01 Dec / Dear Santa, Please Come to the 19th Floor by Yin, illustrated by Chris Soentpiet + Illustrator Profile [in KoreAm Journal]
NEW YORK CITY — Even after being rejected by more than 10 publishers, Chris Soentpiet (pronounced SOON-peet) kept pounding the pavement. “I kept going because I wanted to eat. I needed a job,” he says. Today, Soentpiet is one of the most lauded children’s books illustrators. His remarkable titles include Peacebound Trains by Haemi Balgassi, So Far From the Sea and Jin Woo by Eve Bunting, and Molly Bannaky by Alice McGill.
Soentpiet’s 15th and latest title, Dear Santa, Please Come to the 19th Floor, is his second collaboration with his wife and business partner, whose pen name is Yin. The engaging book, about two young boys who live in a housing project and their memorable encounter with Santa, is based on Yin’s childhood growing up on the 19th floor of a New York City apartment.
The couple’s debut collaboration, Coolies, based on Yin’s Chinese American ancestors who helped build the transcontinental railroad, won the 2001 Parents’ Choice Foundation’s Gold Award for Best Picture Book and was named an American Library Association (ALA) Notable Book and an International Reading Association (IRA) Book Award winner in 2002.
Soentpiet first discovered his love of watercolors in a high school art class. So impressed was his art teacher that he secretly sent out Soentpiet’s work and helped him get a scholarship to the prestigious Pratt Institute in New York. Soentpiet thought he might be a commercial artist until he met illustrator Ted Lewin, who convinced him to illustrate children’s books.
“That was nearly 10 years ago,” says Lewin, “and his fire in the belly has not cooled. His work continues to amaze.”
Soentpiet now has a spacious home studio, his choice of projects and is able to take summers off. “But there was a time that I thought about quitting,” he confesses. “I really did live that life of a starving artist. Luckily I stuck with it; the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward.” … [click here for more]