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!


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.

Hervé Tullet & ILLUSTORIA at Bank Street Book Store


Hervé Tullet is known for his interactive picture books that engage readers in an experience that is always new and spontaneous. photo ©  Andrey Klemeshov


Illustoria is thrilled to be pairing up with Hervé Tullet to celebrate the release of issue 2 at Bank Street Book Store in New York City! Hervé is the internationally bestselling author behind Press Here, Mix It Up!, Let's Play!, Art Workshops for Children, and many more titles equally loved by grownups and kids.  


Hervé Tullet painting at one of his many art workshops for kids around the globe.


I'll be on hand sharing some of my favorite pieces from Issue 2: The Canvas Issue. (Cover to be revealed shortly so stay tuned!) photo © Melissa Kaseman


Hervé will talk about his unique approach to storytelling, staying innovative, and what we can all learn from making art with kids. I'll be interviewing Hervé about his process and inspiration, his favorite medium, what music he listens to while he paints, and how to create stories that appeal across generations. I'm also excited to share highlights from issue 2: The Canvas Issue. 


So calling all artists, writers, parents, kids, teachers, and librarians: Come join us for an afternoon of inspiration and fun, pick up a copy of the newly released issue 2 and any number of awesome Tullet books that may be missing from your home collection, and enjoy coloring, crafts, light snacks, and swag! For more information about the event, go to the Bank Street Book Store events page and RSVP here

Bank Street Book Store
2780 Broadway
New York City

When: Saturday / November 19th / 1–2 pm 

Creator Crush – Illustrator Edition


The First Warm Spring Day. Copyright © Phoebe Wahl 2015. 

When I’m not painting, snacking, watching reruns of Curb Your Enthusiasm, or having the time of my life at Illustoria magazine, I spend my days surrounded by children’s books. Specifically, at Mr. Mopps’ Children’s Books, one of the finest bookstore establishments in the Bay Area (if not America, the World, Universe, etc). As an artist and lover of beautiful things, my favorite picture books often tend to be the ones with jaw dropping-ly cool illustrations (that is unless it’s The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak). So it’s with great joy that I share my current illustrator favorites with you. I’ve also included some really awesome up-and-coming artists who haven’t published a children’s book yet, but I really hope they one day do. I hope this list inspires you to visit your local bookstore and support these stellar artists.  

1. Phoebe Wahl

Phoebe Wahl is my all time favorite illustrator at the moment. Working in various mix media from collage to watercolor and color pencil, all of Wahl’s creation are lush, whimsical, and filled with a love nature. The artist grew up in Washington and graduated from RISD in 2013 before plunging into the illustrator world. Her very first children’s book, Sonya’s Chicken’s is so wonderful-- I recommend it to everyone who comes into Mr.Mopps’. It tells the story of a young girl named Sonya who takes enormous pride in caring for her chickens. When one of her hens is killed by a neighborhood fox, Sonya learns an important lesson about the cycle of life and how to cope with loss. With gorgeously textured collage materials, rich colors, and folk inspired images, Sonya’s Chickens is a truly mesmerizing, heart warming tale you’ll want to reread again and again. It’s no wonder this book was the recipient of the Ezra Jack Keats award for new illustrators!  I’m greatly anticipating Wahl’s next children’s book and whatever spectacular creation she spins up next. You can check out her work at

Cover of Sonya's Chickens. Copyright © Phoebe Wahl. Published August 2015.

Interior page of Sonya's Chickens. Copyright © Phoebe Wahl. Published 2015. 

2. Isabelle Arsenault

Isabelle Arsenault is a Canadian illustrator who has worked on over ten children’s books, each more wonderful than the next. Most recently, she illustrated Cloth Lullaby a tale of the life of world famous contemporary artist Louise Bourgeois, written by talented local author Amy Novesky. What I find stunning about Arsenault’s work is how she seamlessly integrates watercolor and pencil line work to create immersive, often extremely pattern-filled scenes. 

Cover of Cloth Lullaby. Copyright © Words by Amy Novesky, Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. Published 2016. 

Interior page of Cloth Lullaby. Copyright © Isabelle Arsenault. Published 2016. 

Though her style has a sense of innocence and child-like wonder to it, Arsenault isn’t afraid of depicting a darker side. In her graphic novel Jane, the Fox, and Me Arsenault dramatic compositions and devilish character portrayal illustrate the anxiety and angst that we all go through as early teens. More of her work can be found at

Interior page of Jane, the Fox, and Me. Copyright © Isabelle Arsenault. Published 2013.

3. Esme Shapiro

Esme Shapiro’s work is delightful, fresh, and filled with curiosity. Similarly to Phoebe Wahl, Shapiro is a RISD grad who just published her first children’s book, Ooko. In this amusing tale, a fox named Ooko who has it all, except for a very best friend. So it goes off an adventure to find a companion but instead gets mistaken as an old lady’s dog. Filled with whimsy, flora, and fauna, Ooka is an easy favorite. Shapiro has many many more imaginative, Maria Kalman-esque pieces on her website

Cover of Ooko. Copyright © Esmé Shapiro. Published 2016. 

Page of Ooko. Copyright © Esmé Shapiro. Published 2016. 

4. Joohee Yoon

Joohee Yoon is a printmaker whose work never fails to amuse and inspire me. She has illustrated two children’s books, The Tiger Who Would Be King and Beastly Verse, as well as House Plant an art book about plants that outgrow their owners. You might also recognize her work as being a frequent feature in the New Yorker and New York Times. With wonderful overlapping colors and wonderful oversized cartoon characters, Yoon’s work overflows with vivacity and humor. If you’re as big of a fan as screen printing as I am, (or even if you’re not!) her illustrations will tickle you in all the right places. You can check out more of her striking work on her website

Living Things interior spread. Copyright © JooHee Yoon. 

