In their second collaboration, Lift, author Minh Lê and Caldecott Medalist illustrator Dan Santat tell a story about a young girl’s adventure, sparked after feeling displaced by her little brother.  

In Lift, older sister Iris grows resentful because her younger brother starts pushing the elevator button on the way up to the family’s apartment; a job that was once “belonged” to Iris. 

As the family rides the elevator down the next day, her brother once again pushes the elevator button. Iris sullenly sits herself down on a nearby bench after exiting and she sees a discarded elevator plate, complete with button, in the trash. 

As her parents go out on date night, Iris endures a night with her baby brother and her babysitter—until she snatches the chance to go back to her room, tape up the elevator plate, and pushes the button. DING!

Lê and Santat’s Lift is reminiscent of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are: a petulant child, a fantastic world, and a happy ending. That being said, Lift improves on it, as it shows the complexity of sibling relationships, both the frustrating, and wonder of a shared childhood. Lift also acknowledges the mundane, everyday life: families living in a city apartment, availability of taxis, parents’ date night. This juxtaposition makes the adventures even more vibrant and sometimes literally “out of this world.” 

Santat’s illustrations are colorful and action-packed; it pairs with Lê’s story perfectly. Lift would be a wonderful addition to any family’s library. 

I also highly suggest checking out Lê and Santat’s first collaboration, Drawn Together. While the subject matter is a bit more serious, connecting grandchildren and grandparents across a language barrier, the creation is even more unexpected because of it. Both Lift and Drawn Together share paneling that reminds us of comic strips, filled with action and emotion. Both explore our imaginations in the face of moments of frustration. Both are destined to be family favorites.

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