soak up some summer — juicy picture books for sunny days

Summer is just around the corner.
Even now, the long daylight hours luxuriantly sprawl across back yards, parks, and waterfronts;
twilight lingers late and the dawn chorus arrives ever so early;
a bustle of green carpets the landscape
and plans are in the works for outdoor adventures and — with the easing of the pandemic —
much-longed-for family reunions.

Today’s books exult in all things summertime. Settle in with your dear ones, drink in the warmth, and dream!

The Camping Trip, written and illustrated by Jennifer K. Mann
published in 2020 by Candlewick Press

Camping is one of my all-time favorite summer activities and stories featuring children of color enjoying the great outdoors are one of my favorite book-niches so…this book gets all the Orange Marmalade stars. Plus — it’s simply fabulous

Ernestine is going camping for the first time along with her cousin and aunt. She is pumped. Packed. Poised for a good time. However, upon reaching the campsite, Ernestine discovers some unexpected and not-great bits about camping. Like — swimming in a lake means there are fish in there! And a daypack loaded with snacks makes for a tiring hike. And a tent full of sleeping people when you are lying wide awake and missing your dad back home is rather a sad place to be.

Thanks to an understanding and wise aunt and cousin, plus some gorgeous night air and dazzling starlight, things turn around nicely for Ernestine and the camping trip proves to be a great success. Jennifer Mann nails the northwoods experience, the joys and realities of camping, and the fierce love of family in this ace adventure. Perfect for ages 3 and up!

One Summer Up North, by John Owens
published in 2020 by University of Minnesota Press

If camping is great, then camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is superlatively awesome!! For Minnesotans, this pristine region of lakes, glacial erratics, bald eagles, timber wolves, soaring pines, and Absolutely No Motors At All is a source of fierce love, pride, and loyalty.

John Owens clearly knows and loves the Boundary Waters experience and he captures it magnificently in his sturdy, handsome, iconic artwork. Fittingly for such a place of quietude, this is a wordless book. We simply immerse ourselves in the surroundings. The wall-to-wall images, strong line, rich natural color palette, and spacious vistas usher us right into these scenes of a young family on a canoe trip. Glide past a beaver lodge. Trudge over a portage. Shelter from the rain. Revel in the hovering morning mist. Munch blueberries. Gaze at the immense Milky Way in an area devoid of electric light.

A gorgeous journey awaits you. Share this with ages 4 to grown-up. Special alert for Minnesota wilderness lovers.

A New Green Day, written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis
published in 2020 by Neal Porter Books, Holiday House

Striking artwork, a series of intriguing puzzlers, and an overall sense of relishing the wonders of nature all mark this splendid little book.

For each quiet riddle, two brief lines tantalize us into guessing what they describe. “I am a cool pudding on a muggy day. Let your toes have a taste!” reads one. When we turn the page we are greeted by the answer: mud. Other riddles bring us face to face with joys from sunlight to tadpoles, thunder to the night sky. Graceful, eloquent, refined, beautiful. A gem for ages 2 and older.

Summer Song, written by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek
published in 2020 by Greenwillow Books

Here’s the fourth book in Kevin Henkes’ and Laura Dronzek’s now-complete seasonal series, all perfectly geared to very young readers.

Big pages thrumming with vibrant, lush color and bold, uncomplicated line welcome readers right into this summertime world of emerald grass and azure skies, swizzling sprinklers and sparking fireflies. It’s a full-on happy space. Henkes’ brilliant text respects the sharp mind of a small child. Despite a scant word count, he spreads a feast of ideas, taps into multiple senses, sparks reflective pondering, beckons towards observing and wondering.

A book that looks this natural might seem a simple thing, but every detail here is evidence of mastery on the part of two creators at the top of their craft. It’s a title that will be read over and over with children ages 2 and up.

Going Down Home with Daddy, written by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Daniel Minter
published in 2019 by Peachtree

Summer for many is a time for family reunions. Perhaps with the easing of the pandemic there will be even more of these on the calendar this year as families relish the chance to be together again.

For the small boy in this book, Lil Alan, the tradition of packing up the car, driving out of the city and down to his great-grandmother’s farmstead, being greeted by a mighty gathering of aunts, uncles, cousins, and his warmhearted Granny — that yearly tradition is strong with him! The love, teasing, and laughter, tables groaning with good food and everybody sporting their reunion tee shirts, the deep feeling of pride and gratitude and belonging that’s resonant in their family circle are all pieces of him as much as his arm or leg.

Part of this family’s tradition is celebration time, when each person shares words of tribute to their collective family. This year Lil Alan is anxious, unsure of what he can possibly contribute. But when the time comes, so, thankfully, does inspiration. A Caldecott Honor book for its powerful portraiture, layered compositions, and generous depiction of this warm, deep-rooted, close-knit clan, it’s a story celebrating love, gratitude, generational bonds, and the strength of African American families. Ages 5 and up.

Chirri & Chirra On the Town, written and illustrated by Kaya Doi
translated from the Japanese by David Boyd
published in 2019 by Enchanted Lion Books

It’s a beautiful sunny day when Chirri & Chirra take out their bicycles and pedal through the verdant woods to the “old town.” There they discover the charming shop of a weaver, a cozy cafe serving up delectable soups, and an enchanting rose garden with a colorful bird celebration under way.

Every Chirri & Chirra story is a fantastical, bewitching pleasure, so once you’ve enjoyed this one, be sure to find all the others.

I think there are six of them out now and one more — The Rainy Day —  is supposed to hit shelves in June if all goes according to plan. Ages 3 and up.


Find lots more books radiating summer in my Summer list here.

I’m collecting chapter books and novels set in summertime for an upcoming post, so look for that.
I’m also gathering lots more goodies including books to accompany the Tokyo Olympics, novels for middle graders and a few for teens, a biography bonanza, plus some yard restoration updates.
I’ll have more summer books including a whole list of beach and ocean stories.
And I’m almost ready with another long list of under-100 page chapter books and novellas.

Don’t want to miss a post? Subscribe to my blog — it’s free! — by clicking on the three little lines at the top left of the page.