Need a new author to follow? Try out one of my personal favorites, Deborah Underwood.
Growing up, Underwood dreamed of being an astronaut, a singer and a writer. Nowadays, she’s a published children’s book author and a singer for her local choir. While that’s only two out of three, Underwood lets outer space play a role in her books, especially in the art of some of her newer titles.
Why should you love Deborah Underwood? She’s quirky and silly, her books are fun and she always sticks to books that have a classical feel but a whole new story to tell. Underwood also picks talented illustrators to work with her, including people like Claudia Rueda, Meg Hunt and more.
Claudia Rueda’s illustrations are cute, often depicting animals. Some of her works include the “Hungry Bunny” or “Bunny Slopes” books, which feature the cutest little white bunny that gets himself in all sorts of trouble, needing the reader’s help to get out.
Meg Hunt goes a different direction with her illustrations. While the backgrounds are dark, they are offset by the brilliantly colored characters. Hunt worked with Underwood for the titles “Interstellar Cinderella” and “Reading Beauty.” As we near our Summer Reading 2020, themed “Imagine Your Story,” these titles fall wonderfully into the mix as beautifully updated versions of “Sleeping Beauty” and “Cinderella.”
These are some of my favorite books by Deborah Underwood:
“Interstellar Cinderella” (2019) illustrated by Meg Hunt
“Interstellar Cinderella” is a magical retelling of the original “Cinderella” story. Interstellar Cinderella wants to be a mechanic and fix fancy starships. While she fixes more common appliances like dishwashers and tiny robots during the day, she studies ship repair by night. When the prince announces a space parade, Cinderella leaps at the opportunity but is marooned on a planet by her stepsisters and stepmother. With some help from her fairy godrobot, Cinderella is able to make it to the parade. There, she sees amazing starships that make her swoon. When the prince’s suffers a mechanical failure, Cinderella rushes to save the magnificent ship. She fixes it, goes to the ball with the Prince, but as the clock strikes midnight, she rushes home. The Prince follows and offers to marry her, but Cinderella just wants to be his chief mechanic.
“Reading Beauty” (2019) illustrated by Meg Hunt
Within this retelling of “Sleeping Beauty,” Lex, our princess, is an avid reader. Lex reads anything and everything, into the long hours of the night. However, on her fifteenth birthday, Lex awakens to all of the books and written materials disappearing from her kingdom. When she was born, her parents explain, a fairy put a curse on her that once she turned fifteen, she would cut her finger on a page of a book and be overtaken by a death-like sleep. The princess is distraught and the kingdom turns dark without any books to read. Lex decides she must take it upon herself to find the fairy and lift the curse. Using her book smarts, Lex finds the fairy and manages to get her to release the curse.
“Bad Bye, Good Bye” (2014) illustrated by Jonathan Bean
This story utilizes very few words—the illustrations do the talking. While Underwood is able to use alliteration to keep the reader interested (she uses only between two to four words per page) Bean shows the story of two children as they leave their childhood home. They have a rough time leaving what they know and love, and the journey doesn’t feel welcoming. However, as they arrive at their new house outside of the city, the children warm up to the idea of living in a new place.
“Walrus in the Bathtub” (2018) illustrated by Matt Hunt
The narrator’s family moves into a new house. They love the big yard and the giant bathtub, but…not the walrus living in the upstairs bathroom. Despite several attempts to get him to leave, the family cannot get the walrus to budge, and he’s wrecking the house. When things escalate, the family must make a decision. Who will leave the house? The walrus stops them on the way out the door and shows them that he was trying to welcome them into the new home. It becomes a lesson of perspective, understanding and compromise. The family decides to lay down some ground rules—that everyone in the house can follow—that way the walrus can have fun and sing without making a big mess.
“Here Comes Teacher Cat” (2017) illustrated by Claudia Rueda
This story is a little interactive, as the reader is asking Cat to help out at the Kitty School because Ms. Melba, the teacher, has to go to the doctor. Cat does not appreciate kittens or deviating from his intensive schedule of naps. However, as Ms. Melba is a friend, Cat decides that he can be a teacher for a day. He tries to teach them music, building and art, but each comes with some dramatically messy consequences. Cat must hurry and clean up the mess before Ms. Melba returns. The illustrations in this story play a fun role as Cat responds to the narrator through the images, often only using signs.