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February 27, 2015
Leaving China – a painted memoir about growing up during WW2
By Wink. James McMullan, an illustrator and watercolorist known for his popular theatrical posters for Lincoln Center as well as various children’s book covers, has created a beautiful memoir entitled Leaving China. This book of childhood “visual memories” combines short stories and haunting paintings about growing up during the turmoil of World War II.
McMullan, the son of a British businessman, was born in 1934 into a prosperous family in pre-war China. His family enjoyed many luxuries until war was eminent and the Japanese invasion forced the family from their hometown. Leaving China crisscrosses the globe and captures a young boy’s experiences with loss, love, loneliness and self-discovery. This book is appropriate for ages 12 and up. – Carole Rosner
July 29, 2014
Illustrator James McMullan Draws readers into "Leaving China..."
By Ruth Spurlock. James McMullan is best known in children’s literature as the illustrator of “I Stink,” the picture book story of a garbage truck. His newest work is something quite different.
“Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood” (Algonquin Young Readers, $19.95, ages 12 to 18) tells the story of prewar colonial China. It also details the domino of events that slingshots the young artist across the world and back again.
July 18, 2014
HUFFPOST ARTS & CULTURE
A Portrait of the Watercolorist as a Young Man
By Francis Levy. The provenance of the famed illustrator James McMullan's iconic poster for Lincoln Center's Anything Goes is to be found in the exhibit of watercolors from his recently published memoir Leaving China, currently on display at The John Jermain Memorial Library in Sag Harbor. McMullan's father had been the child of missionaries (McMullan's grandparents had founded a orphanage in China).
April 18/25, 2014
A Childhood in Watercolors
By Tina Jordan. In his evocative memoir Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood, James McMullan rings his early years alive through sprightly prose and the delicate, violet tinged paintings that grace every page.
New Books for Young Readers
By Sonja Bolle Newsday. James McMullan’s beautiful illustrated memoir, “Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood” (Algonquin Books, $19.95, ages 12 and older), makes me wonder if autobiography is an under-mined vein of literature for young readers.
McMullan was always a dreamy child, more comfortable copying Chinese scrolls than doing sports, and fearful of disappointing his larger-than-life father. He grew up to be a successful illustrator (and creator, with his wife, Kate McMullan, of irresistible children’s books: “I Stink!” “I’m Fast!” “I’m Dirty!”). Born into a missionary family in Cheefoo, China, the little boy saw plenty of strain in his parents’ lives even before the Japanese invasion and the family’s rude expulsion from their privileged expatriate life. His memories are rich with detail: Mandarin nicknames, the shouting of conquering Japanese troops on parade, the exotic cleanliness of a cousin’s American home, boarding school pranks carried out in the shadow of the Himalayas.
THE ROANOKE TIMES
By Lori McAnnally. As a boy, artist James McMullan enjoyed a privileged life in Tsingtao, North China, including servants and a rickshaw driver at his disposal. When World War II broke out, young Jim and his mother escaped the country while his father stayed behind to serve in the Allied forces.
April 5, 2014
REVIEW: 'Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood,' by James McMullan
By Tom Zelman. James McMullan’s fascinating and often disturbing memoir, while part of the Algonquin Young Readers series, will appeal equally to older readers. McMullan was born into a well-to-do merchant family living near Shanghai, and his early memories read like a vintage MGM film: servants, outings, dinner dress, galas. Yet, as he tells us, his book is about “a nervous boy” searching for “a way to be in the world.” And James has a lot to be nervous about. As he approaches adolescence, the world he knows crumbles as the Japanese invade, his father enlists, and he and his mother sail to Canada on the last passenger liner heading out.
April 1, 2014
Long Island Books: Boyhood Dreams
By Sasha Watson. In full-page watercolor paintings, each matched with a brief elucidation of some moment of the author’s childhood, frequently placed in historical context, that world is brought to life in lovely, poetic detail. Though the book is aimed at young readers, one wonders if it won’t appeal even more to adults interested in this period of history and in the emotional development of a young artist.
March 26, 2014
The Accidential Wanderer
by Elaine Louie. James McMullan has painted 80 posters for Lincoln Center Theater, won a New York Times best illustrated book award for “I Stink!” written by his wife, Kate McMullan, and has just written and illustrated a memoir, “Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood” (Algonquin, $19.95). Born in 1934 in Tsingtao (now Qingdao), China, he was 3 when his family moved to the coastal city of Cheefoo (now Yantai). In 1941, three years after the Japanese invaded Cheefoo, Mr. McMullan and his mother took off for San Francisco, while his father joined the British Army.
