Illustrated Books
 
 
Andrew Henry’s Meadow by Doris Burn (1967)

The author of this treasure of a children’s book lived and worked in the 1950s and ’60s on Waldron Island, where she was liberated from many of the creature comforts we take for granted, like electricity and running water. The island’s community inspired this story of an unappreciated boy inventor who sets out to create a child’s utopia by building forts for his friends in a meadow. Her pen and ink illustrations convey the light and shadow of the Pacific Northwest like your most cherished childhood memories. Burn’s The Summerfolk is equally spellbinding and deserves to be back in print.—Ryan Boudinot

The Adventures of Emery Jones, Boy Science Wonder by Charles Johnson and Elishba Johnson (2013)

Charles Johnson—a retired University of Washington English professor and National Book Award–winning novelist—collaborated with his artist daughter, Elishba, on this illustrated series, which chronicles the tales of a misunderstood boy science genius. In the first installment, social misfit Emery grapples with the ethics of sending his bully back to the Triassic period, and the second sees him and his best friend face the equally intimidating forces of an imminent threat to humanity and tween dating.

All in a Day by Cynthia Rylant and Nikki McClure (2017)

Olympia-based papercut artist Nikki McClure partnered with Newbery and Caldecott medal winner Cynthia Rylant to produce All in a Day. The book delivers a subtle message of environmental stewardship that avoids the pitfalls of oversimplification and mawkishness that so often plague children’s literature, and its design’s bold simplicity is a pleasure.

Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Berger (1984)

University of Washington graduate and longtime Seattle-based painter Barbara Berger turned to crafting picture books in the '80s. Grandfather Twilight is a true, old-school bedtime story, with Berger’s illustrations wreathed in the cozy enchantment of a fairytale forest and overlaid with a gently meandering poem that leads readers to dreamland.

Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea! by Ben Clanton (2016)

The lead duo in this middle-grade book fills some pretty archetypal shoes—Jelly is sensible and no-nonsense, grounding the more frolicsome and impulsive Narwhal through many misadventures. But Seattleite Ben Clanton’s illustration style, equal parts elegance and “aww” factor, breathes dynamic life into his characters. In this installment of the Narwhal and Jelly series, the pair explores the depths of the ocean and discovers the wonders of friendship along the way.

Wheedle on the Needle by Stephen Cosgrove (1974)

Wheedle, Stephen Cosgrove’s adorable sasquatch, is every bit a Seattle icon. The plot of the eponymous book centers on Wheedle’s displacement from his peaceful forest at the hands of urban growth, and concludes with the disgruntled bigfoot unleashing an eternal torrent of rainfall upon the city in order to keep everyone huddled inside so he can sleep undisturbed.

Young Adult Books
 
 
Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes (2020)

This young adult coming-of-age novel centers on a pair of brothers going to a mostly white prep school. One appears white, the other black. When the latter, Donte, is unjustly jailed, he sets out to win a fencing competition. Seattle’s Jewell Parker Rhodes is the sort of writer who gracefully invokes Ralph Ellison (“I wish I were invisible,” the book begins) even as she sets out to grip—and teach—younger readers.—Stefan Milne

Blood, Water, Paint by Joy McCullough (2018)

Set in Renaissance-era Rome, this novel from Seattle’s Joy McCullough traces the story of the first woman accepted to Florence's prestigious fine arts academy. A bildungsroman that blends a richly detailed historical backdrop with the relevant struggles of a young artist to gain sovereignty over her body and recognition for her talents, Blood, Water, Paint will speak particularly to young women.

Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta (2021)

This cyberpunk debut novel drops us into an oppressive nation with giant robot enforcers. Here we follow two girls: one a rebel robot killer, the other a robot pilot who’s actually trying to bring down the regime from within. This being a swashbuckling young adult novel, they fall for each other. Mikuta sold the book while still a student at the University of Washington, and it’s already been optioned for a movie.—SM

Zoe Hana Mikuta's Gearbreakers follows two young women fighting a robot regime. 

Honey, Baby, Sweetheart by Deb Caletti (2004)

Deb Caletti is the Pacific Northwest’s high priestess of YA, and the National Book Award–finalist Honey, Baby, Sweetheart is perhaps the best known of her novels. It cheerfully subscribes to a number of tropes in its premise: Protagonist Ruby McQueen (yes, really), widely known as “The Quiet Girl,” loses herself and her sense of right and wrong in a summer fling with smooth-talking bad boy Travis Becker (yes, he has a motorcycle). But the story quickly becomes a more nuanced exploration of mother-daughter bonds and ultimately sees Ruby develop a sense of self-worth independent of boys with motorcycles. The result is fluffy good fun with a sincerely meaningful backbone.

Slay by Brittney Morris (2019)

SLAY is a secret online role-playing game in which Black gamers around the world congregate to duel and revel in the unfettered power of their Nubian alter-egos. Its developer is high school senior Kiera Johnson, who keeps this fact a secret even from her friends and family. But when an in-game altercation seeps into real life and catches the attention of the media, SLAY is smeared as a violent hub for “anti-white” criminals and becomes a target for prowling trolls. Thematically, the novel tackles the intersection of race and the internet for Gen Z.

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