"review" · Children's · concenter · Illustrator · Picture book · recommend · wondermous

things I love about this picture book

30 DAYS OF PB 2013 aDay Seventeen: All the Things I Love About You

by LeUyen Pham

Balzer + Bray, 2010.

all the things i love about you coverAll the Things I Love About You reads like love letter from a mother to her young child, in which she tells him all the ways she loves him. LeUyen Pham dedicates the book especially: “For all those many mamas who love their little boys, this book is just for you.”

My eyes may have welled up at least twice; which is an achievement easily attributed to the picture book because I had just finished an assigned reading and discussion on “The Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale” beforehand. I was so moved by All the Things I Love About You, that I may have let an expletive slip; which is how I tend to punctuate that simultaneity of awe and incredible envy. Fortunately, the daughter was downstairs being 13, probably listening to someone else’s less holy expletive slip.

All the Things I Love About You is beautiful. It isn’t precious and it won’t make the teeth ache. It will be heart-warming and deep-sighing, because LeUyen Pham does not hit one false note. Her sense of humor and impeccable timing helps. She’ll places especially funny moments among the affectionate smiles and those sentiments that catch your heart in your throat. There is this wonderful build-up of emotion using a compound sentence spread across three double-page spreads at the end. Your heart and lungs fill up and then you find there is room for just one more breathe. However, said breathe will not be with you long, because Pham leaves us with the most agreeable ending: the truth these kinds of love letters want to be sure their child understands.

There are a lot of familiar childhood activities, and yet you needn’t identify specifically with each and every thing the mother loves about her child in the book. For instance, N never “skip[ped] the letter “Y” in the alphabet because “Z” [was] so much fun to say.” But it does find correlations. Actually, that is the only part I couldn’t place Natalya’s round-cheeked visage. Natalya was the cutest little bug in her fuzzy footy-pajamas!

The colors, textures, lines, energy, movement, expression (face/body)–I tend to go on about how much I appreciate Pham’s skill as an illustrator. I love her work and I do not think it bias to suggest that her work is highly accessible (read: appealing) to everyone. Her use of the white page focuses attention on legible illustrations and directs their sequence and scale. It does the same for the text. Not only will the adult reader see recognize the mother and child (and father) on the page, but so with the little one(s) snuggling close–if you’ve caught them into stillness (there is a lot of running and chasing in the book, too).

After I finished the book and decided on love not hate (after my moment of envy). I had this immediate and overwhelming urge to buy out Powell’s supply (all 16 copies) and distribute this  book to each parent of a young child that I know (or don’t) until I run out. At $15.00 each, I will be limited in purchases for family (blood relative or no); children whom I will no doubt be reminded that they are all in (at least) grade school now. Hmmm, I may need to get Logan’s new address, Callum isn’t in college yet, is he?

{browse inside of book here}

Mary Harris Russell, briefly reviewing this book for the Chicago Tribune (in 2010) writes,

Many “I-love-you” books emphasize a cute and quiet newborn bundle, snuggled up close. LeUyen Pham shows early on that quietly cute isn’t on the list. “I love the way your hair looks in the morning,” the narrator says, and the picture shows a jaunty boy with spiky hair. This little boy is in action, wrestling out of clothes, holding hands or running off. The pages remind us that the story isn’t just what the boy does; it’s how his mother experiences him. […]The child grows – literally speeding across the pages – but so does his mother’s love.

"review" · Children's · concenter · Illustrator · Picture book · recommend


30 DAYS OF PB 2013 aDay Six: Big Sister, Little Sister

by LeUyen Pham

Hyperion Books, 2005

big-sister coverThe Big one gets new clothes. The Little one gets hand-me-downs. The Big one does everything first. The Little one is always catching up. But the little one can do some things well, and can even teach the older one a thing or two . Big sisters and little sisters alike will agree: this is a sassy and touching celebration of sisterhood for all ages.–publisher’s comments.