March 19, 2014
A Family History
by Chris Rovzar. Illustrator James McMullan has designed more than 50 posters for Lincoln Center Theater, and his paintings for New York magazine became legendary under editor Clay Felker and design director Milton Glaser. (His artwork illuminated the story that inspired the movie Saturday Night Fever.) In his new book, Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood, McMullan looks back at his youth in China as the son of a wealthy European family. His grandparents had emigrated as missionaries, and ran an orphanage for abandoned infant girls. McMullan’s memories of China, and later Canada and India, plus the story of his troubled mother, make a compelling and intricate tale.
March 12, 2014
A New York Artist’s Wartime Childhood
Lush violet shadows, a sense of the page as a deep box — a stage, really — in which a quiet drama unfolds in acute perspective: New Yorkers may recognize James McMullan’s signature watercolors from his posters for Lincoln Center Theater. (His saucy sailor girl, looking back over her shoulder to advertise a production of “Anything Goes” at the Vivian Beaumont, is a particularly well-known example.) New York Times readers may remember the illustrated 12-part series McMullan wrote on the artistic process for the Opinionator blog in 2010. And children and their art-loving parents will recall the many picture books he has illustrated, including the Times Best Illustrated winner “I Stink!” — written by his wife, Kate McMullan — a first-person account of the life of a garbage truck. “Know what I do at night while you’re asleep? Eat your trash, that’s what! See those bags? I smell breakfast!”
March 6, 2014
Blaine Blog for Books: Seven Impossible Things before Breakfast
A Conversation with James McMullan
By Julie (Jules) Danielson. James McMullan, who has led a long and distinguished career in graphic design and illustration, has written a new memoir. It’s a fascinating read, and today over at Kirkus I chat with him about this book.
It’s called Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood and was released this month from Algonquin. McMullan was born in North China, the grandson of UK missionaries who had settled there, and in this book he recounts his childhood in brief, impressionistic vignettes accompanied by paintings — first, his privileged life and then his father’s departure for the war, followed by his and his mother’s attempts to escape Japanese occupation.
It’s a book aimed at teens (given that it was published by Algonquin’s young-readers imprint), but as many reviewers have noted, adults would enjoy it as well.
March 6, 2014
A Septuagenarian Artist's Childhood, in 55 Watercolors
After a career creating famous images for clients, James McMullan undertakes a project for himself.
By Steve Heller. Poster artist and children’s book author/illustrator James McMullan has created dozens of well-known Lincoln Center posters and editorial illustrations, including a series in New York Magazine that inspired the film “Saturday Night Fever. This month, his first illustrated memoir will be published. Leaving China: An Artists Paints His World War II Childhood (Algonquin Young Readers) chronicles McMullan’s peripatetic existence before and after escaping with his mother from Japanese-occupied Cheefoo, China. Beautifully illustrated in his signature watercolor style, McMullan has written an unsentimental and compelling story tracing the saga of his missionary grandparents, family business, parents’ relationship, and father’s anti-Japanese intelligence work in the British army—all leading to McMullan becoming an artist.
Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood.
By Michael Cart. The first nonfiction title in the still new Algonquin Young Readers imprint, this is a memoir of celebrated artist McMullan’s early years from age 2 to 11. His was a hopscotch early life thanks to WW II. Born in 1934 in Tsingtao, China, he subsequently lived in Shanghai, Canada, India, then China and Canada again and, finally, in the U.S. “My mother and I were now wanderers,” he writes, “not yet attached to any particular place.” His life was not always a happy story; his mother was a deep depressive who abused alcohol, and his strict British military officer father died in a plane wreck. Moreover, he had a self-described nervous, timid, introspective personality, but he found “much comfort in the intelligence of (his) visual surroundings” and, accordingly, his story is informed by a keen sense of place. The book consists of 54 chronologically arranged full-page illustrations, each accompanied by a facing page of text. The exquisite full-color pictures are filled with air and space, reminiscent of the Chinese scrolls that fascinated him as a child. These pictures and the evocative text are a happy exercise in harmony. A fascinating, seamless portrait of a young life and the wartime world that will have appeal not only to young readers but to adults as well.