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"What A Place!" Lana Sultan’s New Book

The sights and sounds of Beijing in this new book

Celebrating life in Beijing and seen through the eyes of her young daughter, Lana Sultan’s fifth book “What A Place!” is a bilingual (English & Mandarin) children’s book about a yearlong journey through Beijing, celebrating the city's sights, sounds, and festivities.


A lot of the scenes would be familiar to long-term expats. Would you care to share any memories behind a particular scene; or why you decided to include it?

The book is an expression of my feelings about a beautiful time and a cherished memory of living in Beijing. The book tracks life in Beijing over a while year covering all seasons and the important festivals. Each page represents very unique foods, behaviors, colors, smells, and scenes from the city as I experienced it. The temple fair illustration reminds me of our first temple fair. It shows two children that resemble my children, with my son holding the Monkey King mask; a character he played at his school’s Chinese New Year performance.



How did you choose the illustrator?

It was a beautiful coincidence. I finished the book and while I was looking for a publishing house, I was also looking for an illustrator. Coincidentally, a friend of mine introduced me to Wendy, who was teaching Chinese at the school I was studying in. We connected and she liked the project. She is a very talented person, but this project was her first book. We had great chemistry and became very close friends.


I see this is your fifth book. Why did you decide to do a China-themed book? Your other book titles are very different it seems, to this one. 

I am not an author who is limited to one style or one theme. I typically write about something that inspires me or something I feel strongly about. In this case, I was totally taken by the rich culture of China and life in Beijing.




Are parents intended to read both the Chinese and English text to their children? How do you read this to your children?

It’s really a personal choice. Some families are blessed to read in multiple languages, while others might not be able to experience the book in both English and Chinese. I personally wrote the book in English and it was then translated to Chinese. I think the text in either language along with the illustrations reflects my feelings about the City.


Have your children "reviewed" the book? What have they said to you?

I have two kids. My son is 12, while my daughter is 3. My son always tells me that he likes the book because it reminds him of the little details of life in China; the little details that might not be immediately visible to tourists. He likes the cheerful and simplistic way it was written in. He also loves the carefully illustrated environment. My daughter likes it because the book is written through her eyes.


Now that you are no longer in China, what do you miss most about Beijing?

I miss everything about Beijing. I miss my friends the most. But I also miss the changing seasons, the amazing food, and the energy of a city that does not seem to sleep at all.


For more information about “What A Place!” please visit www.lansultan.com or by email at lana.sultan@gmail.com. Her book is currently available at The Bookworm, baby international, Counting Sheep Boutique, UCCA Store and That’s Mandarin Chinese language school. 


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