a list of…five sun-soaked, lazy, hazy, crazy summer books

That’s Papa’s Way, by Kate Banks, pictures by Lauren Castillo

Summertime at the lake.  For this plucky girl that means going fishing with her dad.  They’re up at dawn, armed with coffee and worm-capturing items.  Then it’s down to the boathouse to collect oars and rods and life jackets.  Dad rows them across the lake to a snug cove, they drop their lines and…wait.   Waiting is a large part of fishing.  Yet, by day’s end, they are back home with a nice catch, ready for an evening meal of fish and blueberry pie out on the picnic table while the sun sets in orange-purple splendor.  Ahhhh.

The dear part about this book is the tender, delightful relationship portrayed between dad and daughter.  She narrates the day, telling us along the way the idiosyncratic ways of her Papa, and the way she likes to do things.  Papa has such nice ways.  The way he whistles with each oar stroke.  The way he helps her take her fish off the hook — but doesn’t help too much.  The way he gently teases Mama.  She has nice ways, as well.  Just a mite different.  As in, Papa nabs the worms with his fingers, while she prefers a little gardening spade. 

I found this title by hunting for books done by the illustrator, Lauren Castillo.  I am in mad love with her work.  You can view her website here.  Captivating, charming watercolors with a smudgy, graphite-looking outline in idyllic, perfect colors.  This partnership of author and illustrator scores a perfect 10.

Lucy’s Summer, written by Donald Hall, illustrated by Michael McCurdy

Lucy Wells lives on a farm in New Hampshire.  It is 1910, and she is seven years old.  Her mother has just opened a millinery shop in the front parlor of their house, and Lucy is bedazzled by the silks and ribbons, the “swooping ostrich feathers and feathers from parrots as bright green as grass.”

Lucy’s mother’s hat business gathers customers like a charm.  After the initial round of summer hats have been created and sold, Lucy and her mother and little sister settle in to some serious summer canning — peas and strawberries and corn niblets are packed into hundreds of Ball jars.  There’s time to relish a star-spangled Fourth of July parade, and then, just before Eagle Pond School re-opens in the fall, there’s an incredibly exciting train trip to Boston for Lucy and her mother.  Mother stocks up on fascinating frippery for her hats, and Lucy gets to choose some splendid penny-toys from the glass Woolworth’s counter.  Just about  magical!

Donald Hall is an outstanding American poet who has written several fanstastic children’s books.  His prose is exquisite, filled with sparkling detail and conveying a remarkable sense of place.  Michael McCurdy is a talented wood engraver; his turn-of-the-century prints for this book are beautiful.  Donald Hall based this book on stories his mother told, and the house depicted in the book is her farmhouse, where  Hall also lived when he wrote this jewel of a story.

Blackout, written and illustrated by John Rocco

On a steaming hot evening in New York City, one family is busy, going about their normal lives.  Busy, being the key word.  Mom is busy on the computer.  Dad is busy cooking.  Sister is busy yakking on the telephone.  Everyone is too busy to play the board game that Youngest Child wants to play.  Sigh.

And then, a rolling power outage unfurls blackness over the entire city.  Suddenly, all the electricity-dependent busy-ness comes to a silent halt. 

What does everyone do now?  With no air conditioning, it soon becomes too sweltering indoors, so the family migrates to the roof top where they see…real lights!  The stars are finally visible!  And…lo and behold, other neighbors have also made their way outdoors where they’ve found a host of non-electronic ways to spend a summer night.  Delightful!

When the power does come back on, will it be back to business as usual? You’ll have to read this brilliant book to find out.  Illustrated in twilit tones of blues and blacks, this picture book looks like a funky graphic novel in its layout and style.  The yearning for freedom from isolated, electronic busy-ness and thirst for real stars, real neighborhoods, real creativity, comes through loud and clear. 

Night at the Fair, pictures and words by Donald Crews

Summertime in Minnesota is definitely fair time.  Scads of popcorn and farm-animals, quilts and politicians, appear at county fairs around the state, leading up to the biggest whangdoozler of them all, the Minnesota State Fair!  Best o’ the nation!  The herald of autumn’s arrival.

So, this paeon to night-time at the fairground is familiar territory.  Such a great time to be there, with the black skies lit up by bazillions of sparkling, flashing, strobing lights! 

You can buy every food imaginable on a stick, toss rings onto bottles to win gigantic purple gorillas, twirl and spin on dizzying rides, and best of all, take a seat on the Ferris Wheel, towering up into the darkness, giving you a bird’s-eye view of it all. 

Donald Crews is the award-winning illustrator of Freight Train.  His graphic styling lends itself well to these scene-saturated pages, done so strikingly with the black-blacks of nighttime accented by vivid colors and electric lights. You can almost smell the cotton candy! 

The Summerfolk, written and illustrated by Doris Burn

Willy Potts and his dad, Joe Potts, live in a fishing shanty on a sand dune on the coast, and think one another’s company is mighty fine and all that’s needed.  During the winter, life goes along nice and steady.  But when summer comes around the beaches are inundated with summerfolk.  Noisy, hooting crowds with fancy, fast boats, “thick as sand fleas and twice as pesky.”  They do try the patience of Willy and Joe.

However.  One day, Willy sets out for the swamp to catch some peace and perhaps a few dragonflies in his very own, very leaky rowboat.  To his surprise, he meets a specimen of summerfolk that he hasn’t run into before.  Name of Fedderly.  Dresses like a pirate.  Has a keen raft complete with crow’s nest and all manner of fancy rigging.  Turns out, Fedderly knows of a gal named Rosebud who makes a great little brunch; and another couple of lads named Cork and Spinner whose Green Alder Mansions has one awesome rope swing. 

By day’s end, Willy Potts has made a number of acquaintances with vivid characters who’ve made some excellent hide-outs and out-of-this-world watercraft.  It’s enough to make this boy of few words

Doris Burn in her island home...such a talented woman.

alter his opinion of summerfolk.  At least…a few of them.

Doris Burn is a favorite illustrator of mine who died just a few months ago.  She lived a remarkable life on an island off the coast of Washington State.  I love her clean, detailed  ink drawings and I love the superbly imaginative scenarios she brings to life on her pages.  The fact that she did these in the 60s just increases the charm.  There’s so much inspiration for creativity and  independence in these pages! 

Here are Amazon links for all these glorious summer books!

That’s Papa’s Way
Lucy’s Summer
The Summerfolk