Seattle's Child

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nina laden summer day

Illustration by Nina Laden, 2023.

A perfect summer day or How to cook your brother

A true story and sort of recipe by a beloved Northwest artist

This is a true story about my pesky brother and me. It takes place in 1969 when we lived in Rego Park, Queens, New York. In the summer we went to Martha’s Vineyard, an island near Massachusetts where our artist parents had friends.

While our parents are busy arguing about everything, I put myself in charge because I am older. This means that I know what’s best. I am the chef of my life and my brother is an ingredient. Here is my recipe for a good summer:

1: Load up the van that you named “Chug-a Boom” and call dibs on the mattress so your brother gets the crowded back seat.

2: Call out the names of each state you see on license plates until you get to the car ferry. Play “cards” with the numbers and letters. You win with an “A” for ace.

3: Pet every dog on the ferry and try to feed the seagulls. Talk to strangers, not your brother. 

4: When you get to the cottage, tell your brother to build a fort outside so you can pick the best bed.

5: Go to the docks to see the fishing boats. Think about pushing your brother off the dock, but you know he can’t swim, even though he is a Pisces.

6: Visit the live lobsters in the tanks at Poole’s market. Help pick out the lobsters: one for mom; one for dad; one for yours truly. Oh, and one for you know who.

7: Back at the cottage, put the lobsters in the bathtub and name them. Yours has a cool name, Ringo. Your brother calls his Fluffy.

8: Have lobster races. Ringo wins by a claw!

9: When mom says she has to cook the lobsters, put on a protest. Your brother doesn’t know why you are protesting, but he will do whatever you say.

10: Say you’re sorry to the lobsters, then help put out the crackers and bowls, and tie the lobster bibs while the lobsters cook and the butter melts. Pick the best seat at the table — the one that has the nicest plate and glass.

11: Eat very slowly, carefully dissecting your lobster, while watching your brother eat super fast as he makes a big mess. Think about dissecting your brother — what makes him so strange?

12: Play with the lobster claws until mom puts all the shells in a pot to make a soup for later. Your brother licks his claws. Tell mom they are now poison and she can’t use them.

13: Go to the beach to look for shells. Give your brother the broken ones. See? You are a nice sister. 

14: Your brother forgets to put on sunscreen and turns into a lobster. Good thing you like lobster. But when you touch him he starts to cry.

15: Put your brother in the bathtub and help mom put gel on his burn. Tell him it is butter.

16: Kiss your lobster-brother good night and tell him you will eat him tomorrow. 

17: Just kidding. Tell him you love him even if he is a pain and gives wet kisses. 

18: Dream of what you will cook up next.

Repeat every summer.

Nina Laden lives, writes and illustrates her popular children’s works on Washington’s Lummi Island. She has authored and/or illustrated more than 20 beloved children’s books. Learn more about her at Nina dedicated this story to “David, who loves his big Sis”

More at Seattle’s Child:

Author Profile: The Day I Followed Nina Laden

Q&A: Seattle-area children’s book authors talk about reading, writing and more

Seattle’s ‘Bear’ author on kids and writing


About the Author

Cheryl Murfin

Cheryl Murfin is managing editor at Seattle's Child. She is also a certified doula, lactation educator for and a certified AWA writing workshop facilitator at