Raymond's Perfect Present

By Therese On Louie
Illustrations by Suling Wang

On Louie photo

As an educator, Therese On Louie has seen many children who have had to deal with hardships. Maybe the parents fight, or one parent is ill, or the family moves a lot. She decided children with these, and similar life situations, would be the focus of her book Raymond's Perfect Present. "Children are forced to cope in spite of the negative circumstances that surround them," says Louie. "The character of Raymond is a young child trying to get through a difficult time. I want children to know that doing their best and giving of themselves are important qualities that deserve recognition."

Raymond's Perfect Present is the story of a young boy who wants to give his mother a present to help her feel better now that she is home from the hospital. From his window, he spots a young woman smile with pleasure when she is given a gift of flowers. When Raymond realizes he doesn’t have enough money to buy flowers, he decides to grow them from seeds, but his mother has to return to the hospital before the flowers bloom. As the flowers grow and then begin to wilt, Raymond fears his mother will never see his present after all. The gift she receives instead is a total surprise, and more perfect than anything Raymond has planned.

Raymond's Perfect Present is based in part on personal experiences of the author's life. "My husband grew up in New York City. In his family’s small apartment, he used to sit with his older sister in front of a big window that faced the street, where they would peek from behind the curtains at all the people passing by. He spent hours watching from that window, fascinated by the bustle of everyday life. That image of a young boy at a window kept coming back to me.

While this image kept recurring, a book about backyard bird watching caught my attention. Once I started reading, I didn’t want to stop. I checked out a stack of bird-related books from the library, and experimented with all different kinds of feeding stations to attract birds. That first winter, I set up a feeder in my backyard and spent hours staring out of my bedroom window. I only saw common birds – chickadees, cardinals, sparrows, an occasional blue jay or woodpecker – but I loved watching them.

In addition, when I was about eight years old, my grandfather in San Francisco died, so my mother had to go to California for two weeks. Since she was a single parent, she arranged for me to stay at a neighbor’s house while she was away, so I could continue to attend school. I still remember the green velvet couch in the living room where I slept – how strange everything was, and how uncomfortable I felt. I think this experience, and others from my childhood, helped me to understand the character of Raymond, and to empathize with him as he copes with upheaval in his own life."

Therese On Louie holds a M.A. in Elementary Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. For the past few years, she has taught ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) to elementary school students in Montgomery County Public Schools, MD. Raymond's Perfect Present is the winner of LEE & LOW’s New Voices Honor Award and Therese's first book for children.

"A few years ago, after taking numerous classes about writing for adults, I took a class about writing for children and joined a writer’s group. It is so much fun to be with people who love children’s books as much as I do, and who want to write books that kids will enjoy."

About This Title

Guided Reading:




Interest Level:

Grades 1 - 5

Reading Level:

Grades 2 - 4


Nature/Science, Sharing & Giving, Responsibility, Overcoming Obstacles, Multiethnic interest, Mothers, Home, Friendship, Families, Environment/Nature, Dreams & Aspirations, Disability, Conflict resolution, Childhood Experiences and Memories, Asian/Asian American Interest, Empathy/Compassion, Optimism/Enthusiasm, Persistence/Grit, Realistic Fiction, Pride


Holiday Season/Gift Giving Collection, English Fiction Grades PreK-2, Mother's Day Collection, Asian/Asian American English Collection Grades PreK-2, Early Fluent Dual Language, Realistic Fiction Collection Grades PreK-2, Kindness and Compassion Collection, Asian American Collection English 6PK, Trauma-Informed Collection, New Voices Award Winners & Honors Collection, Family Diversity , English Guided Reading Level O, Fluent English

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