Father Writes Children’s Book ‘Mei and the Monkey King’ for His Daughter

Father Writes Children’s Book ‘Mei and the Monkey King’ for His Daughter

The title page of Kuang Lee’s children’s book “Mei and the Monkey King.” (Courtesy of Kuang Lee)

Helen Billings

Helen Billings

1/23/2024

Updated: 1/30/2024

ALAMEDA, Calif.—A father in Alameda wanted his Chinese American daughter to be able to see herself reflected in the children’s books that he read to her. While searching for books, he found a lack of representation, so he turned to writing his own children’s book.
Kuang Lee always read to his daughter at night and wanted to read her stories that reflected his Chinese heritage and featured Chinese girls as positive role models. When he couldn’t find any, he set out on a mission with love to create a children’s book, “Mei and the Monkey King.”
Kuang Lee with his daughter. (Courtesy of Kuang Lee)

Kuang Lee with his daughter. (Courtesy of Kuang Lee)

Mr. Lee told The Epoch Times: “When I was growing up, when I watched TV ... movies, and read books, I really didn’t see Chinese people in those stories, and I hope that with this book, [my daughter] sees that representation of a Chinese girl looking back on the media she consumes. I want her to be proud of who she is. I want her to be proud that she’s a Chinese person.”
Inspired by his daughter, the book features a six-year-old Chinese girl named Mei. Mr. Lee took the character Mei and weaved her into a simplified version of the ancient Chinese myth about the Monkey King.
The Amazon listing for the book states that it’s for children ages 1 to 10.
In the book, Mei enters a magic door in Chinatown and is transported to another world. There, she befriends the Monkey King, and he takes her on a magical journey through ancient China.
The story takes the reader on an adventure while teaching some valuable lessons about Chinese culture. With each page, for one of the English words, a Chinese character is included for children to learn.
Page 11 of “Mei and the Monkey King.” (Courtesy of Kuang Lee)

Page 11 of “Mei and the Monkey King.” (Courtesy of Kuang Lee)

“It’s a cool book because it has a Chinese character on every page, and so if you’re a parent and you want to teach your kids some Chinese, you can learn a little bit from the book,” he said.
Mr. Lee’s daughter, now 7 years old, spoke more Chinese when she was younger, but since preschool and first grade, she has spoken mostly English with her friends.
“That’s kind of what inspired the book to have a little bit of Chinese characters and Chinese language, because I want my daughter to keep that, that ability to speak Chinese and have that connection to Chinese culture,” he said.
Page 6 of “Mei and the Monkey King.” (Courtesy of Kuang Lee)

Page 6 of “Mei and the Monkey King.” (Courtesy of Kuang Lee)

The first time Mr. Lee read the book to his daughter it was an immediate success.
“She loves the part of the book where Mei encounters the green dragon; that’s a really cool image, and so she likes that part a lot,” he said. “I wrote the book for her originally, and so when the first time I got a physical copy of the book from the printer and read her the book, she smiled and said, ‘Hey, Daddy, can you read that to me again?’ So that really warmed my heart.”
Mr. Lee moved to the United States from Taiwan when he was 2 years old. He meditates every morning and applies the positive practice of Buddhism in his everyday life. He runs a company called Satellite Films that makes videos and animations for companies.
Page 10 of “Mei and the Monkey King.” (Courtesy of Kuang Lee)

Page 10 of “Mei and the Monkey King.” (Courtesy of Kuang Lee)

His friend Ronnie Ullman, a San Francisco artist, did the illustrations for the book, which drew influence from Pixar and comic books. For Mr. Lee, writing the book for his daughter was more than a sharing experience; it also helped him reconnect with his culture.
“Growing up, I went to Chinese school; I also spent a few summers in Taiwan at summer camp, and that’s where I actually learned to read Chinese. The book that I learned to read Chinese with is ‘Xi You Ji,’ which is ‘Journey to the West,’ which is this very iconic Chinese myth that features the Monkey King, and so when I started writing about the Monkey King as a character in my own book, it was kind of a full circle moment for me, reading these legends when I was a kid, then actually writing it into a book of my own,” Mr. Lee said.
He has a creative background making videos, but writing a children’s book was a new project for him. It took about five months and was released in November 2023.
“Luckily, children’s books are shorter, but it was still a very great learning process from beginning to end,” Mr. Lee said.
Kuang Lee in Alameda, Calif., on Jan. 9, 2024. (Helen Billings/The Epoch Times)

Kuang Lee in Alameda, Calif., on Jan. 9, 2024. (Helen Billings/The Epoch Times)

Mr. Lee said he wants to continue Mei’s adventures in ancient China with future books, but for now, you can find his book at MeiandtheMonkeyKing.com and on Amazon. He said when the book was released, it made No. 1 in its category on Amazon.
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Helen Billings

Helen Billings

Author

Helen Billings is a Certified Western Herbalist, and has studied Holistic Nutrition and Homeopathy. She is a reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area, and she covers California news.

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