Published on: Wednesday, June 1, 2016 Takoma Park Newsletter

Takoma Park resident, new author Minh Le

By Karen MacPherson

Come meet a rising star in the children’s literature world on June 7 at 7 p.m. when Takoma Park resident Minh Le unveils Let Me Finish!, his debut picture book.

Le will be joined by illustrator Isabel Roxas, who did the artwork for the book, which tells the story of a child who just wants to finish his book in peace. Each time he starts on a book, however, one of a series of well-meaning, and obviously well-read, animals inadvertently let slip plot spoilers in their eagerness to launch impromptu book discussions. Le’s comically antic plot is perfectly matched by the vibrant colors and energy of Roxas’ illustrations.

While this is Le’s first time as a picture book author, he’s well versed — and well-known — in the children’s literature community. He’s known for his blog, Bottom Shelf Books (www.bottomshelf, on which Le shares thoughtful and quirky posts about children’s books. In addition, Le regularly writes a picture book round-up for The Huffington Post. Just recently, he published his first children’s book review in The New York Times Book Review.

Le grew up in Middletown, Conn., the middle of three children, and the only son. His parents came to the United States on college scholarships from their native Vietnam and decided to settle here. Le graduated from Dartmouth College in 2001 with a degree in psychology and a minor in religion and then moved to Washington, D.C.

Over the next few years, Le worked at the circulation desk at the Mount Pleasant branch of the DC Public Library, did a teaching stint in the U.S. Marshall Islands, and also worked for a non-profit focusing on programs for Vietnam youth. It was through that program that he eventually met his wife, Aimee Oberndorfer Le, an international education expert; the two were married in 2008 and now have two young sons.

Several years ago, Le earned his master’s in education policy from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. He now works as a federal early childhood policy expert at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Administration for Children and Families.

As his policy career developed, however, Le also felt the pull of a long-held dream of creating a children’s picture book. After several years of effort, and thanks to a nudge from his wife, Le realized that he would do better to focus on crafting a picture book text as his writing skills were stronger than his artistic ones.

The decision to focus on writing, rather than art, finally unlocked Le’s creativity and the result was Let Me Finish. Working with his agent Stephen Barbara, Le has already completed, and sold, his second picture book and now is working on several others. And he’ll start out the summer with a bang, doing promotional programs for Let Me Finish! at the American Library Association’s annual conference as well as at the Children’s Institute of the American Booksellers Association.

Meanwhile, Let Me Finish! will be formally released on June 7, the day that Le and Roxas present it at the Library. Join us to learn more about an up-and-coming picture book author who lives in Takoma Park. Politics & Prose will be selling copies of Le’s book, but our event is free, and no purchase is required to attend.

This article appeared in the June 2016 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.