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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Hope Lim and Jaime Kim

Today I'm excited to share my interview with Hope Lim (author) and Jaime Kim (illustrator) about the creation of their beautiful and touching new picture book - Mommy's Hometown.

Hope Lim is a children's book author from South Korea who now lives in San Francisco with her family.

Hope has always loved language. She majored in English Literature and earned a master’s degree in Conference Interpretation. For many years, she navigated the world of diplomats, working as an interpreter for the US State Department. Then motherhood ushered her into the world of children's literature, where she discovered the power of picture books, which transcends time, place, and language.

Now, she continues her love of language by reading with her two children and writing stories, often inspired by them. Hope runs every day, practices yoga, and indulges in dark chocolate while trying to translate her inner child's emotions into words.

She’s the author of My Tree (2021) and I Am A Bird (2021).

For additional information see our earlier interview (here).

Jaime Kim (pronounced JAY-ME) - was born and raised in South Korea before moving to the USA when she was 18. Although she was a timid child who was afraid of just about everything, she discovered a sense of serenity in drawing. As a grown-up, Jaime finally stopped being afraid of everything, but kept on drawing and painting. She works with gouache, watercolors and acrylics to create nostalgic and dreamlike illustrations, inspired by childhood memories of her family, as well as movies, art, and the outside world. Her favorite things are the sun, the moon, the sky and stars – which is why they always creep into her artwork. Her debut illustrated picture book, Take Heart, My Child by Ainsley Earhardt (2016), was a #1 New York Times-bestseller.

She’s the author/illustrator of Ready for the Spotlight! (1/2022), and the illustrator of 15 books, including Night on the Sand by Monica Mayper (8/2022), And Then Comes Summer by Tom Brenner (2021), The Aquanaut by Jill Heinerth (2021), First Friend: How Dogs Evolved from Wolves to Become Our Best Friends by Kersten Hamilton (2021), Welcome to Your World by Smriti Prasadam-Halls (2020), Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Méndez (2019), Around the Table That Grandad Built by Melanie Heuiser Hill (2019), Isle of You by David LaRochelle (2018), I Am a Bird by Dana Walrath (2018), If You Were the Moon by Laura Purdie Salas (2017), and La La La: A Story of Hope by Kate DiCamillo (2017).

Their newest book, Mommy’s Hometown, released last Tuesday (April 12th).

Welcome Hope and Jaime, thank you both so much for stopping by to talk about your newest book and writing.

Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write or illustrate? How long have you been writing or illustrating? What is your favorite type of book to write or illustrate? )

HOPE - I write on my spacious dining table in the morning with a cup of coffee and on my desk when the night sets in. I tend to stay up late these days and often the feeling of doing something at night when everything is quiet adds a magical element, especially when I feel creative.

My writing journey started when I became a mother. I kept a journal of my kids and their milestones and everyday adventures with them. When my daughter went to preschool. I watched her at play with other kids, and my observations of them became the foundation for my stories later on. I joined my first critique group in 2014 through 12x12 and met many wonderful critique partners. My favorite type of book to write is a picture book, for all the craft and knowledge I have gained over the years. But I also like to write poems whenever I have something stir inside me.

JAIME- I started working as a full-time illustrator right after graduating from college. I graduated in 2014, so I’ve been working as an illustrator for about 8 years. I work in my home studio and don’t really have fixed working hours. I try to keep a regular work pattern, but it’s not easy for me. 🙂 I sometimes start work very early in the morning and there are times when I start late at night. I love to make impressionistic and whimsical landscape illustrations, and also love to make quirky doodles.

Hello, fellow night owls! Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?

HOPE - My favorite author is Leo Lionni, and my favorite books as a child were the Roman and Greek mythologies. I was so fascinated by the tales and vividly remember how I wanted to visit the world inhabited by Gods and Goddesses and to meet them.

JAIME - One of the most memorable books I’ve read from my childhood is a Korean young adult book called The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly. I was so impressed with the book that I drew an illustration afterwards, and it won an award. I think that must have been the first book illustration I’ve ever made.

Did you find anything particularly helpful in keeping you inspired and writing these past couple of years?

HOPE - During the past two years, one thing I continued to do almost every day was to go outside for a walk or a run. I am glad I did because the fresh air and unexpected encounters of things in nature gave me the emotional space I needed from all the worldly affairs and worries. And while I was out, I also found inspiration for new stories.

JAIME - I try to get inspiration from a variety of materials. These days, I get a lot of inspiration from movies, animation, photography, and paintings. And no matter how busy I am, I always try to set aside some time to work on my own work. I feel that working consistently on personal projects helps me a lot in training my creativity.

It's been fun to see all the different ways everyone's used to keep creative. Hope, what was your inspiration for Mommy’s Hometown?

HOPE - Childhood memories of my hometown in Korea and the changes I witnessed every time I visited my parents were the inspirations for this story. I used to walk to the river and play there all day. Sharing that memory with my kids and taking them to the river inspired me to write a story that captures the passage of time in a place where old and new co-exist.

It is interesting to see what changes and what stays the same in places we knew as children. Jaime, what about the Mommy’s Hometown manuscript appealed to you as an illustrator?

JAIME - As soon as I read the manuscript of Mommy’s Hometown, I knew that I had to accept the project. The story itself was amazing, and I was really excited that there were so many parts of the book that I could personally relate to as a Korean living in the US.

I love that the story is roughly based on both of your lives. Hope, what was the toughest aspect of writing Mommy’s Hometown?

