Love Letter

by Animo Chen

**The first picture book by Animo Chen, winner of the 2020 BolognaRagazzi Award for Comics – Young Adult

**Includes illustrations selected for the 2019 Bologna Children’s Book Fair Illustrators Exhibition

  One year  after winning a BolognaRagazzi Award for The Short Elegy in 2020, Animo Chen served up another astounding visual feast–the Taiwanese-language illustrated poem Love Letter.

Taiwanese is a different language from Mandarin. For many in Taiwan, Taiwanese is their first language, their mother tongue, yet there are fewer and fewer new generations using it due to long-term political issues in Taiwan. In Love Letter, Animo composes a beautiful declaration of love for this language as well as trees and printed books (also getting old-fashioned), a confession from his soul.

Love Letter is a beautifully illustrated poem, but it could also be seen as an art book illuminated by text. The first few illustrations were shown in Animo’s solo exhibition Flemingia in 2018; they were also selected for the Illustrators Exhibition at the 2019 Bologna Children’s Book Fair. From these compositions, a complete narrative began to take shape in Animo’s mind.

The works shown in “Flemingia” depict trees in a variety of shapes and contours, evoking wisps of smoke or curls of hair, blurring the line between the concrete and the abstract. After Animo developed the concept of a book, he created new images almost fearsome in their majesty. The first three landscapes of the book actually connect to form a panorama with forests, log ponds, railroad tracks for transporting logs, paper mills, and old printing presses. Even when serving a narrative and illustrating knowledge, these compositions do not lose one bit of their artistic value.

And of course, the poem is what completes this gentle love letter to the transformation of trees into books.“The relationship between trees and readers is the one relationship in the world that balances respect with possessiveness,” says Animo.

As part of its concept, the title of Love Letter on its cover is spelled out using real sticks collected by Animo. The text is not set with any computer font, but physically typeset with a metal font purchased from a foundry in Taipei. “I wanted every character to come from a different print run. It’s difficult to control the amount of ink and apply the perfect amount of pressure. But it’s okay–we’re not machines.”  

This Love Letter is a confession of love to the author’s mother language, to trees, to books, to the entire process of book-making. But in the end, the reader will also realize that this is a love letter addressed to the reader out there themselves.

“Confessions do not come naturally. If someone confesses their love to you, please treat them well whether you return their feelings or not. It was a long and difficult road that led them to you.”–Animo

Animo also collaborated with Sam Liao, an award winning Taiwanese singer-songwriter, to create an animation using the book’s illustrations. The short film is a must-see, check:

https://youtu.be/1oKTvtL4kU0

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