Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 4, 2023

Book Giveaway: MY POCKET BATHROOM by Yan Du

Yan Du’s debut picture book, MY POCKET BATHROOM illustrated by Erin Vanessa and published by Yeehoo Press on May 9th. Yeehoo Press has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner living in the United States.

All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know other things you do to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Howard, Yan, and Erin.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


A sweet story about the importance of self-care and having a place of one’s own.

Po is a small girl living in a BIG, loud city who has always had to share her favorite relaxing retreat—her bathroom—with her busy family. But when a mysterious visitor arrives one night, everything changes.

Po’s bathroom is a place where she can be herself, enjoy quiet time, and do anything she dreams of: put on shows, dance and sing, and create whatever she imagines. But her mom, dad, and brother always barge in and interrupt her alone time. She wishes for a sanctuary all her own. Then one night, Lady Violet, a beautiful toilet guardian, appears with a magical gift. Things for Po will never be the same. But maybe she isn’t the only one who needs her very own private bathroom.


One summer, when I was eight or seven, I discovered a perfect place to cultivate my inner life—the bathroom. I did not have an inner life before then, mainly because I didn’t know what it meant. I had been a tomboyish kid, sashaying around with a Robin Hood hat or chasing the boys from the block with hands full of mud and sweat. I was almost always playing outdoors, having no interest in anything that did not involve jumping, running, or (imaginary) sword-fighting. It might be more accurate to say that I lived outside of my mind, which, by then, was still a mysterious, closed palace. In it was a swell of pre-symbolic blur, a field of chaos still dormant.

But that summer my mind seemed to have experienced an awakening. I started reading books, and they quickly replaced my playmates and our daily excursions into the wilderness. All summer I stayed inside, poring over pages and pages with eyes transfixed, mind slowly turning and senses unfolding like a butterfly spreading its wings. I had ideas, I began writing. I learned to recite poetry, to sing songs from albums; I juggled with my mother’s make up and accessories. I watched cartoons imitated the characters’ monologues. As my mind awakened, I also started feeling self-conscious. Suddenly my life was filled up with activities that must be conducted in secret. I felt the desire to attach myself to indoor spaces that would guard my private life and protect me from the prying eyes of parents and sometimes, even peers.

And then, of course, I discovered the bathroom. Although my room seemed to be the most obvious choice, the bathroom was far more superior in terms of secrecy. As an only child living in a tight-knit household, my parents would sometimes barge into my room while I was doing homework or, most often, doing “my own stuff”. I had more than once been caught play-acting in my room, chanting lines from my favorite songs, or talking avidly to my imaginary friend, Liz. It was awkward to be interrupted in the midst of an intense, self-absorbed moment. More annoying was seeing my parents’ suspicious glances, followed by an incredulous remark: “are you sure you were really doing your homework just now?”

At that time, our apartment had two bathrooms, but the one in the hallway was small and stuffy. It had thin blinds but low ceilings, a narrow shower space, and cold, green tiles. The toilet was situated between the washing stand and the shower stall, and whenever I sit on the toilet, I would feel sandwiched between the two. But the bathroom in my parent’s room was totally different. It had a window that faced the trees and the entire neighborhood was visible from there. A huge mirror hung just above the sink, which was big and wide also, made with glossy smooth porcelain. The wooden cupboard just below smelled of mint, with a tangy hint of orange. Most importantly, the tiles were all alabaster white, with a fairy glint to them whenever the day darkened down. That space was perfect in every sense to me at that time. I fell in love with it and found in it a sanctuary for an ardent and lonely soul.

So, while it might seem odd to write a picture book about a child’s love for the bathroom, for me it was the most natural thing to do. The truth is, my penchant for hiding in bathrooms and enjoying a considerable chunk of my spare time there did not change as I grew older. When I entered junior middle school, I began a full-fledged second language education. The bathroom became, again, the perfect location for practicing a foreign language. I would stare into the mirror and observe how my lips moved to make a vowel sound, how my tongue arched to pronounce consonant, and listen to the hissing air that escaped between my teeth. Later, I became an active public speaker and would practice my speeches in the bathroom—a place where my “audiences” were out of earshot, and I could make all the mistakes I wanted without feeling anxious or embarrassed.