Interior page of The Tiger Who Would Be King. Copyright © JooHee Yoon. Published 2015.

Interior Page of Beastly Verse. Copyright © JooHee Yoon. Published 2015.

5. Sally Nixon

Sally Nixon, an illustrator working from Little Rock, Arkansas is one of the raddest artists around. Though she hasn’t come out with any children’s books yet (I hope she will soon!), she’s an honorable mention on this list because she’s without a doubt my creator crush. Nixon lovingly depicts the mundane moments in an average girl’s life, like eating late night snacks of chocolate cake, brushing your teeth in the shower, scrolling through instagram, or simply sitting on the toilet. By giving these often overlooked moments extra attention with delicate marker coloring and detailed penmanship, Nixon makes the everyday special. Her illustrations have a feeling of voyeurism, as if for spectators to see what women do when no one’s watching. At the same time, the contemplative boredom Nixon depicts makes her characters so relatable and well loved. Visit her website at

Copyright © Sally Nixon. 

Copyright © Sally Nixon. 

Copyright © Sally Nixon. 


Claire Astrow is a publishing assistant at Illustoria and a recent grad from UC Berkeley as an Art Practice major. Check out her bio here and her illustrated work at

Children's Book Week Roundup


Children’s Book Week is 97 years old this year, and ILLUSTORIA is brand spanking new! But the nice thing about children’s books is that they bring together the young and the old, the new and the nearly-forgotten. So I thought I might take a moment and talk about a few of my favorite new and upcoming picture books, and also some older books that those titles bring to mind.

The Airplane Book , by Lisa Brown

The Airplane Book, by Lisa Brown

What Do People Do All Day? , by Richard Scarry 

What Do People Do All Day?, by Richard Scarry 

Remember the joy of being a kid, sprawled on the floor for hours, staring at Richard Scarry books? They gave me the sense that if I just stared long enough, I’d totally understand the world, with all its various details and motions and people and parts. Well, The Airport Book by Lisa Brown gives me that very same sense—that if I read it again and again, I might genuinely comprehend all the details and inner workings of the airport. (And let’s be honest—kids LOVE airports.)

When Green Becomes Tomatoes , by Julie Fogliano; illustrated by Julie Morstad

When Green Becomes Tomatoes, by Julie Fogliano; illustrated by Julie Morstad

A Child’s Garden of Verses , by Robert Louis Stephenson; illustrated by Tasha Tudor

A Child’s Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stephenson; illustrated by Tasha Tudor

I can still recite the poems I read in A Child’s Garden of Verses. In fact, I still probably mumble "The Swing" at least once a month, whenever I walk past a playground. And though the subjects here are different—Julie Fogliano’s new poems are all about the new buds and cold snow and falling leaves of the four seasons—I can’t help but wonder if kids today won’t be mumbling them in a few decades. Julie Morstad’s pictures are poetry too, and a perfect match for the grace and natural delicacy of When Green Becomes Tomatoes.

A Hungry Lion, or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals , Lucy Ruth Cummins

A Hungry Lion, or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals, Lucy Ruth Cummins

Pierre: A Cautionary Tale in Five Chapters and a Prologue , by Maurice Sendak

Pierre: A Cautionary Tale in Five Chapters and a Prologue, by Maurice Sendak

These two books are very different, but I can't ever read about a hungry lion without remembering Sendak's Pierre. Both books marry sweetness and darkness, and both books end up in a slightly different place than readers might at first expect. There's also a generally classic feel to Lucy Ruth Cummins' art, and the book's design. I intend to give A Hungry Lion as a baby gift, as I've often given Pierre. Children need a little healthy fear in their lives. 

Good Night Owl , by Greg Pizzoli

Good Night Owl, by Greg Pizzoli

Owl at Home , by Arnold Lobel

Owl at Home, by Arnold Lobel

I dare any fan of Arnold Lobel to stare at the cover of Good Night Owl, and not immediately think of  another owl, tucked into bed. 

From  Owl at Home , by Arnold Lobel

From Owl at Home, by Arnold Lobel


Greg Pizzoli must have known this, and I admire his chutzpah. In fact, the two books are very different. Pizzoli’s story of an owl who can’t fall asleep because of a mysterious noise doesn’t offer quite the melancholy of Arnold Lobel’s tearwater tea in Owl at Home, but Good Night Owl is a wonderful book for early readers, and will make a perfect bedtime story for a jillion kids who can’t (or don’t want to) sleep.

This Is Not a Picture Book , by Sergio Ruzzier

This Is Not a Picture Book, by Sergio Ruzzier

The Wedding Procession of the Rag Doll and the Broom Handle and Who Was in It , by Carl Sandburg; illustrations by Harriet Pincus

The Wedding Procession of the Rag Doll and the Broom Handle and Who Was in It, by Carl Sandburg; illustrations by Harriet Pincus

I can’t exactly put my finger on why Sergio Ruzzier’s new book, This Is Not a Picture Book, reminds me of The Wedding Procession of the Rag Doll and the Broom Handle and Who Was in It, an odd picture book from my youth. But I love them both. In Ruzzier’s tale, a funny looking duck finds a book with no pictures, but then discovers how the experience of reading can conjure vivid images all the same. The Sandburg book is a strange tale of two household objects getting married, and really, couldn’t be more different. Yet—there’s something in the off-kilter landscapes Ruzzier creates, and the slightly surreal creatures, that leaves me feeling similarly (and wonderfully) discombobulated.

LAUREL SNYDER is the author of many award-winning novels and picture books for children and a mom to two boys. Her most recent titles include Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova, illustrated by Julie Morstad, and Seven Stories Up. Visit her at