I cannot speak for my Little Sister (since she’s now a grown up), but as a Big Sister, I can attest to the fact that LeUyen Pham’s Big Sister, Little Sister is a “sassy and touching celebration of sisterhood.” And while the picture book really captures sister-sibling dynamics, there is also a sense of that these are individual characters. Much of this conflation is found in how Pham is able to evoke so much personality in her characters. You have the scenarios: new clothes/hand-me-downs; later/earlier bedtimes; not afraid of the dark/afraid; etc. But within each scenario, we get a distinction that is not necessarily age. The characters are Big Sister and Little Sister. Little Sister (“I”) narrates. The move to allow for that distinction between representational and ‘autobiographical’ (which I’m not assuming is necessarily conscious), keeps the reader engaged even when a scenario/role does not fit their own experiences or observations.   It also allows for the book can be read by anyone, as it should–be read by anyone.



I know of LeUyen Pham first as Illustrator of Lenore Look’s Alvin Ho series, Julianne Moore’s Strawberry Freckleface and Kelly DiPucchio’s Grace, but in Big Sister, Little Sister she proves to do just as well with the text side of storytelling. That said, the text provides the context, or declares the theme found within the group of illustrations.  The illustrations are not paneled-off like a comic, nor do they rely upon a sequential reading, yet the lay-out hosts a sensibility that works toward the timing of just as consciously placed text. For example, reading the book to myself, I followed the winding left to right images top to bottom on each page and observed the text where it lay on the page and found my humor for the ‘scene/theme’ tuned to a well-designed punctuation; Little Sister may not be able to yet know some of the things Big Sister does, but there are things she can teach her Big Sister.


In the end, one does not come across as more superior than the other, each role is what it is and has value. Pham is successful in relaying the idea, too, that one wouldn’t be Big, if there were not a Little, and vice versa.  They make each other wonderful and weird and bring with it all the bitter-sweetness that sisterhood can bring. Remember how the book is described as a “celebration;” this is key, because Pham does not make any overt didactic shift in tone or text. For those of you who seek out picture books for their educational value over proposed entertainment, she doesn’t have to devise those moments.* Stories can do both and Pham demonstrates how this is done.

Here is where I admit that I just flat-out adore Pham’s work. I like her decisions on color and texture. Her figures are fun; the right touch of real without anchoring them too heavily to the page. There is an economy in those black lines that provides not only for that weightlessness, but a straightforward narrative: this is who the character is. And, seriously, the breadth in which Pham renders those the highly expressive postures of the body and face is impressive. It appears effortless, and possibly goes unnoticed (as it probably should for the sake of story), but I’m beginning to notice. Pham’s work as an author and illustrator is worth following. If unfamiliar, you can continue on from here (see links below).


recommendations… I do think that you needn’t have a big or little sister (even close cousin) to enjoy this picture book. I also agree with C. Reid’s (Elliot Bay Book Company) review:

“LeUyen’s Japanese brush pen-and-ink illustrations are the life behind this beautiful picture book about herself and her sister LeChi. It illustrates the importance each sister holds for the other and how their special quirks and skills accentuate one another. […] And while LeUyen may be a little jealous of LeChi, she knows that her role as the little sister is just as important as her older sister’s role. This book should be required reading for all girls who have a sister. “


PBMLOGO-COLOR_HIGHRES-300x300*a brief digression: do you think some children come to hate children despite endless hours at an adults knee w/ picture books because they are always turned into lectures on behavior? (whether by book or adult.) we are fans of the lengthy post-book conversations in our house, but I’m thinking back to N’s earliest childhood: did I say anything in the facsimile of: “I love that this book made me laugh, let’s read it again” or “I just adore this artwork (even after the gazillionth time with this book)” and did I say it enough.  I’m thinking of Ms. Salley’s wisdom the other day, that a love of reading comes from feeling joy in the experience of books; reading something silly or sweet and allowing oneself the pleasure those senses elicit. How/why do you choose the picture books we do for a child? What’s its first requirement?


LeUyen Pham is a favorite Illustrator of mine. see spotlight: pt one & two. also be sure to check out her page.

{all images belong to LeUyen Pham}

"review" · Children's · Illustrator · Picture book · recommend

{book} freckleface strawberry

DAY 15

Freckleface Strawberry by Julianne Moore

illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Bloomsbury, 2007.

I reviewed sequels Strawberry Freckleface before and was pleased to find that the Library happened to have the first on the shelf to read. Whichever book in the series you pick up first, just be sure to pick up the others. These are not some quaint little foray by a celebrity into picture books. Moore is good and she and Uyen make a great team.

If you have freckles, you can try these things:

1.) Make them go away. Unless scrubbing doesn’t work.
2.) Cover them up. Unless your mom yells at you for using a marker.
3.) Disappear. Um, where’d you go? Oh, there you are.

