“This loving picture book about a young Malaysian boy who defies gender expectations will make hearts warm and stomachs hungry. With beautifully vibrant illustrations of a traditional nyonya kitchen, Boys Don’t Fry is a heartfelt celebration of family, culture, and traditions—both old and new.”
Author’s name: Kimberly Lee
Illustrator’s name: Charlene Chua
Other book titles: What if? (makchic, 2021)
What is your upcoming book title? Boys Don’t Fry
Date of release: 14th November 2023
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (an imprint of Macmillan)
Agent: Emily Forney
Agency: BookEnds Literary Agency
Hometown: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
1. What are 5 things you want people to know about your book?
- That it features a very unique subculture in Southeast Asia – the Peranakans – a distinct, mixed community in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, who were descendants of an intermarriage between early Chinese settlers in the 15th fifteenth century and the local Malay/Indonesian people.
- The beautiful illustrations by Charlene Chua (who is of Singaporean descent) authentically capture the culture, colors and cuisine of Peranakan life, as a family gets ready to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
- I named the main character, Jin, for my two sons- both carry the name Jin as part of their Chinese names!
- At the heart of this book is the tender and empowering relationship between a grandmother and her grandson – which contains a key message about honoring the desire in every child’s heart to feel seen, valued, and included.
- My mom’s treasured pongteh chicken recipe is also included in the book (to her absolute delight!)
2. What are 5 helpful hints or tips you wish you would’ve known before starting on this publishing journey?
- That the road to traditional publishing is such a LONG one! Patience (and resilience) are key – don’t give up; instead, use the time in between to keep writing and honing your craft.
- Don’t forget to connect with the wonderful kidlit writing community. There are so many opportunities to get to know inspiring creators and to grow – from organizations such as SCBWI or 12 x 12, fun writing contests and critique giveaways, to taking part in conferences, webinars and writing courses (as well as engaging with your critique partners, who often provide the most invaluable advice).
- Before querying an agent, do your background reading. Take the time to get to know their MSWL, check out their agent website/ socials, and read interviews that feature them to really understand what they’re looking for and whether your manuscript might be a good fit for them.
- At the end of the day, you are the biggest advocate of your own book – don’t shy away from giving it a shoutout! Book promotion and marketing are necessary, so make sure to familiarize yourself with social media and connect with a debut group (it helps so much to have friends going through a similar journey as you).
- Never stop creating that which gives you joy 🙂
3. What are 5 fun/quirky facts about yourself as an adult or child?
- I almost drowned when I was 3 – and was mysteriously (and miraculously) saved by a stranger.
- As a child, 2 geckos ran down my shirt and I’ve been traumatized by them ever since!
- I love singing, and moonlight sometimes as a jazz and wedding singer 🙂
- To my everlasting regret, I can’t ride a bike.
- I lived in London for several years, and the UK is still my second home.
4. Where are 5 places you find inspiration for your stories?
- In nature
- Through the (utterly random) things my kids say!
- When I learn incredible facts about incredible people.
- The library.
- In the shower!
5. What are your 5 favorite picture books and why?
I gravitate towards picture books that are lush, lyrical and layered – or that carry concepts that resonate with me on a deeper level. Some of my favorite picture books include:
- The Sea Saw by Tom Percival
- Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Mendez (illustrated by Jaime Kim)
- Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon
- The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld
- The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson (illustrated by Rafael Lopez)