Suzy Lee and Illustrated Children’s Literature

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Literature can take us to beautiful places through words. However, picture books can also transport us, with lines and shadows, to these fantasy worlds without using any words. This is the case with most of Suzy’s books, in which words are superfluous, as the illustrations can tell us stories on their own with plastic language and gestures without dialogues. In this blog, we want to talk a little about the artist, mention some of her more relevant books and finally, as a plus, recommend where you can find some of her works.

Taken from Suzyleebooks [Photo] (March 9th, 2023) Bologna Children’s Book Fair

Suzy Lee is a children’s book author and illustrator who was born in Seoul in 1974. She studied Painting at Seoul National University and pursued a Master’s in Book Art at Camberwell College of Arts in London. She acquired worldwide renown with the publication of the Border Trilogy: Mirror, The Wave, and Shadows. In these three works, there is a girl as the main character. In each work, the girl plays alone and immerses herself in fantasy through various adventures. 

Throughout her career she has been awarded several recognitions; among these, the Taiwan Open Book Award in the category of the best book for children and young adults in 2020, and the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2022, which is considered the Nobel Prize for Children’s literature, Suzy Lee is the first South Korean to receive it. Last year, at the Bogota International Book Fair (FilBo), Suzy Lee was one of the special guests and was part of several activities related to the libraries and bookstores of the city. This year, 2023, she was a special guest at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair where she had an exhibition of her work.

Suzy is recognized for the referential proposals in her works, in which she alludes to art, expressing the idea of three dimensions through assemblages of photographs and illustrations. In addition, exploring the “strange” is another frequent topic in her books. With her projects she intermingles realities and the edges between worlds; so, her works are instruments to transmit certain ideas. 

Below are some of the covers of Suzy Lee’s books translated into Spanish that can be found, along with a brief description of their contents, so that you can crave her works. 

The Zoo

Publishing house: Fondo de Cultura Económica de México

Taken from Libros Mr. Fox SAS.

This book is a metaphor for freedom. It tells the story of a family day when a girl and her parents visit the zoo, where the animals are locked into cages. However, when the animals disappear, the zoo becomes a gray world to be transformed. The Zoo is a different place to the eyes of adults and children. 


Publishing house: Barbara Fiore Editora

Taken from Barbara Fiore Editora.

This is the first book of The Border Trilogy, which is one of the works that catapulted Suzy Lee to success. ‘Mirror’ is a picture book without dialogues that tells the story of two worlds: the world of mirrors and reality. The main character, a girl, meets another one who looks like her and they begin to interact, showing the relationship between reality and fantasy. In this book, Suzy Lee plays with the binding to show one world on one page and the other world on the page next to it; a mirror effect, where the two girls see each other. 


Publishing house: Barbara Fiore Editora

Taken from Barbara Fiore Editora.

This is the second book of The Border Trilogy. Through only two tones of watercolor, it tells a simple but cute story full of laughter and joy. It is about a day at the beach for a little girl. In 2009, this book won the Best Illustrated Book Award from the Booksellers Guild of Madrid. 


Publishing house: Barbara Fiore Editora

Taken from Barbara Fiore Editora.

This is the last work of The Border Trilogy, in which there is also no dialogue. This book opens from the bottom up, capturing the dynamics of how a girl in a junkyard plays with shadows and they become her friends. The protagonist jumps between reality and imagination constantly while enjoying the game between darkness and light. 


Publishing house: Barbara Fiore Editora

Taken from Barbara Fiore Editora.

This work deals with the theme of loneliness and escape from reality. The story tells how a little girl encounters a black bird and, fascinated by its ability to fly and go far away, it becomes its traveling companion.  

In conclusion, it is worth mentioning that Suzy Lee has many more illustrated works in addition to those mentioned above. What characterizes them is the versatility of the author, which is why her works are often used for reading aloud in bookstores. Because even without words we can read with children through images. Also, she is constantly invited to be part of events for illustrators. 

Where to get her books? Online, several of her books are available on BuscaLibre and Casa del Libro, among other platforms. In Bogota, her books can be found at Librería Babel, Tornamesa, Libros Mr. Fox, Garabato, Libreria Lerner, and El Fondo de Cultura Económica, among other places. If you want to know a little more about her, this is her Instagram account

Written by:  Andrea Ramirez 

Reviewed by:  Luisa Quintero


Hanan Díaz Famuel. (2022, April 27). Una mirada a la obra de la ilustradora Suzy Lee. El Tiempo.

Suzy Lee books :: Home. (n.d.). Suzy Lee Books.

Suzy Lee. (n.d.). Barbara Fiore Editora.

Suzy Lee. (n.d.). Editorial Cuatro azules – Ediciones y publicaciones de libros infantiles.

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