After leaving home to attend university, I lost the bathroom that belonged only to myself. Moving into a dormitory where everything is shared among four or five people was, at first, hard for me to take. While I have, by that time, “grown out” of my childhood habits such as talking to my imaginary friend, play-acting, making up silly songs or dressing up, some stubborn yet customary rituals remained, such as thinking aloud. My mind always seemed to be more restless than others. It could not stand the flat abstraction of silent thinking. Unable to find a space of my own, I missed my bathroom more than ever.

With more people using the bathroom also came the challenge of keeping it clean. But it could never be as clean as I wanted it to be. Meanwhile, the public toilets in my university were not as tidy as I had hoped. I understood that those spaces were never meant to function as anything more than taking care of our biological needs, but I couldn’t help thinking that if those toilets were made cleaner and more hospitable, they could potentially provide a shelter for students who needed to escape from the world and just let their emotions out in a place they feel safe. Inspired by this thought, I began entertaining the idea of a magic bathroom that can shrink and enlarge itself at will, so that one could carry it around and slip into it whenever s/he pleases.

The idea was soon put aside as schoolwork and other responsibilities required my full attention. Five or six years later, I had become a PhD student with a specialization in children’s literature. Halfway into my first year as a doctoral student, the pandemic struck and I went back to China for a while. Self-isolation and working from home gave me an unexpected amount of indoor time, where the bathroom is just seconds away from my working desk.

Back then I had been going through a hard time, mentally and physically. Whenever I typed on my desk I felt anxious, and when I came into my bedroom I got overly emotional. Only when I was in the bathroom that I felt truly relaxed. I hugged my knees in the bathtub and listened to the water pipes merrily chiming. The swirl of water as it travelled down the surface of the sink was a comforting sight. The romantic sway of the orange lights cast vivid shadows on the tiles, reminding me of how I used to make shadows of animals dancing on the wall with my hands. The bathroom can also be a place where memories are stored. Something worth remembering will always come up despite the seemingly banal rituals of cleaning and scrubbing, brushing and bathing. It could be a gentle thought, or a dialogue to oneself. A revelation, a slow pull of anguish, a spark of genius that shoots through the brain like a meteorite. It could be a secret pleasure, fit only to be relished alone. Years afterwards, these moments will remain associated with the bathroom, animating our days every time our minds turn and stroll down that memory lane.

As my thinking around the bathroom and its healing powers deepened, I began consciously paying attention to narratives featuring bathrooms. As a children’s scholar, I immediately turned to children’s texts. I remembered the importance of the bathroom space in the Harry Potter series. It was in the bathroom that Hermione hid and cried after being insulted by Ron. It was in the bathroom that Harry saw Draco’s vulnerable side. Even in a world of magic, the bathroom is a necessary sanctuary. But what fascinated me most was Moaning Myrtle, who inhabits the bathroom years after she was killed by the Basilisk. Her interactions with Hogwarts students and the strange, perhaps unlikely ways she acts as a confidante to them inspired me. Her familiarity with the bathrooms she lives in or visits, especially their secret histories and unspoken stories, also captured my imagination. What happens, I wonder, if a bathroom is not just your own space, but a place guarded by someone else, someone who lives there for as long as you remember? And that someone happens to be someone magical, someone you could trust?

These scattered ideas finally come together one day when my mother and I were talking about toilets in Japan. She told me that in Japan, they’ve always had legends of toilet gods who guarded the bathroom space. The bathrooms in Japan are also always clean—it is said that people even eat in the bathrooms! The idea inspired me more and after doing some research, I found out that there are also stories of bathroom gods in China. The most famous is Zigu (translated into the Violet Lady). Legends about the mysterious woman abound. Many were fascinated by her tenderness and hospitality, and she had a particular appeal among women and children. She is a domestic goddess who presides over the home and assures the prosperity of the hearth. It was around that time that I felt the shape of my story slowly unravelling in my mind, freshly conceived and ready to be consigned to the pages.

