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

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!


Q & Artist: Cover Artist Marina Muun

Illustrator Marina Muun

Illustrator Marina Muun


We are so thrilled to showcase Marina Muun, our cover artist for The Symbols Issue. Marina hails from Bulgaria and currently resides in Vienna, Austria. She has illustrated for The New York Times, Tate Publishing, Google, BuzzFeed, The New Yorker, Wrap Magazine, and many more esteemed publications. We fell head over heels in love with her beautiful, bold artwork for our latest cover:

Illustoria  # 6: The Symbols Issue; Cover art by Marina Muun

Illustoria # 6: The Symbols Issue; Cover art by Marina Muun


Check out The Symbols Issue to see her beautiful illustrated comic, "The Rock Garden," which combines her fascination with modern architecture with her reverence for the antiquated. 

Enjoy Marina's illustrated Q & Artist interview. We're pretty sure you will fall in love with her and her artwork as much as we have!

Why Making Cards Makes us Happy

Eunice and Sabrina Moyle, founders of Hello!Lukcy. Photo © Zoe Larkin

Eunice and Sabrina Moyle, founders of Hello!Lukcy. Photo © Zoe Larkin


Sisters Eunice and Sabrina Moyle are founders of Hello!Lucky, a San Francisco-based, award-winning purveyor of letterpress greeting cards and other doodled objects. They’re also authors of several books including their latest, Happy Mail and the forthcoming Be the Change.

This week, Eunice and Sabrina join Illustoria to share some insight into their art style and why they love to doodle, hand-letter and send snail mail!

Happy Mail  just launched! Enter to win a copy, details at the end of this post. Photo © Zoe Larkin

Happy Mail just launched! Enter to win a copy, details at the end of this post. Photo © Zoe Larkin


There are lots of reasons why doodling and writing snail mail cards makes us happy. For one thing, Eunice loves to draw and Sabrina loves to write, so cards are a perfect way to team up!

We also love cards because they’re fun and social.  Since cards have a clear purpose -- to say hi, thank you, happy birthday, etc. -- they can be less daunting than drawing for no reason on a blank piece of paper.   Kind of like bowling with bumpers!


When we make a card, we usually start with the occasion and person in mind. Then, we brainstorm concepts -- the combination of words and images that we think will create a good vibe, a smile, or a laugh. We love to look on Pinterest for inspiration. Sometimes a cool pattern or illustration gives us a great idea that we can apply in a new way. There’s nothing wrong with looking for artists you like and trying to learn their styles, just as long as you make it your own!


Doodling cards is simple. They don’t take a lot of time to draw.  Since they’re small, you can easily try different ideas or start over. Sometimes the simplest cards are the best!


We love cards because they combine words and pictures. We like to think of these as two different languages.  Many of us are more comfortable with words than pictures (ahem, Sabrina!), so cards give us a way to use both -- it’s not so scary to draw when you also have words to fall back on. We’ve seen great cards that are only hand-lettering or hilarious one-liners, and we’ve also seen great cards that are all picture with no words. Our favorite? A pun paired with fun illustration!  Cat puns, especially!


Our rule of thumb for card-writing is keep it short, light, and sincere. We love the fill up the page with hand-lettering and add doodle flare, like rainbows, stars, and hearts.  Writing short messages lets us try different styles without worrying too much about messing up or rambling!  That said, we also love hunkering down to write a multi-page letter to a pen pal -- it’s an amazing way to catch up when you have a lot to say, and way better than a multi-part IM! :D



You might think that in today’s tech-enabled world, handmade cards and handwritten letters aren’t important.  In our personal experience, that’s not true.  Handmade cards and letters are another form of communicating, just like texting, calling, or sending an email. Each one has its place, and a handmade card makes a great impression.  



We like to think of snail mail cards like slow food or home-cooking. They take a while to prepare, but they’re satisfying and unique to the cook or sender.  Social media has its place, too, just like fast food. Sometimes you’re in a hurry and you just need to get a message sent (we love french fries but try not to eat them for every meal ;))

Nothing beats getting a handwritten card in the mail, personally addressed to you.  These days, it’s a memorable experience. It’s something you can hold, read, re-read, and keep forever.  (Sabrina still has letters she exchanged with her BFF in high school! Amazing time capsules!).


