Skip to main content

The Best Birthday Party Ever written by Jennifer LaRue Huget andillustrated by LeUyen Pham

The Best Birthday Party Ever by Jennifer LaRue Huget is a standout book for so many reasons that it has been in heavy rotation at the story times I do at the bookstore since it hit the shelves a couple of weeks ago. First of all, as a longtime children's bookseller I can tell you just HOW FEW good books about birthdays there really are on the shelves. Granted, I think that finding a good plot for a birthday themed book is actually more difficult than you would imagine. There is always the risk of alienating readers who's birthday it IS NOT. It is hard to capture the excitement and anticipation of a birthday party while treading lightly around party guests who might be a little bent that they are not the center of attention. One brilliant way that Huget diffuses this potentially explosive situation is to have the birthday girl imagine/plan a birthday party that is well beyond anyone's means and get a modest (but fun) party in the end. Another wonderful part of this book is the narrator's/Huget's stellar imagination when it comes to party ideas. And she is generous with her ideas as well. While she has no problem anticipating a birthday card from the President and the Queen as well as a parade in her honor with a float that showcases her presents, she also plans for REAL tiaras for her girl guests and hand-sewn (by her mother) clown hats with bells on top for the boy guests. She also plans to give everyone a REAL LIVE hamster as a party favor. 

But, what makes this book a genuine home run are the stellar illustrations. The amazingly prolific and diverse artist LeUyen Pham, who's website is supercool and worth visiting (and who is married to the equally prolific artist Alexandre Puvilland, also with a website worth visiting and with whom she collaborated on a Prince of Persia graphic novel) brings a rich color palette and an eye for detail that falls somewhere between the sophistication and intricacies of Hilary Knight's srtyle and the colorful exuberance of Mark Teague's style. And, of course, Pham brings something all her own to her work. Every page is a treat to observe and, as the narrator's ideas escalate, there is more to see. One of my favorite illustrations, below, includes two heaping bowls of colorful sprinkles to go along with the seven scoops of ice cream that each guest has been promised. 
One very nice touch to the book, one that keeps the snowballing story moving along, has the narrator telling us just how far away her birthday party is. The book begins with, "My birthday is 5 months, 3 weeks, 2 days and 8 hours away. Today I'm starting to plan my party." We get updates, right to the end, and the illustration below shows the narrator being tucked into be the night before the Big Day. And, while she accepts the low-key birthday party that she receives with grace, the narrator waits until the last guest has gone home and then she beings planning next year's party!

Jennifer LaRue Huget is also the author of the VERY funny How to Clean Your Room in 10 Easy Steps, illustrated by frequent contributor to the New Yorker, Ed Koren. Below is a sample of one of the steps...

#2 Pull everything out of your drawers and closet and shelves.  Every Single Thing.
All your marbles and your dolls and their eensy-beensy little shoes and your bracelets and barrettes and birthday cards … Dump it all in the middle of the room.  Then plunk yourself down, pick a doll out of the pile, and braid her hair until someone comes up to scream at you again.


Popular posts from this blog

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!


POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…

The Seeing Stick, written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Daniela J Terrazini

The Seeing Stick is an original Chinese fairy tale written by the prolific (and prolifically award winning) Jane Yolen. First published in 1977 with illustrations by Remy Charlip (author and illustrator of the brilliantly fun picture book Fortunately and friend and muse to Brian Selznick, who asked him to pose as George Méliès while he was working on the Caldecott winning The Invention of Hugo CabretThe Seeing Stick was reissued with new illustrations by Daniela J. Terrazini in 2009. I have not seen Charlip's version, but Terrazini's is a beautiful work of art and the book itself is yet another magnificently packaged book published by Running Press, the house that brought us Steven Arntson's The Wikkeling, yet another superbly and uniquely packaged children's book with artwork by Terrazini. Interestingly, both The Wikkeling and The Seeing Stick were designed by Frances J Soo Ping Chow.

The Seeing Stick begins, "Once in the ancient walled citadel of Peking there l…