The actual writing of the story took me only about an hour. I sent the draft to my editor, Shen Peng, who expressed interest in the idea of a pocket bathroom. As an experienced reader and convener of children’s texts, he knows how children are fascinated by toilets—or anything to do with potty stuff. He even consulted the kindergarten teachers regarding children’s attitudes towards bathrooms and the activities they usually engage with in these spaces. 

My other editor, Sarah, also pointed out that, in the US, children’s picture books about bathrooms usually feature potty training. She was surprised that a bathroom could be seen as a personal play space.

The feedback from the editors intrigued me. Drawing from their insights, I worked on the story further. As the editors suggested, the goal of my first big revision had to do with expanding the storyline. The original manuscript was quite simple and many parts of the narrative still required richer details and more robust plot organization. A thorny problem I encountered while expanding the plot involved coming up with interesting incidents about how Po uses the pocket bathroom. My editor suggested that I could depict how she uses the bathroom to perform heroic deeds (for instance, catching a thief by trapping him in the pocket bathroom and then taking him to the police, etc.). After days of poring over the character and the story, I decided not to pursue the route proposed by my editor. While I agreed that the bathroom qualifies as a magical object, deep down, I did not want it to be yet another powerful gadget child characters can use to embark on an exciting adventure. Nor is it a portal to a fantasy world. The bathroom I wanted to write about is special not because it can take the child character away from home and into the world of wonder, but because it makes her feel at home. For my heroine Po, the bathroom is supposed to be “a space of one’s own”.

A space of one’s own! If Virginia Woolf needs a room of her own to write, so does Po, only, for her, it’s the bathroom that she craves for, and she can do much more than just writing in that secluded yet cozy space. When this thought hit me, I felt that I have truly found the core of my story. I started crafting the plot around this central idea. I decided to write about an instance where Po discovers that she is not the only one who needs a private space. So she goes on to help everyone else in the city receive their very own pocket bathrooms. To my utmost delight and surprise, my editors liked the idea. After a few more rounds of revisions, my final draft was ready. As a neophyte in the art of children’s book illustration, I did not know how to find the most suitable illustrator for my story. My editors, again, took on the task of liaising an illustrator for me. And, as if by fate, they found Vanessa. The first illustration she did was a sketch of the bathroom tree I mentioned in the story. I fell in love immediately with her imaginative rendering of the magic tree. As more rounds of conversations ensued between Vanessa, the editor, and myself, the illustrations of the book were completed. I still remember the day my editor sent me the complete PDF draft of Vanessa’s work. She offered rich details to where my language only slightly hinted at, but did not have the space to elaborate. She brought domestic objects to life, and her rendering of the pocket bathroom was exactly as I had imagined. Of course, I must mention the Violet Lady, our friendly bathroom/toilet goddess. She was more vivid than I had imagined and utterly unique. I was certain—and still am—that she would capture the imagination of the readers who encounter her.

The rest of the pre-publication process was like a dream. On the day that Vanessa and my editor sent over the cover illustration for my book, I was halfway through writing my PhD thesis and the sight of the gorgeous cover drove away the anxiety of essay writing completely. I didn’t think I could think of any other cover so imaginative yet wonderfully mysterious, presenting just enough information to make the readers curious but withholding all the most interesting bits at the same time. The editing and designing team were brilliant in terms of toning the illustrations, making them look as perfect and vivid as possible. I can’t thank them more for turning my story from a mere idea to a beautiful artifact that I can hold and cherish for the rest of my life.

After my book was sent off to print, I was attacked by a feeling of dread. This is it—no more revisions! Those who have read my picturebook beforehand asked if I would make a sequel. Perhaps Po would encounter Lady Violet again! Perhaps new magic will color the household and enliven the parameters of Po’s imaginative childhood. I haven’t decided if or when a sequel will happen, but I know that this first attempt at children’s publishing will be starting point of an exciting, lifelong commitment to writing for children.