Making cards makes us feel more connected.  We like to make cards for friends, family, and even strangers because it allows us focus our attention on relationships.  To us, relationships matter most in life, more than material things. Cards remind us of what really counts!



Sending cards or letters can be like a meditation or gratitude practice. When we sit down to draw a card or write a letter, it immediately puts us in a happy place. Why? Because we’re focusing all our imagination and energy on how we can make people happy. What hilarious idea would make them snort with laughter? What would make them feel warm fuzzies?  Thinking about these things gives us a real high, like planning a surprise party!



You can almost always find a good reason to send a card.  Birthdays, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, holidays, and or any time you receive a kind action, gift or letter.  We especially love sending cards to grandparents and people who might not be as tech-savvy. You might even keep a calendar of card-sending occasions, or a list of people you want to write to along with their snail mail addresses.



Most importantly, though, making and sending cards is just good fun.  We crack ourselves up coming up with funny, punny card ideas and we have even more fun sending them to our friends.  So the next opportunity that comes up, grab a pen and some paper, and start doodling!  Pop your creation in the mail and see what happens!


You can pick up lots of card and hand-lettering ideas and inspiration, letter-writing prompts, and even ready-to-write tear-out cards and self-mailing letters in our new book, Happy Mail.  So have fun making your own cards!  We know they’ll be totally paw-some! :D

Sabrina holding a copy of  Happy Mail ! Photo © Zoe Larkin

Sabrina holding a copy of Happy Mail! Photo © Zoe Larkin


To celebrate the official Happy Mail launch, we’d like to offer one of you your own copy! Follow @illustoria_mag and @helloluckycards on Instagram and tag a friend you would send handmade happy mail to and we’ll pick a winner at random!

Creator Crush: Mike Lowery

Sneak peek from  Issue 5: Motion : Mike Lowery doodles his answers to our Q & Artist interview.

Sneak peek from Issue 5: Motion: Mike Lowery doodles his answers to our Q & Artist interview.


Who cannot absolutely adore Mike Lowery for his amazing doodles, hand-lettering, books, and inspiring-hilarious-addicting-to-watch #randomillustratedfacts?

From  Mike Lowery's Instagram feed , where he regularly shares videos of his sketchbook drawings featuring engaging and adorable random illustrated facts. 

From Mike Lowery's Instagram feed, where he regularly shares videos of his sketchbook drawings featuring engaging and adorable random illustrated facts. 


Mike is a prolific children's book writer and illustrator who infuses his work with a sense of humor and child-like simplicity that never fails to amuse and delight us. His latest series with Workman Publishing, Doodle Adventures, invites kids to draw their own characters into the story and, page by page, the interactive book continues along via prompts for more illustrations by the reader. It's an ingenious format that combines drawing and doodling with the silly escapades of a wonky cast of characters that will keep everyone anticipating the next funny episode. By the end of the book, the reader will have helped to co-write a totally unique story that can be read over and over again with family and friends for a riotous good time. 

Doodle Adventures Series

Doodle Adventures Series

Thankfully with three books out (The Search for the Slimy Space Slugs!The Pursuit of the Pesky Pizza Pirate!The Rise of the Rusty Robo-Cat!) and counting in this series, your little doodlers will have enough to keep them creatively satisfied for some time. We are thrilled to share Mike's book trailer for this series, a series which has been described as "a visual Mad Libs: part game, part graphic novel, and a thrilling, interactive experience in which the reader draws him- or herself into the story and becomes the star." So much good!


And a few more glances at Mike's Q & Artist for Illustoria, issue 5: Motion:

Yes! Roald Dahl books...we couldn't agree more. 

Yes! Roald Dahl books...we couldn't agree more. 

Art by Mike Lowery. See The Motion Issue for the full Q & Artist feature!

Art by Mike Lowery. See The Motion Issue for the full Q & Artist feature!


Don't miss out on Mike's awesome books and make sure to get a copy of The Motion Issue to learn more about what inspires Mike, what he's currently up to, and when he feels his most creative.

And be sure to enter our GIVEAWAY in partnership with Workman Publishing between now and Friday, 9/15/17, for a chance to win a set of Mike's Doodle Adventures books. Head to our Instagram feed for contest details.

