Jimmy Liao

J Is For Jimmy – Back To Your Roots!

Can you still remember the ‘good old days’ when your Chinese teacher tried frantically to get you to write a decent essay or, at least read phrases off your textbook audibly and accurately? Most of us have survived that phase, and are glad that it’s all over.

However, given what best-selling Taiwanese author Jimmy Liao has to offer, you might just surprise yourself, and pick up a Mandarin book again. Life is full of surprises, isn’t it?

Jimmy Who?
Sound of Colours
A Chance of Sunshine
Pourquoi

J Is For Jimmy - Back To Your Roots!
J Is For Jimmy – Back To Your Roots!

Jimmy Who?

Don’t worry about staring at pages of 15-stroke Chinese characters. With colourful and creative illustrations in all his books, you’ll be thrilled to know that they are nothing like the books your teachers previously tortured you with.

Besides his graphics, Jimmy, affectionately known to fans as ‘ji mi’, is also known for his poetic prose. In very simple, short sentences, he can communicate his characters’ emotions effectively to the readers, leaving them captivated.

Using the fine art of drawing to express himself, the 44-year-old author conveys his feelings and opinions to the world with a pencil. His books are a hit with both the young and old because city dwellers relate easily with the characters in his stories, such as A Chance of Sunshine.

To Ms Phoon Chee Ling, who teaches Chinese Language as a Second Language in Commonwealth Secondary School, Jimmy’s books are not only meant for adults. They are also an ideal means for students to begin appreciating Chinese books. “Students these days tend to ‘discriminate’ [against] Chinese, and asking students to read those long and wordy Chinese books kills their interest,” she said in Mandarin.

“On the other hand, I believe Jimmy’s interesting pictures will attract their attention. With this interest, they will start reading and, in turn, boost their self-confidence in the language. This is something to be happy about.”

Indeed, this graduate in fine arts from the Chinese Cultural University has made Mandarin much simpler and more enjoyable. After 12 years in an advertising agency doing creative work, Jimmy began freelancing for print publications, and made his debut in 1998 with his first illustrated book, Secrets of the Forest.

Today, the author’s light and refreshing style of literature has won the hearts of many readers internationally, and with 15 books available in 7 languages under his belt, this artist is a force to be reckoned with.

J Is For Jimmy - Back To Your Roots!
J Is For Jimmy – Back To Your Roots!

“We’re extremely fortunate not to know precisely the kind of world we live in.”

Obsessed with works of Polish writer, W. Szymborska, Liao pens this quote on the first page of his book, Sound of Colours.

Sound of Colours is a story about a young girl who lost her eyesight at a tender age. On her 15th birthday, she decides to take a ride on the subway alone. Without a specific destination, she wanders from station to station aimlessly. Inevitably, it became an adventure for this courageous soul, with brightly-painted imaginary landscapes as her backdrop.

Throughout the journey, the story unravels the girl’s personality and outlook in life. Although cheerful and optimistic nature, she has her moments of loneliness. Even in an insignificant episode when her umbrella was lost, Jimmy is able to evoke a sense of loss, and when she doesn’t allow it to dampen her spirit, we find parallelism to our daily hectic lives. The journey of the girl reflects the journey many of us have taken, possibly without the same positive spirit she possesses. A timely reminder for us not to take the simplest things in life for granted.

“Yesterday’s pain (losing her umbrella), I’ve forgotten it. If it’s forgotten then it mustn’t be important.”

If romantic fiction is your cup of tea, you won’t go wrong with A Chance of Sunshine. This book tells the tale of 2 individuals who never knew the other existed even though they were neighbours. Despite being immersed in their individual passions, his love for music and her ardour for literature, they were not content with the solitary lives they led.

Yet, these 2 neighbours never met due to their peculiar habits. Whenever they leave their building, regardless of their destination, they will always be going in opposite directions.

But as Jimmy describes it, ” There are many coincidental moments in life, two straight lines might just have a chance encounter and meet one day.”

Finally during winter, a circular fountain at the park brought the couple together. Like old lovers reunited, they shared a wonderful day at the park, but a sudden downpour brought an end to the outing.

