Local writer-illustrator team launch unconventional fairy tale “The Stolen Button”
Writer Marianna Shek has teamed up with illustrator Leila Honari to produce The Stolen Button, a fairy tale picture book about a lost girl Mei Ling who trades her belly button to a gypsy who promises to return her home.
The Chinese-Australian writer said she is interested in creating stories based on Asian characters and landscapes but doesn’t want their race to be the focus of the story. “Many of the picture books I’ve read with Asian characters are not subtle in their aims to increase cultural awareness,” she said.
“For example, they focus on Asian celebrations such as Chinese New Year or they make a point to highlight the differences between ‘us and them’ through clothes, foods and homes.”
For this fantastical story set on the Silk Road, she teamed up with Iranian-Australian illustrator Leila Honari.
“When I read the story, it reminded me of Persian folktales which take place in bazaars— the stories in which people moved around in caravans and brought new things everywhere they went,” Leila said.
“As a fantasy writer and reader, the Silk Road has always appealed to me as a fantastical story world setting,” Marianna said.
“It’s fusion of Middle Eastern and Asian cultures equals the richness of Norse and medieval European traditions.”
The writer-illustrator team has just launched The Stolen Button on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter:
Even though the picture book won second place in the Children’s and Young Adult Writers and Illustrators Competition (aspiring picture book category) in 2016, they had difficulty finding a traditional publisher. At 48 pages, The Stolen Button is an unconventional length for a picture book but fairy tales in their original forms were not intended for children. They were dark, often violent stories using symbolism and metaphors to reflect life’s difficulties and to intone moralities. The Stolen Button is intended for older readers (12+) and adults.
You can watch the book trailer here: