Books I Grew up on with Michelle Christensen

Books I Grew up on is a blog series featuring guest bloggers who discuss reading in their childhoods: the books they loved, the paths they found to developing a love for reading, and how reading helped them become who they are today! Today’s Books I Grew up on guest blogger is illustrator and designer Michelle Christensen. 



Where did you grow up?

I grew up overseas, in Beijing, Hong Kong, South Africa, and Taiwan.


What was it like growing up there?

It was very different from a typical American childhood. I moved every 2-4 years all over the world. I always knew it was different, and an experience, and I never took it for granted. I knew it would be a huge influence to my life as an adult. I felt incredibly inspired by Asia. Beijing is so different now than it was in the 90s when we lived there. It was more third world, much more controlled and communist. It was kind of romantic to be there during a time when it was less of the norm to see a foreigner around. I have such distinct memories of the coal dust in the air, and the sweet potatoes in the winter time, and the constant grey skies. The hum of a language I didn’t understand around me at all times.


What role did books have in your childhood?

My father read to me all growing up. Classics like The Borrowers, The Boxcar Children, E. Nesbitt books, Anne of Green Gables, My Father’s Dragon, clever, niche books that I just latched onto because of the quirky details of them. People don’t write that simply, or fantastically, anymore! My dad began telling me and my brother’s the Lord of the Rings stories before he read them to us (We were too young at the time), so when he finally did, we were so entranced by them.


lalaHow did you first develop a love for reading?

My parents – my dad. We always read growing up because we didn’t really have TV. And we didn’t have iPhones to distract us either!


What was your favorite book as a child? Why?

I had so many. I loved historical novels, books about strong women, independent women, or coming of age books like Walk Two Moons. I loved intricate fairy tale books like George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin. I loved children’s books by Steven Kellogg and Anita Lobel. Mostly I was attracted to books that were layered, detailed, and had good story-lines and personalities, and of course, good illustrations. I also loved scary stories, there was a part of me that was always a little attracted to darkness, but I never delved too deeply into it. I knew I was too sensitive for some of those stories.


507a0543What is your favorite children’s book now? Why?

I love Princess Furball illustrated by Anita Lobel.  It is absolutely fantastic. It has wonderful characters, illustrations, and a beautiful classic story.



What advice would you give to young readers?

I would say– get away from your electronics for a few hours a day and read. Be creative. Go outside. Play. Write stories. You have no idea how those habits will mold your future. We have so much creative potential as human beings. It is so often wasted.




Michelle just finished illustrating a story earlier this year for the book Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, which is a compilation of 100 stories of women who made a difference in the world by “rebelling” and standing for what they believed in. It comes out in December and she is very excited about it. Michelle also has a few books also in the works – one about biracial adoption, which will be coming out this next year. And another personal project about living in London. Check on Michelle’s website and blog for updates!


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