Summer’s here. Days at the beach. Fireflies at dusk. Week-ends at the cabin. Soak it all up with today’s exceptional books.
Captain Jack and the Pirates, by Peter Bently, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
first published in Great Britain, 2015; published in the U.S. in 2016 by Dial Books for Young Readers
Ahhhh! This is the second book about that darling boy Jack and his small cohorts. The first joyous episode, reviewed here, saw them taking on a dragon. This time, they’re building a galleon and sporting with pirates!
Their adventure ends properly with orangeade, cake, tea sandwiches, and ice cream. I cannot recommend these stories highly enough. Outdoor play. Imagination galore. Just the right touch of parental love. And Oxenbury’s monumentally warm, human figures. Picture book perfection for ages Two and up.
Otters Love to Play, by Jonathan London, illustrated by Meilo So
published in 2016 by Candlewick Press
Kids aren’t the only ones who love to play. Otters are irrepressible in that department! Tag. Wrestling. Sliding. Tug-of-War. What a jolly species!
The fascinating description of the lives of otters in this book will scoop you in from the get-go. Exceptional nature lore, written partly in a large font for the youngest listeners with additional text intertwined for slightly-olders. Meilo So — I love her art! — brings us face to face with these adorable otter pups and four seasons in their world. Absolutely top-notch, for ages 2 and much-older.
Wake Up, Island, by Mary Casanova, with woodcuts by Nick Wroblewski
published in 2016 by University of Minnesota Press
Two Minnesotans have collaborated on this gorgeous ode to our beloved, up-north life at the cabin.
Casanova’s poetic text ambles through the earliest hours of the day — seriously early in summer up north — tracing the sunlight, the dewdrops, the moose and herons and red squirrels finding their breakfasts in the quiet, chill of morning. And the yummy blueberry pancakes ready for your breakfast, fueling a delightful day at the lake.
Nick Wroblewski is an artist our family has admired for years. His woodcut blockprints are exquisite! (See his website here.) When I discovered he was illustrating this book, I had no doubt it would be beautiful. And yes, it is. A treat for any northerner, ages 2 through adult.
Waiting for High Tide, written and illustrated by Nikki McClure
published in 2016 by Abrams Books for Young Readers
Here’s another artist you should know. Washington-state artist Nikki McClure creates stunning cut-paper artwork and has given us many lovely books. Find out more and purchase her art at her website here. This book follows a much different storyline than some of her earlier titles. It’s an intriguing, adventure-kindling tale about building a raft.
The process includes finding and hauling and cutting massive logs. Ingenuous lashing. Painstaking notching. Muscles and craftsmanship and cleverness and patience. While all that is going on, we explore the seashore around us and wait for high tide to give our raft lift-off so we can…swim! Gorgeous, astonishing and inspiring, for ages 4 to adult.
A Beetle Is Shy, by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long
published in 2016 by Chronicle Books
If you know the other books in this series exploring Nests, Seeds, Rocks, Butterflies, and Eggs, you will 1. gasp at the fact that there’s another one and 2. rush out to find it. They are gems of beauty, pure and simple. Every one.
Jewel-colored, iridescent beetles are “kaleidoscopic” while the North American featherwing beetle is “microscopic” and believe it or not, the roasted longhorn beetle larvae is “tasty” to some folks in Australia…apparently. Discover the fascination of beetles in this exquisite new volume from a richly-talented team. Ages 4 and up.
Lucy & Tom at the Seaside, written and illustrated by Shirley Hughes
originally published in Great Britain, 1976; this edition published in 2015 by Red Fox
We’ve loved the Lucy and Tom stories by the one-and-only Shirley Hughes for the past 30 years. Now Red Fox is making it easier for you to enjoy these sweet stories, too, so a new generation need not be deprived!
It’s off to the seaside on this hot day, filled with the lovely ordinariness of people paddling, dogs dashing, children splashing at the water’s edge. A picnic, complete with bothersome wasps. A sand castle that dissolves with the incoming tide. A bucket to collect things. Simple pleasures, depicted with enormous warmth, for ages Under-Two and older.
Traveling Butterflies, written and illustrated by Susumu Shingu
first published in Japan in 2012; published in North America in 2015 by Owlkids Books
Japanese artist Shingu has created a stunningly-beautiful, pictorial narrative of the monarch butterfly, her life-cycle, and her miraculous migration from the northland to Mexico and back again.
Against the backdrop of brilliantly-colorful, striking paintings, his text — simple, stripped down lines — fills in just a few details. The rest is provided in a short Author’s Note at the end. This quiet book allows us to feast our eyes, immerse ourselves in the splendor of these fragile creatures. A beauty for ages 2 through much-older.
Among a Thousand Fireflies, by Helen Frost, with photographs by Rick Lieder
published in 2016 by Candlewick Press
I know. I’m bringing you a lot of insects today. But summer is full of them, you know, and I am astonished by the beautiful presentation they receive in each one of these books.
This is another outstanding collaboration between poet Helen Frost and artist Rick Lieder. I reviewed their first title, Step Gently Out, here.
Focus in on the magical, tiny, lamplighter of summer, the firefly, and learn something extraordinary about how, in a wooded glade lit up with hosts of these twinklers, two in particular find one another. It’s another gorgeous piece of work which hushes us and calls us to wonder, appreciation, and delight. Ages 2 through much-older.
The Wildest Race Ever: The Story of the 1904 Olympic Marathon, written and illustrated by Meghan McCarthy
published in 2016, a Paula Wiseman Books from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
It’s an Olympic year, which makes this crazy story even more fitting. The 1904 summer games were held in Saint Louis, Missouri, and featured the first Olympic marathon held in America. But when you hear the words “Olympic marathon” you will assuredly have in mind something wildly different from what took place.
32 runners participated in an insanely rule-breaking, health-busting series of hijinks that’s nearly unbelievable when compared to today’s race. Wow. Enjoy this true story, humorously-illustrated, with kids ages 6 and up. Lengthy Author’s Notes add more detail.
Are We There Yet?, by Nina Laden and Adam McCauley
published in 2016 by Chronicle Books
Finally, summer is road-trip time, thus it’s time for hearing that endless, mind-numbing question, “Are We There Yet?”
Here’s a solution: Pack this book along for the ride!
Mom and son are heading to Grandma’s. Nearly the entire text of this book consists of speech bubbles which begin practically in the drive way: Are we there yet? No.
The reallio-coolio aspect of the book involves spying elements from the boy’s room and from scenes along the way which crop up in subsequent pictures, and bits from later pictures which you realize you’ve seen before. Once you get going on this, you will notice more..and more…and more. Extreme cleverness and a great way to wait until we’re there for ages 5 and older.
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