Women's March Book Roundup


As the Inauguration and Women’s March on Washington draws near, we thought it would be an apt time to compile a list of books that revolve around female activism and empowerment as a reminder to our daughters and sons the challenges that we’ve faced, and the struggles that still await us. We hope these books inspire you and your kids to take action to ensure that women’s rights are human rights, and to help create communities that champion inclusivity and diversity.

To find a Women’s March near you, check out the Sister March page at


Rad Women Worldwide by Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl 


1. Rad Women Worldwide by Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl

Kate Schatz, the author of Rad Women A-Z is back with an equally (if not more so) cool and inspiring book covering extraordinary women from all over the world. The book includes 40 women, with a short bio for each and awesome paper cut portraits by Miriam Stahl. From more well known figures (Angela Davis) to the obscure (the Quintreman Sisters), from the ancient (Queen Hatshepsut) to the contemporary (Malala Yousafzai), Schatz’s book is as richly diverse as it is rewarding. There’s even an added 250 names of rad women included in the back of the book as a reference for readers to continue their own research. Age range: grades 5 and up, adults will love this book too!


2. For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai's Story by Rebecca Langston-George, illustrated by Janna Bock

Rebecca Langston-George offers a powerful tale, based on the true story of activist Malala Yousafzai’s life and struggle. Though she was raised in a culture where women rights were repressed, Malala was determined to make education accessible for every girl. Unlike similar books in the genre, For the Right to Learn stays true to historic fact, and is not overly watered down. But the engaging illustrations and brevity of the picture book text makes it a great pick for young readers grades 2-4.


3. Fight Like A Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World, by Laura Barcella

Feminism is not an easily defined movement or label that can be wrapped up neatly in a box with a bow. Laura Barcella understands that, and instead of offering simple answers, she provides readers with a history of feminism by way of the leaders who defined it. Similarly to Rad Women Worldwide, Fight Like A Girl includes serious breadth and diversity. For each figure there is a short bio, a bullet point list of key take aways (called “cool credentials”), and famous quotes. The line drawn portraits and casual language give the book a zine-like quality that makes it an approachable and fun read for pre-teen to teen readers.  



4. Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March, by Lynda Blackmon Lowery, Elspeth Leacock (Adapter), Susan Buckley (Adapter), Illustrated by PJ Loughran

In this thought provoking, evocative book Lynda Blackmon Lowery offers a powerful account of just how it felt to be one of the youngest participant in the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery. Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom does not gloss over the day-to-day racism and injustices Lynda experienced, but instead delves head first into the uncomfortable and ugly truth of our nation that we often try to forget. By the same token, the courage and strength needed to become a civil rights activist as a teenager is not underestimated. With a riveting narrative and a graphic novel feel, this book will be welcomed by readers grades 7 and up.

5. Freedom's Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories, by Ellen S.Levine

Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and Ruby Bridges are household names in the Civil Rights movement. But what about the children and teenagers who put their lives on the line to protest segregation, secure voting rights for people of color, and stand up against daily encounters of racism and hate? In this book, thirty young civil rights activists share their true stories of their struggles to secure freedom for future generations. Reading accounts of how it felt to enact sit-ins, walk-outs, and protests as a person under twenty is immensely humbling and influential, especially for a young readers whose feelings of helplessness or apathy prevent them from fighting against racism and hate in their own communities. These upfront, deeply personal and unapologetic stories are perfect for grades six and up.


6. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia 

In the summer of 1968, three strong-willed, close-as-can-be sisters board a plane from Brooklyn to Oakland, California to stay with their mysterious, unimaginably stern mother Cecile who treats them like unwanted pets. Neglected and confused, they spend their days at a community center run by the Black Panthers and try to piece together all the commotion in their neighborhood--men in berets shouting "Black Power" in the streets, flyers talking about revolution, and "Free Huey" graffitied on the walls. Over the course of the summer, the sisters come to find their place during this pivotal, turbulent moment in African American history, and learn to reconcile their relationship with their poet-activist mother who, while hardly a maternal figure, empowers her girls nonetheless. One Crazy Summer is a perfect read for grades four through seven.