When Lola Visits

h1 June 24th, 2021 by jules

“Kamayan …”
(Click spread to enlarge)


Lola is special. When she visits from the Philippines, that is one way (her favorite way) that our narrator, her granddaughter, knows that “summer is here.” She captures their experiences and the memories they make — with vivid language and with all her senses on overdrive — in Michelle Sterling’s debut picture book When Lola Visits (Katherine Tegen Books, May 2021), illustrated by Aaron Asis.

She knows it’s summer in the way any kid might — such as, “trouble brewing on a day of absolutely nothing to do”; the smell of chlorine and a “freshly opened can of tennis balls”; sunscreen; fireworks on the Fourth of July; and a “warm, sticky summer rain” — but this girl is Filipino American. And when her grandmother visits, she brings with her the sights, smells, and tastes of the Philippines — sampaguita soap, milk candy, arroz caldo, cassava cake, suman on the stove, kalamansi pie, lumpia, and stuffed milkfish and brown-sugar bananas on the grill. And they celebrate with a feast, the family gathering (pictured above) at the table for a traditional Filipino Kamayan meal.

Sterling’s prose is tender, precise, and evocative (“Summer feels like the last golden hour of the day drifting into an indigo night”), and she makes magic out of the time grandmother and granddaughter spend together. She ushers readers into autumn and the start of a school year at the book’s end (which smells like backpacks and “freshly sharpened pencils”). Best of all, the girl has some of Lola’s mango jam to sustain her memories of their time together. Asis’s soft illustrations on a summery-bright palette capture the moments and memories with flowing, energetic lines and many full-bleed spreads that burst forth with movement.

Here are a couple more spreads to enjoy. …


“It smells like chlorine from a million swimming lessons at the pool,
like blue silence when I’m finally able to float by myself for the first time ever.”

(Click spread to enlarge)


“Summer smells like standing under crisscrosses of tree branches with an apron full of small golden limes. Like kalamansi pie and fireworks on the Fourth of July.”
(Click spread to enlarge)


(Click cover to enlarge)


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WHEN LOLA VISITS. Text copyright © 2021 by Michelle Sterling. Illustrations copyright © 2021 by Aaron Asis and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, New York.

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