And like any other romance scenario, the couple faced obstacles too, before they finally get together. Cliché as that sounds, Jimmy’s insightful portrayal of the characters’ feelings, help you to empathise with them.

J Is For Jimmy - Back To Your Roots!
J Is For Jimmy – Back To Your Roots!

The interesting portion of the story is how it reads like a diary, with the date and tweather forecast stated in every page. The journal -like entries makes the characters more personable and brings the story closer to a reader’s heart.

A drawback of the story was Jimmy’s depiction of the city, as cold and lifeless, although to some, this realism of the setting might give a ray of hope to the lonely hearts out there.

Since this popular book has been made into a movie, starring Japanese hunk Takeshi Kaneshiro and Hong Kong’s popular artiste Gigi Leung, Turn Left, Turn Right, you may even want to compare the book with the film adaptation. The movie opens September 11 islandwide.

With a plot as straightforward and moving as A Chance of Sunshine, the story is a breeze to read.

Level of Difficulty: 1.5/5
Rating: 3/5

“What I’m fond of Pourquoi is that element of human touch,” said Lim Huimin, 19, a student, an avid reader of Jimmy’s works. “It feels like he is writing from personal experiences and yet anyone can relate to them. This draws me closer to the author,” she explains.

In Pourquoi, Jimmy uses metaphors to tell each tale.

Amazingly, in spite of his age, Jimmy is able to feel and question like a 6- year-old, and in doing so, indirectly reflect the way he views the world.

Vivian Tay, 16, a novice reader of Chinese books recalled, “Pourquoi [was] the first Mandarin book I’ve read and it made me a fan of Jimmy’s.” She finds that with Jimmy’s book, Chinese “seems so effortless and fun…although sometimes, [his] books are too thought provoking,” she adds with a laugh.

Certainly, this book enables reader to think and it is exactly what the modern people of today lack- to not only think intellectually but creatively. So absorbed by the workload and stress that accompany any city, are people that they have forgotten the essence of life.

Although Jimmy’s constant depressing outlook of the world can be dampening, even that didn’t take the enjoyment away.

Pourquoi is slightly more challenging to read compared to the previous 2 in terms of language and expression, but this latest offering from Jimmy will open the eyes of readers, allowing them to view ordinary issues in life from a different perspective.

So, what is Pourquoi exactly? Pourquoi is ‘Why’ in French, and aptly so, given all the questions posed in the story.

This book is flooded with questions, which are written poetically. Unlike the previous books that are narrative in nature, this short stories collection, is filled with childish, yet meaningful questions asked by children. -The same questions we all think as adults we’ll know the answers to, but we simply don’t.

J Is For Jimmy - Back To Your Roots!
J Is For Jimmy – Back To Your Roots!

What I’m fond of Pourquoi is that element of human touch,” said Lim Huimin, 19, a student, an avid reader of Jimmy’s works. “It feels like he is writing from personal experiences and yet anyone can relate to them. This draws me closer to the author,” she explains.

In Pourquoi, Jimmy uses metaphors to tell each tale.

J Is For Jimmy - Back To Your Roots!
J Is For Jimmy – Back To Your Roots!

Amazingly, in spite of his age, Jimmy is able to feel and question like a 6- year-old, and in doing so, indirectly reflect the way he views the world.

Vivian Tay, 16, a novice reader of Chinese books recalled, “Pourquoi [was] the first Mandarin book I’ve read and it made me a fan of Jimmy’s.” She finds that with Jimmy’s book, Chinese “seems so effortless and fun…although sometimes, [his] books are too thought provoking,” she adds with a laugh.

Certainly, this book enables reader to think and it is exactly what the modern people of today lack- to not only think intellectually but creatively. So absorbed by the workload and stress that accompany any city, are people that they have forgotten the essence of life.

Although Jimmy’s constant depressing outlook of the world can be dampening, even that didn’t take the enjoyment away.

J Is For Jimmy - Back To Your Roots!
J Is For Jimmy – Back To Your Roots!

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