There’s one other thing you can do:


Because after all, the things that make you different also make you YOU.

From acclaimed actress Julianne Moore and award-winning illustrator LeUyen Pham comes a delightful story of a little girl who’s different…just like everybody else.—jacket copy.

A little girl aka Strawberry Freckleface shares similarities with her playmates, but she also has differences. And it is a difference within her family, too; and though her baby brother has freckles, “he was just a baby.” It would be one thing if the difference aka the freckles did not invite comments from people and make her feelso different. But trying to get rid of them draws unwanted attention as well. And hiding? well, hiding her freckles means making herself unrecognizable and the little girl did not care for this option either. It was uncomfortable—and she was missed! “Who cared about having a million freckles when she had a million friends?” She comes to learn that she is just going to have to embrace the fact that she has freckles—even if it does make her unusual among her friends and family.

Freckleface Strawberry would be good for the len’tiginous one in the family, but it works with any visible or less visible difference, because the jacket copy has it right, Freckleface Strawberry is “delightful story of a little girl who’s different…just like everybody else.” Julianne Moore sets up the story for the reader/listener to understand how similarities and differences work, even if the little girl herself is still going through the process of learning her lesson: how differences come about can be mysterious, and they vary, and while awkward at times, it isn’t always terrible to be unusual, actually it is quite normal.

The very talented illustrator LeUyen Pham is not without her own valuable contributions of course. Besides translating a vivacious red-head with freckles into energetic visuals, she populates the pages with children who sport their own obvious and sometimes more subtle differences. A tall boy says she looks like a giraffe while a shorter boy corrects the simile by referencing her own short height. A boy in a green space suit (?) asks if he can smell her freckles—and if that isn’t weird… There is a set of identical twins. There are different colors of skin and hair, shapes of facial features and bodies. There are differing abilities and personalities—and capturing their personality is all Uyen.

Freckleface Strawberry is humorous and smart. It makes no promises that the whatever it is that makes you unique or stand-out is going to “go away a little” or that it will garner less attention or that you will stop wishing to be a little less unusual. In Freckleface Strawberry, what promise can be found is in how a change in perspective can make all difference better.

{images belong to LeUyen Pham}

"review" · Children's · concenter · Illustrator · Picture book · poet-related · recommend

{illustrator} LeUyen Pham (pt 2)

Yesterday I posted a bit of what I learned about LeUyen Pham. Today I am looking at a few of the picture books she illustrated.

A Stick is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play by Marilyn Singer (Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012).

Marilyn Singer, a renowned poet, offers 18 poems involving outdoor play with games like double-dutch, hop-scotch, monkey in the middle, and swinging on the swings. What I loved was how this is not a collection of poems that excludes the urban landscape with its expanse of pavement, sidewalks, stoops, and diverse population. The poems vary, and some were more difficult for me to read aloud than others (more to do w/ my pronunciation, no doubt). My favorite poem was “Upside Down” and the book closes rather sweetly with “Stargazing.”

The images echo the energy in the poems; there is always movement. The skin tones are warm and the clothes vibrant against the colorful backdrops which project the idea of landscape onto the children themselves. They are where the action, the creativity, the relationships take place. They are unleashed upon the out-of-doors, walking on edges (in “Edges”) and running and chasing and crashing (in “Really Fast”). There is something classic in the images, old Golden Books come to mind. I’m not sure how intentional this is, but it is brings a certain nostalgia for old school outdoor play and the carefree summers running about the neighborhood (or ‘hood in “Hopscotch”) with your friends. But as the reviewer for School Library Journal points out, LeUyen Pham gives the book a modern seasoning to its nostalgia eliminating the all-white cast and putting girls on skateboards and placing jump-ropes in boys’ hands. Although, no one seems interested in demystifying the hopscotch fascination with girls.

[stick rumpus]

I noticed the lack of scrapes or band-aids, and Library School Journal questions the cleanliness and glow of the imagery in the illustrations and poetry. Monkey in the Middle can be fair, and splashing in the gutters isn’t a health hazard. The spirit of it is good though, and will no doubt be avoided by helicopter parents. I am hoping that librarians are putting this one on the end-caps and at eye-level, maybe above a nice pile of sticks.

A fantastic review by School Library Journal.


Once Around the Sun: Poems by Bobbi Katz (Harcourt Books, 2006)

In her 12 poems dedicated to each month on the calendar, Bobbi Katz subjects seasonal objects to personification in the most delightful ways. My favorite poem, and the first, “January” wishes the “sled would stop whispering “one more time” and once—just once—pull you back up that hill! The poems and the illustrations bring people together. “Grandma tells you how each spring she falls in love with the world all over again—and you understand” (“April”). It is multi-cultural, multi-generational, mult-geographical (love the urban inclusions) experience.


I enjoyed how in Marilyn Singer’s A Stick is an Excellent Thing, LeUyen Pham uses a cast of characters throughout, but I also enjoy her following a boy who has a little sister and a mom and dad and a dog and a grandmother) through Once Around the Sun. The child-oriented contemplations of the months and what they mean or bring seem suited to a singular character. The choice also allows for the illustrator to adapt the mood each poem brings more readily. The little boy becomes a thread and a joy.

see the story in this textless image that accompanies “September” on the facing page? New backpack being noticed, crisp clean (new) white shirt (that won’t say that way)…

I adore the color-work, and while it has a tinge of nostalgia, Katz and Pham are creating a sentimentality all their own, and in the present.


{from Freckleface Strawberry: Best Friends Forever}

Freckleface Strawberry was checked out so I ended up with two of the following books. LeUyen Pham told “Seven Impossible Things before Breakfast,” this about the experience:

Freckleface Strawberry (Bloomsbury Books), by Julianne Moore […] was great to do. Julie apparently was sent several artists’ work to select from, and she loved the book Big Sister, Little Sister I had done a couple years ago. She’s the sweetest person, and really let me go at it with the character. In fact, she even asked me to cover the little girl in freckles — initially, I was shy about putting too many dots on her! Contrary to popular opinion, I never saw pictures of Julie as a child. My editor and Julie were pretty adamant about the fact that the character should just come from my imagination. I was pretty surprised afterward to discover that the little girl I had drawn looks almost exactly like Julie’s daughter!”

Freckleface Strawberry and the Dodgeball Bully by Julianne Moore (Bloomsbury, 2009).

This is one of those rare bully stories these days where the bully isn’t actually a bully. Much of the mistaken identity is attributed to the power of the imagination—perceiving the big strong kid as a bully and the dodgeball as something that is out to seriously harm you. –but isn’t it though? We had mornings where Natalya felt the same kind of dread, hoping against all odds they would not be playing dodgeball. The book does not downplay the existence of bullies or monsters or even fear, and it doesn’t downplay the role of the imagination on a person’s life.

Freckleface Strawberry’s thought the ball would hurt, and had avoided play with Windy Pants Patrick. She also thought she could become a monster, practicing her role at the back while the game was being played. She imagined herself to be strong and fierce and agile. The power of the imagination can work for and against you.

The story has some lovely rhythmic moments. The sentences are as declarative as the expressions on Freckleface Strawberry’s face—no, her whole body. LeUyen Pham fluidly sketches a distinct personality into the character. There is this beautiful moment where Freckleface Strawberry is curled into herself a bit in dread, and in some memory of a wince—already anticipating the sting of the ball. She hadn’t left the house yet. I don’t know if the Monster is in previous books, but I adore its appearance here. Her imagination is projected into a looming shadow of a Monster behind her, echoing her movements—until at last it goes to tip-toe away, anxious, too, about Windy Pants Patrick and the dodgeball. With Moore’s dramatic tension and Pham’s ability to create dimension we arrive at the moment of truth with the same sentiment to which Freckleface Strawberry comes—“Oh!” I love learning the lessons alongside the character, and Moore plays off common misperceptions and worry well to deliver a nice turn. Pham artfully brings the inner workings to the page. It is a lovely partnership.

Freckleface Strawberry: Best Friends Forever by Julianne Moore (Bloomsbury, 2011).

First thoughts: Could this book be any sweeter? I love it. Windy Pants Patrick is back as Freckleface Strawberry’s best friend. The other kids thought they were too different to be best friends, let alone friends. So even though it was their differences (from others) that brought them together (both being odd sizes, having nicknames, and families who love them, loving to read and eat lunch), their differences viewed differently, however, could keep them apart. Classic scenarios where boys don’t play with girls and vice versa ala “boys stink.” Each gender and height and interest and family make-up has its own place—so they really don’t have enough in common. Except they do. And it is a nice aspect to the story how they drift apart and drift back together again. While the reader/listener understands social dynamics and has probably witnessed or experienced the story themselves, we are rooting for the friendship—and likely inspired.

The story feels too real to be message-y. It is another snapshot from Freckleface Strawberry’s life and again it just resonates. I would have loved to have read these to N when she was younger. Moore and Pham offer very relevant, if not strictly entertaining work. Fortunately, Natalya isn’t too grown-up to read picture books and found Freckleface Strawberry charming and fun—and familiar.

The presentation of the book is fun and colorful, but not overwhelming—simply stated and straightforward in language and illustration; and yet the texture is there. While Pham provides more color and setting, I thought about Ian Falconer’s Olivia and how much of an impact an inked figure of a pig in a tutu could have. There is no mistaking the driving force in the text and images in either Olivia or Freckleface Strawberry.


LeUyen Pham’s site.

{All images belong to her and their respective publishers}

Children's · Illustrator · Picture book · poet-related · recommend

{illustrator} LeUyen Pham (pt 1)

from Cinderella

I discovered the delightful Illustrator LeUyen (“It sounds like Le Win”) with the Alvin Ho series authored by Lenore Look. The sweet and silly Alvin rescued me from my theory-saturated texts spring term and just as much of their charm can be attributed to LeUyen Pham’s accompaniment as the witty author herself.

After perusing Uyen’s list of books, it seems I have seen her before, with books that I’ve flipped through but now demand a closer look. A modest list (see her site for more):

She wrote/illustrated Big Sister, Little Sister and All the Things I Love About You. She illustrated: Freckleface Strawberry books authored by Julianne Moore (yes, that Julianne Moore); Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio (my review); Once Around the Sun: Poems by Bobbi Katz; A Stick is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play by Marilyn Singer; and Bedtime for Mommy by Amy Krouse Rosenthal–which looks brilliant!

A bit about Uyen from her very cool website which reflects a playfulness I adore in anyone, but most especially in illustrators of children’s books:

“Born in Vietnam, [LeUyen] was raised in Los Angeles and traveled the world before moving to San Francisco in 2002” (motivarti.org). LeUyen studied at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena California deciding to pursue her art rather than continue at UCLA. After a brief stint at Dreamworks she dove headlong into children’s book illustration, and has since authored a few picture books as well. “She has taught at both the Art Center and the Academy of Art University in San Francisco” (motivarti.org)

She lives in San Francisco with her Artist husband and two sons. According to her very charming “About” page: Uyen once got lost (alone!) in Africa, has visited 5 continents, and can touch her tongue to her chin. She cannot sing on key nor pronounce the word “ladle.” She claims to be very good at drawing monkeys, but evidence supports her ability to draw quite a few more things very well.

Look for Part 2. I am going to post about 4 picture books she illustrated that I crawled around the picture book section of the library to find.


this new one coming out in August 2012 looks cute: Vampirina Ballerina by Anne Marie Pace.

Images on Uyen’s blog.

all images belong to LeUyen Pham and her respective publishers. “bio” image found on a new absent site for bedtimeformommy[dot]com.

A great article via diaCritics.org (posted April 2011) by Julie Nguyen.

and see this page at motivarti.org

and another fab place to find LeUyen Pham with images (from whence I found the first image); she exhibits quite a range, and yet the energy…the personality…you catch my drift.

"review" · Children's · concenter · Illustrator · Picture book · recommend · wondermous

{book} grace for president

We talk a lot about publishing books and films with strong female protagonists (and feminist themes) for the sake of our daughters. But how about publishing these works for the sake of our sons as well? Often portrayals of female heroes create a more masculine-than-thou figure, with the woman and/or girl out performing their male cast members in exhibiting “masculine traits” more successfully than anyone else and therefore they are a most powerful and enviable figure. The situation mimics those of a man emasculating another man in our culturally observed hierarchies. This device becomes difficult in how it still favors one gender over another; and while it may be an empowering moment for the girl, it becomes inaccessible to any other. Now I am not opposed to focused libraries, or empowering young people. I just think that there must be room to portray an empowered girl (and feminist sentiment like equality) that is accessible to and not at the expense of our young males.

One Monday morning in September, Mrs. Barrington rolled out a big poster with all of the presidents’ pictures on it. Grace Campbell could not believe her eyes. Where are the GIRLS?

Wearing a tank top that makes me think Wonder Woman, Grace stews on the fact that the United States has never had a female president. She decides to run for office. And the wonderful Mrs. Barrington decides they should hold an election and invites another class to join in. Thomas Cobb is nominated as their candidate and this is worrisome to Grace. Thomas was a winner.

This is where I must tell you that this book is great in an election year. Each of the non-running students drew a state and thus controlled that state’s electoral college. This is explained to the students and readers, and expanded upon in an “Author’s Note” at the end of the book. Each candidate campaigns and models the popular ways of doing so. They create slogans and posters, list campaign promises, meet with constituents, and hold polls. Grace gives speeches, hands out free treats, and holds rallies. You see her go the extra mile. And we find that Thomas doesn’t necessarily need to. “He had cleverly calculated that the boys held slightly more electoral votes than the girls.”

It is a nice addition the story to see how sincere Grace is about creating change and becoming a true leader. “Even before the election, Grace made good on her promises.” She models a good civic leader.

We come to the election day and each student, costumed to represent their state publicly cast their electoral votes. With Thomas at 268 and Grace at 267 there is only one more state and this 3 electoral vote will decide the election. The state is “The Equality State” of Wyoming and the student is a boy. It is a tense double-page spread wondering how Sam  was going to vote. And then—-he votes for “the best person for the job” (emphasis mine).

The election had transcended gender expectations and voting along strict party gender lines. The story became about our ideals: voting for the right person for the job as well as being the right person for the job.

“When deciding on how Grace should look, I thought an African American girl sounded ideal, and gave her as much spunk as I could. This, of course, was before Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton decided to run for president — how timely that my candidate is both female and African American!” LeUyen Pham (interview w/ “7 Impossible Things before Breakfast.”)

Grace is a bold figure who would encourage the female and minority reader to not be daunted by the way things are, envisioning a way things could be. DiPucchio creates realistic obstacles for Grace—at least in the proposed age bracket. The election process is not easy on Grace, and there is a lovely moment of her slumped in a winged-back chair exhausted. So the story isn’t a motherly pat followed by an “of course you can, sweetie.” The book is more of a “please do,” with the reassurance that even a little blonde boy from Wyoming is a probable voter.

The book ends with a final image. A page depicting a grown-up Grace Campbell taking her oath of presidential office (from a more diminutive elderly white man).  The opening and closing end pages? The first are framed portraits of presidents with Grace standing there holding her own frame, inserting herself into the gallery. The closing is a depiction of the Mount Rushmore with a carving of Grace’s visage beside Abe Lincoln’s.

LeUyen Pham’s images go a long way toward the dramatization and impact of the story. It is vibrant with youthful energy, patterns and color. The main characters are given a lot of personality and share much of the characterization with the author. You will likely notice when Sam with his body facing Thomas during the double-page “meeting with constituents,” has his head is turned toward Grace. But did you notice in the following pages how he is at every one of Grace’s activities (minus the rally) as well as Thomas’? Grace is not the only powerful figure at work in the book. Both Grace and Sam are fighting for opportunity, for equality, and for the best person for the job.

You may think Grace for President is a good book for the girls in your life reader or no, but this is an informative and inspiring picture book for the boys in your life as well!


recommendations: Grades K-4; though Natalya (at grade 7 found it enjoyable, too). Great for explaining the election process from campaigning to how votes are tallied.

of note: I had seen this when it was out and making all the lists, but I was driven to check it out from the library because the illustrator LeUyen Pham—stay tuned for an {illustrator} post very soon.

Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio

Illustrations by LeUyen Pham

Hyperion, 2008. Hardcover, 40 pages.

book list · chapter/series · guestblogger · N · recommend

{book list} n’s summer reading recs (pt1)

I’ve a guest-blogger today. Natalya (aka the daughter) promised me some posts and a couple weeks in, she hammers out one with 2-parts! Come back tomorrow for numbers 11-20 of her summer reading book recommendations. ~L


Yes! Your favorite contributor on the blog is back! (And will hopefully keep updating and more lists and reviews.) This time around I have created a list of some of the best reads for summertime. They are listed from first to twentieth using the criteria of how light (cheerful) or humorous, how thick, how easy to read, and how enjoyable the book is overall. All the books are fantastic, even the last one is great, so you just read them all, or pick the ones that seem to appeal to you. Enjoy and continue to have a wonderful summer!

1. The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E.L. Konigsburg (Aladdin 2004)

This is a quirky, fantastic book, featuring Margaret Rose and her uncles and her uncles’ towers. This book is about the realistic fact that all good things must come to an end and how, while her uncles are giving into it, Margaret is refusing to let go of the tower, no matter what. This story gives you the contented feeling that there is nothing that determination and creativity can’t conquer.

2. Letters from Campby Kate Klise (HarperTrophy 1999).

One thing I admire of this series of different books is that it never has pure narrative. Never. It consists of letters, menus, schedules, pictures, and more, but carries the plot better than some books with the traditional narrative. This book shows how evil summer camps may be and the bravery and resourcefulness of children. The clashing of characters and brothers and sisters is hilarious as they communicate by letters and eventually work together to fight the horrible camp counselors and owners. A fairly quick, but captivating read.

3. Savvyby Ingrid Law (Dial 2000).

What power would you inherit on your 13thbirthday? This is a book of magic, but in a practical, down-home sense. Our character is so well-created, you feel who she is, why she would do something. This is an awe-inspiring journey of a girl trying to go and save her daddy, with a–I promise–happy ending.

[omphaloskepsis review]

4. Chompby Carl Hiaason (Random House 2012).

Another glorious book from Carl Hiaasen! This book talks of endangered animals and blends a world of humorous circumstances and hilariously written characters as a popular wildlife TV show and animal trainers have to sort their differences and work together to find TV star Derek Badger while protecting a young girl from her abusive father who is hunting for her. You will be racing through it, praising Carl Hiaasen once more!

5. Because of Winn-Dixieby Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick Press 2000).

This popular summer classic runs a beautiful chill up my spine, at the beauty, and the characters; especially at the bittersweet ending. If you haven’t read it, ask yourself, “What am I doing? How in the world have I not read this book?” and start reading. If you have read it, read it again and maybe again. The friendship between the two characters and the more friendships that come from it will warm your heart more than imaginable.

6. Un Lun Dunby China Mieville (DelRey 2007).

This book is the thing that fantasy-lovers will drool over! The oddness of everything shows China Mieville’s creativity, while the comparisons with London (which will leave you laughing hours later) show his wit. He leads you in, making you believe this is a normal fantasy, using the usual characters, the usual plot, and suddenly turns everything around; leading you into the fantastic realm he has created. The rapturing story will suck you into it, only to reluctantly spit you back out when you finish the story!

[omphaloskepsis review]

7. The Westing Gameby Ellen Raskin (Puffin 1978)

This mystery has become a favorite of mine. It is a mystery not only to read, but for you to solve! (I’m still waiting for the board game though.) The characters Raskin creates and the ways each come about are surprisingly unique and clever and the resolution is fitting, perfect even, although it certainly won’t cross your mind immediately, if at all. Sit back and relax with this clever, cleverly written mystery.

8. My Name is Minaby David Almond (Hodder Children’s Books 2010).

This book is a companion to Skellig, but has its own story and is perfect just by itself. Mina, a free-spirited young girl, is fighting her way into the mix of what is normal, and what her own feelings are. Not only is it an enjoyable read, with a character you come to love, there are activities for you to do, perfect for filling your summer with!

[omphaloskepsis review]

9. Utterly Me, Clarice Beanby Lauren Child (Candlewick 2002).

This book is a favorite in the household, and beginning to a hilarious series. This story is about a young girl and looks like it is written by one, with the unique changing and positioning of the writing. Clarice Bean is a creative, outgoing, young girl, determined to be a detective, just like the main character of her favorite series. This book, while aimed towards the younger audiences, is perfect for both young and old.

10. Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disastersby Lenore Look, LeUyen Pham (illustrator) (Random House 2009).

I have to admit, this is a little kid’s book. Yes, it is. But you can’t be too old for a good book, can you? This little boy, Alvin, is scared of everything. Yes, this is a book in a series. The whole family is fairly quirky. His father curses in Shakespearean, his brother too. Even though this book is short, and might not be an award-winner; it is short and sweet, making you laugh your socks off. Trust me, children and young adult books can be the best type.

[omphaloskepsis review]


———–comeback tomorrow for 11-20 on the list of summer recommendations.