For the past five or six years, I have been trained as a scholar of children’s literature. Although I grapple with theory all the time, I have always been curious about places where theory can’t reach, and how aspects of writing for children actually evade theorization. Despite our best efforts, children continue to challenge us as writers, educators, and scholars. When I was developing this picturebook, I have constantly imagined what it would be like if a child were to hold this book in his or her hands. I imagined the way my book builds a ladder in children’s minds, a ladder slowly stretching towards the farthest horizon of joy, inquiry, and possibility. Writing this book is also a process of exploration, leaving me more questions than answers. Countless times I have stopped halfway in my writing wondering if my story will be of interest to anyone. But when I pick up the pen, I feel the story calling to me, and it behooves me to complete it.

As the online release date of my book draws near, I find my thoughts circling back to the very place the story began—my childhood bathroom. After so many years, this piece of youthful memory metamorphosized into a story, and found a shape that could accommodate its emotional weight, its fluid texture and temporality. And yet I am not sure if my journey with this book will ever end. When the book gets out into the world, it will acquire a life of its own. In our parallel journeys of becoming, the book and I will travel through many moments of transformation, moments we cannot yet, right now, imagine. But such moments are well worth experiencing, and I can’t wait for them to happen.


Yan Du is a CSC-Cambridge Trust scholar of children’s literature and culture and a lover of stories. She began translating picture books in 2018 and has translated Marc Martin’s award-winning book, A Forest, and a more recent one, Max. She has published original research on children’s literature since 2020.

She also writes for children’s magazines such as Phoenix English. This is her first authored picture book.


Special thanks go to my parents, my editors, my illustrator, the Yehoo Press, my extended family and friends, for accompanying me every step along the way; I am also grateful to my colleagues and mentors at Cambridge University Faculty of Education and Homerton college, who kindly offered to share the joy of my debut.

A huge thanks to my doctoral supervisor, Joe Sutliff Sanders, and my friend and mentor Satoshi Kitamura, for writing recommendations for my story.

Much gratitude goes to my funding body, Cambridge Trust and China Scholarship Council, for supporting my studies and allowing me to take time away from my research to complete a wonderful project such as this.


I’m a former video game producer and I’ve been drawing and painting for most of my life. I run a lot, because I bake a lot, and vice versa. I am Canadian, adore golden retrievers, married my high school sweetheart, am an ambivert, and have weirdly bad hand-eye coordination.

I paint with watercolor and gouache, then render my work in Photoshop. I love doing a little of everything: children’s book illustrations, editorial, surface design, and so on. My inspirations include video games, Studio Ghibli, beautiful food, and vintage botanical illustrations. My commerce degree and background in project management help keep me disciplined and focused.

Interested in working together? Please contact my agency, Lilla Rogers Studio:


Yan, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. What an imaginative story. A magical bathroom fairy, Lady Violet the Toilet Guardian. Only instead of a magic wand, she carries a purple toilet plunger, and tells Po to call when she needs her own space. Instead of a golden lamp, to rub three times, Lady Violet tells her to chant, “Lady Violet kind and sweet, Lady Violet help me please.” When Po wakes up with a small castle like privy in her pajama packet, she holds the object and chants the words Lady Violet told her to say and POOF! Her own large private bathroom appears and Po decides to always keep it in her pocket.

When Po goes to the park, she notices other people in line waiting to use the port-a-potty and wonders if Lady Violet could help them, too. The next morning Po finds a small purple shovel in her school bag and she know exactly what to do. She digs a hole in the park, plants her small potty, and chants. POOF! It grows a beautiful purple tree with tiny bathrooms for people to pick and quickly recovers her own. The story ends with her reading a book, Bathroom gods around the world.

I never knew their were bathroom gods and goddesses in a variety of cultural mythologies. Yan, shares three at the end of the book – China, Japan, Rome. Very interesting. I love Erin’s colorful illustrations. She did a great job making the story come alive. I also, love Po and how she wants to share her gift to help others. Gook Luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. How fun! Would love to win a copy. Email subscriber plus tweeted.


  2. Who knew? I believe this fresh take on bathrooms (and maybe other small spaces) can expand kids’ minds about places where they can be thoughtful and creative.


  3. How interesting! Sounds like a fun read! Congratulations, Yan and Erin!

    I follow by email. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: