrical graphic novel – that sounds awesome! Finally, if you could meet your favorite author, illustrator, historical figure, or mathematician would you chat by a fireside or go on an adventure?
Tina: Well, sadly, my favorite author just passed away–Eric Carle. But I’d love to visit his museum some day. As far as others, there are just too many to list. I want to meet them all. Probably by a fireside chat so I can learn from them.
Kaitlyn: The loss of Eric Carle is such a huge loss for everyone; I’m so sorry you never got to meet Eric, but I am so glad that you’ll get to visit his museum someday. If you haven’t seen it, you should check out the Eric Carle App, My Very Hungry Caterpillar, I highly recommend it; it’s in my top 5 favorite apps (educational and fun) for my daughter, and she loves it, too! Thank you so much for sharing and for joining us today, Tina!
Tina: Thanks so much for having me on your blog, as we celebrate the 1 year “bookiversary” for The Ocean Calls! I’ve appreciated getting to know you, Kaitlyn, on social media!
Kaitlyn: It’s been so wonderful to get to know you on social media and through this interview, especially as a fellow teacher and phenomenal writer; it’s been an absolute pleasure having you here, and I can’t wait to have you back to talk about your graphic novel!
Book Info and Links
A breathtaking picture book featuring a Korean girl and her haenyeo (free diving) grandmother about intergenerational bonds, finding courage in the face of fear, and connecting with our natural world.
Debuts 8/4/20 from Kokila, an imprint of Penguin Random House
*Starred review from Kirkus:
- “The sea, with equal parts danger and thrill, makes an exciting training ground for a young haenyeo diver.”
*Starred review from Booklist:
“Use this sweet story about family tradition, trust, and confidence to support STEM units on weather and tides, sea life, and ecology (the haenyeo are model conservationists). This engaging story with its alluring illustrations also makes a wonderful choice for a read-aloud.”
*Starred review from Publisher’s Weekly:
“Sturdy prose by Cho (Rice from Heaven) highlights a segment of Korean society whose women preserve a vibrant tradition of enterprise, stamina, and cooperation, and Grandma shines as a kind of generous real-life superhero.”
*Starred review from School Library Journal:
“This expressive story is a must-have for any collection. As a bonus, the back matter provides extensive history on the haenyeo tradition, along with safety protocols and quotes from divers.”
Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound, Target, Walmart, & Pottery Barn Kids!
For a signed book: Email Learning Post Toys & myself (Buy from Learning Post, notify them you want a signed copy)
Available as an audio book January 19, 2021!
Author Bio and Links
Tina Cho is the author of four picture books– Rice from Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans (Little Bee Books 2018), Korean Celebrations (Tuttle 2019), My Breakfast with Jesus: Worshipping God around the World (Harvest House 2020), and The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story (Kokila/Penguin Random House 2020). Her lyrical middle grade graphic novel, The Other Side of Tomorrow, debuts from Harper Alley in 2023. After living in South Korea for ten years, Tina, her husband, and two teenagers reside in Iowa where Tina also teaches kindergarten.
THE OCEAN CALLS is a beautiful book about strong women, powerful history, wonderful relationships, and conquering fears. Filled with gorgeous illustrations, kids and adults alike will discover these amazing divers to be inspiring and supportive. I just loved learning about this history that I wasn’t aware of before and hope everyone gets a chance to enjoy it!
Giveaway – Win a picture book or query critique from Tina Cho!
To enter the random drawing, do any/all of the following options, then come back and write all of the things you did in ONE blog comment. (If you forget something, feel free to reply to your first comment ;))
- Share that you added any or all of Tina Cho’s books to your Goodreads “Want to Read” list and/or your Amazon Wishlist
- Share that you ordered a copy of any or all of Tina Cho’s books
- Share that you did a purchase request for any or all of Tina Cho’ books at your library
- Share that you left a review of any or all of Tina Cho’s books on Amazon or Barnes and Noble
- Share that you retweeted or quote retweeted my tweet about this blog post on Twitter and tagged some friends.
Thank you all again for supporting such a wonderful creator!
I’m excited to share that Thursdays will now be family night at the Sanchez abode, so you will be finding your weekly interviews will now come on Saturdays, so I can get them all set to go on Friday nights. I hope you all already have family nights, and if you don’t, might I suggest one? It’s such a great bonding experience, and I’m loving it already! Talk soon!
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez