Summer Reading Roundup

 
Illustration by Paige Geimer

Illustration by Paige Geimer

School’s out and summer is settling in! It’s the best time of year for jumping in lakes, beating the heat with ice-cold drinks, and falling asleep in the shade with a good book. Don’t know where to start with all of the wonderful titles lining the shelves? We rounded up some of our favorites that are the perfect companions for all your summer adventures! There is plenty of time for fun activities, thrilling stories, and books that take you to a new and unique world during these long days.

The Kid's Awesome Activity Book by Mike Lowery

 
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 Kids Awesome Activity Book  by   Mike Lowery

 Kids Awesome Activity Book by Mike Lowery

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It’s no secret that we love Mike Lowery here at ILLUSTORIA - how can we resist the amazing doodle-esque illustrations and immensely fun activities?! This book has you coming up with some funky monsters hairstyles (mullets are back in, right?), deciphering secret messages, and creating a masterpiece to go on the walls of a museum. Lowery has made a book that is perfect for long car rides or sitting hanging out in the backyard. Plus, the book comes with stickers, finger puppets, and a fold out poster to keep you creative even when you can’t see the white spaces in the book anymore! 

The Better Tree Fort by Jessica Scott Kerrin and Qin Leng

 
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The Better Tree Fort  by Jessica Scott Kerrin and illustrated by Qin Leng

The Better Tree Fort by Jessica Scott Kerrin and illustrated by Qin Leng

Jessica Scott Kerrin’s story will have you feeling nostalgic about long summer nights that were spent dreaming of the world’s raddest tree house - equipped with a skylight and fireman’s pole for getting down, obviously. The Better Tree Fort focuses on Russell who is building a tree fort with his dad, but can’t help but be jealous of the bigger one 3 doors down. After spending some time at the bigger fort, Russell realizes that his tree fort is better after all! We absolutely love Qin Leng’s watercolor illustrations, which we have gotten to know and love in her book A Family is a Family is a Family. She perfectly captures the ambiance of a summer’s DIY activity; we can almost hear the crickets chirping in the beautiful sunset spread. 

 

Rad Girls Can by Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl

 
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Rad Girls Can  by Kate Schaltz and illustrated by Miriam Klein   Stahl  

Rad Girls Can by Kate Schaltz and illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl 

This summer reading list wouldn’t be complete without including the newest edition of the Rad Women series with Rad Girls Can by Kate Schaltz and Miriam Klein Stahl. Their new book featuring 50 (FIFTY!) girls that have done, well, rad things that all of us are completely in awe about. Turning the focus onto girls under the age of 20, girls can see that they are never too young to stand up and make a difference. In fact, some of the most revolutionary ideas come from young minds! Flashback to Issue 5: Motion, Kate and Miriam talked to us about what inspires them and how to use their talents to support women and girls alike. Now the duo is releasing the third book in the series and we are more inspired to get out there and help more than ever. Rad Girls Can comes out July 17, so make sure to keep an eye out at your fav local bookstore!
 

Under the Canopy by Iris Volant and Cynthia Alonso

 
 
Under the Canopy  by Iris Volant and illustrated by Cynthia Alonso

Under the Canopy by Iris Volant and illustrated by Cynthia Alonso

This one is for all of the nature lovers out there! Under the Canopy not only showcases Alonso’s stunning, colorful illustrations of some of the amazing trees that we find around the world but also highlights the cultural context of these seemingly everyday sightings. Did you know that Hawthorne trees were thought to be the meeting place of Celtic fairies? Or that Anne Frank used to look out to a large Horse Chestnut Tree outside of her hiding spot in Amsterdam? Just because school is out doesn’t mean that the learning has to stop, especially when it is about awesome subjects like this! After reading this Flying Eye book, you’ll want to go out and see what trees you can find in your own backyard. (Super cool bonus: check out Cynthia’s sweet illustrated story in Issue 6: Symbols.) 
 

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

 
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Ghost Boys  by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

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While this might not exactly be beach reading, Ghost Boys is a fantastic and necessary tale to be told. Jewell Parker Rhodes paints a heartbreakingly poignant story that is all too familiar - a young boy dies at the hand of a trigger happy policeman. This middle grade novel retells the story by weaving through time and relationships that were made both while alive and after death. He comes across many sides of the story, including another boy whose fate was not unlike his as well as the policeman's daughter, highlighting different perspectives of these events. While the hectic nature of school is gone, summer could be a great time to open up a conversation about these themes with your young one. 
 

I Really Want to See You, Grandma by Taro Gomi

 
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I Really Want to See You, Grandma  by Taro Gomi

I Really Want to See You, Grandma by Taro Gomi

I Really Want to See You, Grandma is one of those books that we keep going back to over and over. Probably because Taro Gomi is a genius and we can’t stop looking at his illustrations, but also because this book reminds us of what it’s like to miss someone we are close to and do everything we can to see them. Gomi does a perfect job at creating a sweet story about the bond between a grandmother and granddaughter who both have the same idea to make a trip, but keep missing each other in the process. Though, this doesn’t discourage them and we get to follow these journeys, inspiring us to reach out to our grandparents too. Pack this book in your backpack and go on a journey to read it with a loved one!


The Forest by Riccardo Bozzi, Violeta Lopiz, Valerio Vidali

 
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The Forest  by Riccardo Bozzi, Violeta Lopiz, Valerio Vidali

The Forest by Riccardo Bozzi, Violeta Lopiz, Valerio Vidali

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The Forest refuses to be put into a category, and that’s what we love about it. Bozzi, Lopiz, and Vidali do a phenomenal job at making every single aspect of this book special. The story is a sweet rendition of life - from birth to death - using the metaphor of a forest, but it doesn’t lay a heavy hand. Instead you follow travelers through stunning and bright illustrations that are paired with delicate cut outs, where you can see the forest through the physical perspectives of the travelers. Ending in full circle, the book inspires to not take life for granted and to appreciate the small things. 

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

 
 
Be Prepared  by Vera Brosgol

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

Shout out to all of us out there who feel as if we don’t fit in - Be Prepared’s for you! This comic focuses on Vera, a girl whose family and economic background doesn’t quite fit in with her other friends... They can afford the coveted (and expensive) "Historical Dolls". She decides to go to a summer camp and feels even MORE out of place then before. It’s a perfect story that is sure to give you some laughs while also acting as a gentle reminder that you aren’t alone. We all feel out of place sometimes. Not to mention, Vera Brosgol is able to capture the perfect summertime camp vibes.
 

Hoakes Island by Helen Friel and Ian Friel

 
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Hoakes Island  by Ian Friel and Helen Friel

Hoakes Island by Ian Friel and Helen Friel

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Are you and your kiddo stuck inside when it’s hot enough to fry an egg outside? Have no fear! Hoakes Island will have you solving a mystery within one of the most interesting amusement parks ever. Complete with a fold out map and a detective magnifying glass, this book has you working your way through pages of puzzles with the help of some animal friends. What’s even cooler? Hoakes Island was written by a dad and daughter duo - Helen is a paper engineer and visual artist and Ian is a historian and has written books about ships. It inspires us to collab with our families and see the genius that comes out of it. So get your brains movin’ again and help save Hoakes Island!


The Great Dog by Davide Cali and Miguel Tanco

 
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The Great Dog  by Davide Cali and Miguel Tanco

The Great Dog by Davide Cali and Miguel Tanco

The Great Dog is a playful and comforting picture book that is a great summer read. A father walks his child down a great hallway of ornate family portraits while retelling their stories. Descending from a policeman, an athlete, and an astronaut, the pup wonders what he will be when he grows up. This makes us reminiscent of the long, hot summer days when we pictured what our lives will look like in the future. *Cough* My bounce house castle might still be under construction. The important thing to know, relayed in this book, is that no matter what you are you will be great. Plus, there is more than meets the eye to all of our great heroes, as noted by the snarky and beautiful illustrations done by Miguel Tanco


That Night, a Monster by Marzena Sowa and Berenika Kolomycka

 
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That Night, a Monster  by Marzena Sowa and Berenika Kolomycka

That Night, a Monster by Marzena Sowa and Berenika Kolomycka

You know that feeling after watching a scary movie where everything feels spooky? Even the tree right outside your window? That’s what Tommy, the little boy who went to wake up his parents on a Saturday morning, felt; his mom turned into a fern! Of course, she did not turn into a fern, but rather had a bad hair day that got out of control. That Night, a Monster is a self-aware graphic novel that plays with our worst fears, but in a light-hearted way that makes you turn around an appreciate what you have. Plus, these painted panels by artist Berenika are so silly and relatable at the same time that they remind us that our fears can be the scariest thing of all! The book is on sale August 21, 2018, but is available for pre-order now. 

If you're looking for even more, check out: Boats on the Bay, Book of Bones, Square (it would be an understatement to say we adore everything by the duo Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen!), and The Wild Robot Escapes.

So there you have it - enough books to fill those times when you are bored in the summer and need a creative pick-me-up. We hope you enjoyed them as much as we did and we want to see what books you've enjoyed this summer. Show us what you've been reading on Instagram @illustoria_mag and be on the lookout for the release of Issue 7: Black & White. You can pre-order it now!

 

Creator Crush: Cece Bell!

 

When the book EL DEAFO begins, Cece is 4. When it ends, she is about 10 or 11. Cece used these photos to help "age" the bunny version of herself as the book progresses. Photos and art © Cece Bell. 

 

I first heard the adorable name "Cece Bell" spoken of while working as an editor at Lucasfilm. At the time, I was co-editing Tom Angleberger’s Origami Yoda series. I’ll never forget Tom visiting our offices and gifting me an origami R2-D2 that he folded himself. There were many perks of working at Lucasfilm, and receiving an origami Star Wars character by Tom in all his stookiness was most definitely, geekishly one of them. But I had no idea that I would soon meet Tom’s wife, Cece Bell, and be blown away by her own amazing work as a children’s book author and illustrator. I met Cece only briefly at a BEA in New York a couple years ago, where she was signing galleys of her book El Deafo. The booth was crowded with Cece fans and the galleys were quickly disappearing, but I was fortunate to snatch one up.

 

Illustration © 2014 by Cece Bell; Design by Caitlin Keegan and Chad W. Beckerman. Published by Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams.

 

When I returned home to California, I couldn't wait to get El Deafo into the hands of my eight-year-old daughter. As I predicted, she gulped down the book in one sitting—meaning she did come up for air several times to point out some particularly hilarious excerpt from the book. (“Mom—look down your shirt and spell ‘attic’!”) The rest of the time she stayed quietly and contemplatively behind closed doors, unwilling to pull her eyes from the page—just as her mom did (sometimes teary-eyed with sadness sometimes teary-eyed with laughter) on that plane ride back to Oakland. When months later she and I discovered El Deafo in all its full-color, award-winning glory at the bookstore, we were overjoyed by its brilliance. It didn't occur to us that we had been missing anything at all in the uncolored proof.

When Cece's character can't hear anything, the speech balloons are empty. Art  ©   Cece Bell.

When Cece's character can't hear anything, the speech balloons are empty. Art © Cece Bell.

El Deafo is a phenomenal graphic novel memoir based on Cece’s childhood experiences with hearing loss and hearing aids. It also chronicles her quest to find true friendship. The graphic novel format is a perfect medium for Cece's story, where pictures and words (in some cases, the lack of words) powerfully demonstrate what her character is experiencing. 

The elaborate Phonic Ear hearing aid and microphone set-up had Cece feeling like a superhero with superpowers! But most of the time she just felt like a confused kid. Was she deaf? And what did that mean? Art  ©   Cece Bell.

The elaborate Phonic Ear hearing aid and microphone set-up had Cece feeling like a superhero with superpowers! But most of the time she just felt like a confused kid. Was she deaf? And what did that mean? Art © Cece Bell.

Read Cece’s firsthand account on the making of El Deafo in our premiere issue and learn about her creative process as an artist and writer.  In the meantime, here's an extended version of our Q&A with Cece.

Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?

I grew up in a little city called Salem, in the southwestern part of Virginia. Now I live in an old church just a half-an-hour away, but more in the mountains (and therefore, in the boonies!).

What were you like as a kid?

I was driven to do well and pushed myself hard. I wanted people to think of me as “that smart girl in our class” instead of as “that deaf girl in our class.” I loved making people laugh, especially my older siblings. My sense of humor veered toward the absurdist...and the naughty!

 What were some of your favorite childhood books?

Our Animal Friends of Maple Hill Farm by the Provensens

The Meanest Squirrel I Ever Met by Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

Ed Emberley’s drawing books

Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad series

Judy Blume's books

Beverly Cleary's books

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink

When did you know you wanted to be an artist and writer?

 I started to figure the art stuff out in college. I had always loved drawing, but never really saw a career in it until I saw other kids making a go of it. As to the writing, no one would hire me to illustrate their children’s books, so I realized I had to write my own books and make my own path.

Who or what inspires you? 

My husband, author/illustrator Tom Angleberger, is a huge source of inspiration. He's so encouraging...and he's so good, which triggers my competitive reflexes to be better and to make more stuff.

When do you feel your most creative?

In the morning, when the house is quiet and nothing has happened yet.

Do you have a favorite type of pen, or brush, or paper for drawing with?

I like lots of media and have to admit that I love drawing on my Wacom Cintiq. I love to draw LINES so simple pen-and-ink is a favorite. Gouache! Watercolors! But no oil paints, ick. If I could make a book with illustrations made of felt and colored thread, I'd do it. Love that stuff.

What advice would you share with young aspiring artists?

 If you aren't enjoying it, don't do it!

Thank you, Cece, for your words of wisdom and for sharing El Deafo with us!