HOPE - Finding the heart of the story was the toughest aspect of writing this story. The heart was the mother-child connection from the very beginning. However, I got lost as I was trying to add more layers, such as impacts of urbanization, finding beauty in what remains, honoring the past in a place where old and new exist, and lastly, the analogy between Grandma’s steadfast presence and the old river flowing through people’s lives. Then when my editor pointed out the heart of the story, the mother-child connection, I remembered what prompted this story in the first place. From that moment, I revised the story with a focus on the mother-child connection and everything fell into the right place.

I might be prejudiced, but I think you did a great job with the heart of the story. ❤️ Jaime, what was the hardest part about illustrating Mommy’s Hometown?

JAIME - When I just started this project, I really wanted to know what city and river Hope had in mind when creating the story. If I had asked her about it and got the answers, it would’ve been much easier for me to find the reference. After much thought, however, I decided to work on this project based on what I felt after reading the story, without getting information from Hope. I thought that knowing too much information seemed to hinder me from using my creativity. It was a bit hard for me to research and set the background for the illustrations, but the whole process was really fun.

Interesting. Thank you for sharing one of the reason it's often important for the illustrator to work without the author's input. So, then how many revisions did it take to create the illustrations for Mommy’s Hometown?

JAIME – The overall workflow of this book was similar to other book projects that I’ve done. I revised the sketch once and revised the final arts 1-2 times, but most of the revisions were very minor. I changed the color of a character’s clothes and how aged the building looks, for example.

Impressive. Is there something you both want your readers to know about, or take away from, Mommy’s Hometown?

HOPE - It was inspired by my childhood memories and changes in my hometown, but the story itself is universal for anyone who has ever left home and holds it in a special place in their heart. It explores the meaning of home, rooted in family love and connection.

JAIME – I hope that it can convey to the readers that there are certain things that are not altered by the passage of time.

I believe that you both succeeded in portraying these messages. Hope, when you first saw Jaime Kim’s illustrations in Mommy’s Hometown did anything surprise, amaze, or delight you? What is your favorite spread?

HOPE - I am amazed and delighted by how her illustrations are based on my story, but they stand on their own. I feel like I am seeing her own story unfold, while each page evokes all the memories I shared in the story. Her artistic choices are thoughtful, brilliant, and child friendly. Jamie’s depictions of scenes in Korea are so true to life and fun, for the city itself is always bustling with people and action.

Text © Hope Lim 2022. Image © Jaime Kim, 2022.

My favorite spread is the scene where the child relives his mother’s childhood through his imagination. The boy finally understands his mother and her hometown, and at that moment, he fulfills his wish to see what her hometown was like in the past. Whenever I see the scene, I remember one particular moment from my childhood where I played until dusk and on my way home found the sky burning bright red. Even as a child, I stood there for a long time watching the sky before rushing home.

And Jaime, is there a spread that you were especially excited about or proud of? Which is your favorite spread?

Text © Hope Lim 2022. Image © Jaime Kim, 2022.

JAIME - The spread where the mother character walks along the river with her friends when she was a child is my favorite scene. When I was working on this spread, my mom told me a lot of her own stories from her childhood. She told me about an episode where she played with her friends by the river, and it was very helpful for me to set the mood of the illustration.

Both these images are stunning! Jaime, many illustrators leave treasures or weave their own story (or elements) throughout the illustrations. Did you do this in Mommy’s Hometown? Could you share one or more with us?

JAIME - While working on this book, I had a chance to stay in Korea for 2-3 months. I could get lots of references for this book while I was in Korea, which was very fun. Of course, photos on the Internet and other digital references were used for this work, but I could also get references from my actual surroundings.

Sounds like a great research trip! Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

HOPE - I am almost done with a project that is dear to my heart. It was one of those stories that started with a single image and went through countless revisions. Writing that story was challenging, for it came together only after I dug deeper into the connection between that single image and the two characters. I’m so glad I finished that story about friendship, connections, and hope.

I am currently working on a project about appreciating the present moment through the philosophical question about what matters to us. I am using animal characters this time, which is completely new, and this project was inspired by an existential question asked by my teenage son.

JAIME - I’m currently working on my second author-illustrated book. It’s the first book that has animals as the main characters among the books I’ve worked on. It’s not easy since I’ve mostly drawn human characters, but I’m having fun working on it. The book is about shyness and friendship, and it’s a story that reflects my personality as a child.

These all sound fascinating. We'll have to keep our eyes open for them. Last question, what is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?

HOPE - That’s a hard question to answer as I love the many parks I have visited, including Golden Gate Park, my daily running destination. The latest state park I visited was Calaveras Big Trees State Park in California, where I felt like I walked into an ancient forests, full of stories unknown to us, yet probably shared among all the creatures there. My mind was wandering through the many stories as I hiked along the trails, awed by the majesty of nature.

JAIME - I went on a road trip with my family across the US twelve years or so ago, and visited a lot of national parks across the country. Among them, Yellowstone national park was the most impressive for me. I had such a great time there with my family, and the weather was fantastic when we visited. My parents are visiting the US next year, and I’m hoping we get to visit there again.

Thank you, Hope and Jaime for stopping by and sharing your time and thoughts with us. It was wonderful to chat with you both.

Be sure to stop back by on Friday for the Perfect Picture Book #PPBF post on Mommy's Hometown.

To find out more about Hope Lim, or contact her:

To find out about Jaime Kim, or contact her:


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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