Gordon & Li Li is a children’s book line centered around learning Mandarin and Chinese culture. Author Michele Wong McSween grew up as a fourth-generation Chinese American in California and had never learned to speak Chinese. When she had her first two sons, it was important to her that they have a strong connection to her family’s language and culture. Since her initial search for easy to read first-word Mandarin books was unsuccessful, she decided to create them herself. We spoke with Michele to get an inside look on her inspirations and projects.
What motivated you to create Gordon and Li Li?
My sons were the inspiration for every word, theme, and illustration for Gordon & Li Li. The first three titles celebrated their first words, their passion for animals, and gave them an interactive way to count in Mandarin. My newest title, Gordon & Li Li: Celebrate Chinese New Year, is a vibrantly illustrated book that introduces children and families to the customs, traditions, and cultural significance of the new year.
Even though I created Gordon & Li Li to teach my own children Mandarin, it’s been wonderful to see how the series has become a friend to kids, parents, and teachers as they discover the joy of learning a second language.
Why did you partner with Welcome to Chinatown?
I felt drawn to partner with Welcome to Chinatown because I admire their creative initiatives in supporting the businesses of Chinatown. Their vision aligns with how I see myself supporting the Chinatown I love so much.
What do you love most about Chinatown?
What I love about Chinatown is the energy, the hustle, the restaurants, the pastry and bubble tea shops, the markets, the souvenir shops, and reflexology all wrapped up in less than a walkable square mile. Chinatown is the dumpling of my eye!
How can people support you and your craft?
Made in Chinatown x Gordon & Li Li Onesie and Hoodie
To celebrate the Lunar New Year Holiday in February, Welcome to Chinatown designer Thumy Phan collaborated with McSween to create custom designs of Gordon and Li Li dressed up for the celebrations. Most of the elements used were taken directly from the books themselves. Phan wanted the ideas and illustrations from the book to shine and to stay true to the beloved characters. Lunar New Year is a time of celebration and movement
Designed by Thumy Phan