Local Reading Finds for Your Early Reader

We all have that one book, or several books, that shaped our childhood and will forever occupy a sweet nostalgic corner of our brains. For me, it was A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein, all the Ramona books, and of course, everything by R.L. Stine (shoutout to the Bookmobile…the highlight of my elementary school life). My love of reading…or more like audio-booking since becoming a mom, is something that I couldn’t wait to share with my daughter. Now that she’s a BIG 5, as she would want you to know, and very much tied to her iPad, finding ways to bring books into her daily life is even more important.

Luckily for all of us, Kansas City has a vibrant art scene with several local artists who are making the world of kid’s books a lot more magical. My day job as an art director over the last decade came with the unexpected perk of crossing paths with the amazing humans listed below. So yes, it’s a biased list, but I think you’ll agree it’s a great one. Thanks to them, I was able to grow my daughter’s library with inspiring art and engaging voices, and I hope you will grow your early reader library, too!

I hope you’ll discover a few new books to add to your kid’s summer reading lists and take a minute to support our hometown artists. Kansas City is lucky to have them.

Tad Carpenter

If you’re lucky enough to know Tad Carpenter, you know that he’s tied or maybe even ahead of Tom Hanks as the nicest guy in America. Both he and his work are bursting with optimism and charm, I mean, check out his Sunday Suns project, SO good. Over the years, he has written and illustrated a small library of clever book series like, Who’s That and I Say, You Say, featuring interactive flaps that reveal hidden surprises. Plus several whimsical stories including one of my personal favorites, Sad Santa.

Tad Lion 2
Tad Scientist 2

Tad’s art is colorful, fun, and full of quirky details to discover. My daughter ate them up as a tiny kiddo (literally, she chewed on multiple pages and flaps), but now she can read them to us! If there’s a kid in your life who loves monsters, underpants, monsters in underpants, robots, funny animals, all things automobiles, and learning about scientists, then Tad is your guy!

 Sarah Walsh

I’m not going to lie, I want to live in Sarah Walsh’s art. It’s like a magical daydream filled with mythical creatures, bright bursts of rainbows, and a motley crew of interesting characters. Over the past several years, I’ve been able to partner with Sarah on some fun projects, this awesome panda card being one of them (you’re welcome, World), but I am even more excited about her books.

Sarah True Colors cover
Sarah True Colors

One of the best parts of Sarah’s art is that you can feel her giant heart in everything she does. She’s an active supporter of diversity and inclusion efforts and that comes across in the projects she chooses, like her illustrations for True Colors, Hats of Faith, and Herstory. I love being able to share those big and complicated ideas with my daughter in such a beautiful way. And don’t even get me started on her version of Roald Dahl’s Matilda—it’s perfect! I mean, seriously, just look at Miss Trunchbull. She truly is a “…gigantic holy terror.”

Sarah matilda cover 3
Sarah Matilda 3

Terry Runyan

Terry Runyan is one of the most prolific artists around. Since retiring from Hallmark Cards, she’s found her niche on @TerryRunyan, giving us a never-ending supply of cat and dog doodles as well as paintings of fancy ladies with fancy cat hair; follow the silliness at #catonheadwednesday. It’s hard to imagine how many doodles she’s drawn throughout her career—it likely numbers in the millions, which is probably how she makes it look so effortless…see here for proof!

Terry covers
Terry Bunny

Her drawing booksDraw 62 Animals and Make Them Happy, and Draw 62 Characters and Make Them Happy, are treasure troves of tips and tricks, and cuteness overload for creating your own world of doodles. And, if you’re looking for more hands-on training, she also offers several Skillshare classes that would be great for older kids and kids-at-heart who want to grow their art skills. I wish she would bottle up some of her energy; I know I’d buy it by the case.

Daniel Miyares

It’s easy to get lost in the dreamy illustrations of Daniel Miyares’s work. Every book has an ethereal quality and a hint of magic. Whether it’s a boy using his imagination to go on a solo journey in Night Out, following a paper boat on a rainy-day in Float, or a grumpy yellow bird getting an unexpected surprise in Pardon Me, you’re guaranteed an adventure.

Daniel Night out
Daniel FLoat

You can tell Daniel was born to tell stories—lucky for us, he does that with his paints and pencils along with his words. His thoughtful attention to detail is astonishing and brings his art to life. His newest book, Hope at Sea, features Hope, a girl who finds herself on the adventure of lifetime on her dad’s merchant ship. It’s available for pre-order now and in stores October 19th.

Stephanie Young and Allyson Lassiter

What if your pet was secretly a hero on a space race mission to protect Earth? That’s the question that Stephanie Young and Allyson Lassiter, professional kids-at-heart, answer in their new cosmic adventure, Star Beasts. Inspired by their best pet friends, Mr. Whiskers and Pickles, they collaborated on this exciting graphic novel that’s perfect for kids from 8 to 88.

Star Beasts follows Captain Bandit, an Earth pup, on a “kick-asteroid” race to find all the dangerous galactic fossils before Pluto’s evil emperor wipes out all of Earth’s species—Whew! Stephanie’s unique storytelling paired with Allyson’s quirky characters are sure to be out of this world. Better hurry up and pre-order yours today, you don’t want to miss the action! Star Beasts hits stores August 18th.

Approximately 1 day of her life, Rachel hiked on a glacier in Iceland. The other 99.9% of her days her hands are full doing creative strategy at Hallmark Cards, being a mom to Luna who is a five-year-old Queen of Sass, wife to Matt who is a funny Google-a-holic, and dog mom to Rosie, whose sweetness is matched only by her smelliness. Her favorite ways to avoid cleaning the house are leisurely strolls through Target (pre-pandemic) listening to mostly crime podcasts, spending a small fortune on curly hair products, crafting Barbie schools out of Amazon boxes, making complicated recipes with too many ingredients, playing 1 million games of Zingo, and enjoying her Westside downtown neighborhood with her family.