asian-american, author spotlight, culture, humor

Author Spotlight – Minh Lê

It’s always interesting to learn about the authors behind some of your favorite books, particularly if they have a day job outside their writing career. Minh Lê is a Vietnamese-American writer who works as a federal early childhood policy expert from the national to local levels. This means he spends a lot of time in and out of all kinds of schools across the country. Having a Bachelor’s in Psychology and Masters in Ed Policy means he’s incredibly well versed in understanding how people learn and productive ways to communicate through his writing. Like so many kids, Minh Lê found books to be a comforting place to go while growing up. One of his favorite things about books is the ability to revisit them over time and uncover new layers as you develop and grow. Through his own children, Minh Lê has seen the importance children place on storytelling as they develop their language skills. These meaningful observations have led to a growing bibliography that speaks powerfully to kids’ hearts. 

The Perfect Seat (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Written by Minh Lê
Illustrated by Gus Gordon

For ages: 3-7
The perfect reading spot is an essential piece for getting lost in a good book. Papa Moose and his child have picked a book, but now they need to find the right reading spot. Much like Goldilocks, they can’t quite find the perfect place. Some places are too skinny or too wide, too old or too new, and on and on they go. The Perfect Seat becomes a fantastic metafiction experience for the reader; a book about reading books and coziness is necessary. Gus Gordon’s illustrations remind me a lot of the simple but effective work that Oliver Jeffers is doing. Elements in the background are occasionally drawn with a child’s crayon giving the sense we’re looking at illustrations some young reader has made to accompany the text. This is an all-around charming and quick read, a great way to start your reading time with little ones. 

Let Me Finish! (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Written by Minh Lê
Illustrated by Isabel Roxas

For ages: 4-8
Yet another meta-text, this time about the frustration of spoilers. A child has picked out a book they are very excited to read. After settling down under a tree, their reading time is interrupted by birds reading over their shoulder. They are familiar with the book and start talking about essential plot beats, which ruin the experience for the child. Page after page, the child finds a new spot to read, only to be annoyed by animals who want to talk about what happens at the end. Eventually, the child climbs into the book to try and escape these persistent spoilers. Unfortunately, they don’t find much relief there. This is a fun, extremely silly book that isn’t interested in promoting some pedantic morals. It’s a relatable annoyance lightened by some clever right and beautiful retro-styled, colored pencil art.

Drawn Together (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Written by Minh Lê
Illustrated by Dan Santat

For ages: 4-8
Yet again, Minh Lê uses the form of stories to tell a story though this one is less comedic and very much a story about two people finding a connection. Teaming with the illustrator Dan Santat, we get a story about a Thai-American boy who is frustrated with being made to spend time with his non-English speaking grandfather. The two’s speech is represented in word bubbles with the boy in English and the grandfather in Thai script. The boy feels awkward and shut out, so he begins to doodle. Grandfather notices this and pulls out his own sketchbook. The two use their art skills to construct a beautifully illustrated story of heroes battling villains. Their art styles are different, one using bold colors and the other employing strong black & white artwork. Ultimately they form a bond that exists beyond words, a reminder of how spoken language is only one way we communicate with the world.

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