New York-based illustrator Muge Li encourages children to exercise their imagination in her latest picture book, What Really Happens at Night.
Where do odd socks go? Why do leaves make sounds? And just where does the sun go at night? At some point in our life, we've all pondered questions like these, and in her new picture book What Really Happens at Night, Muge Li answers them with imagination instead of boring old facts.
Beautifully illustrated in her distinctive style, What Really Happens at Night is Muge's fifth picture book and the second she's written herself. Telling the story of a little girl who doesn't want to sleep - a situation parents are bound to relate to - the book sees her answer those questions by picturing all sorts of strange solutions in order to avoid going to bed.
For Muge, who studied graphic design before pursuing an illustration MFA at Syracuse University, the decision to focus on imagination and creativity instead of facts and figures is a crucial one. "I believe imagination has an important role in childhood," she tells Creative Boom. "It is a creative ability that can help children confront and solve problems in their life."
Describing children's picture books as a "connection between children and their parents", Muge also thinks that they give children a useful point of contact with their elders. "For example, on one page, the girl asks her mum, 'Why do leaves make sounds?' In the illustration, there is a concert which is played by an insect band. The insects are all on the tree, which is why the leaves make a sound. Children are always curious about the little things that happen in their life."
This desire to follow curiosity is a common theme in Muge's career. "Catching ideas in my head and making them into an illustration is a wonderful feeling for me," she explains. "I love telling a story in one illustration, but I also love to write my own stories and make them into a series of illustrations."
It's also fitting that Muge's art style is mainly inspired by folklore and fantasy stories. By populating her worlds with humorous, quirky characters, she can mine this reference material for all it's worth. "I also think my drawing style fits well with children's illustrations," she adds.
"I love drawing children's picture books because I like stories, not just from others but also those created by myself. I also want to let my picture books light up people's childhood and build a connection between children and parents. That's why it is such meaningful work for me."
In What Really Happens at Night, Muge wanted to "create a space where children can think whatever they want and do whatever they want" because, to her, art isn't always about finding the right answer or drawing a neat conclusion.
"Sometimes, art does not need to have deep meanings; it may just be a moment to let people feel happy," she explains.
"That is why I always like to create funny characters and interesting stories. I like characters to do something hilarious and unexpected things. I also like to put some little details in the illustrations to let people find those surprises."
Want to know where you can get your hands on What Really Happens at Night? Luckily there's a straightforward answer to that question. All you need to do is click here.