Today I’ve got ten juicy picture books,
all refreshing choices for your summertime reading stacks.
Don’t forget — picture books aren’t only for the very young.
They enrich and gladden older readers and adults as well.
Out into the Big Wide Lake, written by Paul Harbridge, illustrated by Josée Bisaillon
published in 2021 by Tundra Books
Inspired by his little sister, a brave, active person who has Down’s Syndrome, author Paul Harbridge has written a superb story radiating love, courage, and can-do spirit, set on one of Ontario’s beautiful lakes.
Linda Catherine, known as Kate, is heading up to spend the summer at Grandma and Grandpa’s lake cottage for the first time. It’s a long way from home, and both Kate and her mom are a wee bit nervous about it, but not Grandma whose life motto seems to be, “Why not give it a try?!”
Buoyed by her grandparents’ confidence and love, Kate gives lots of things a try including traipsing along daily on her Grandpa’s groceries-by-boat delivery service and learning from Grandma how to steer the outboard motor. When circumstances arise that require some serious moxie on Kate’s part, she’s well-equipped to ask herself, “Why not?” and unleash her bravery.
I love this book. I love that the text does not define Kate a single time by her condition but simply let’s her curious, resolute, wonder-filled, amiable self shine forth. Kate is a person not often seen in children’s literature and I love that she is not presented via the life of an older sibling but on her own terms. I adore her grandmother and the way she accepts and sees such enormous possibilities for Kate. The artwork spills forth with the beauty of the Canadian northland, the affection in Kate’s family, and the straightforward charms of Kate herself. It’s a gem for ages 3 or 4 and up.
When Lola Visits, written by Michelle Sterling, illustrated by Aaron Asis
published in 2021 by Katherine Tegen Books
What are the sure signs that summer has arrived for you? For the little gal in this story, summer’s signposts revolve around her beloved grandmother, her lola, who comes to visit from her home in the Philippines each summer, bringing with her a tide of goodness…
…fresh mango jam simmering on the stovetop, cassava cake with custard wafting its aroma from the oven, days splashing together at the beach, evenings sweetened by her singing, and a grand kamayan — a celebratory Filipino feast eaten on tables spread with enormous banana leaves.
The scents, flavors, and sounds of one Asian-American childhood are redolent in this gorgeous account. Vibrant, tropical colors and botanical images drench each page in summertime abundance. Drink in the loveliness, learn about Filipino culture, and open your heart to children whose love has to bridge such long distances. A joy to share with ages 4 and up.
Paletero Man, written by Lucky Diaz, illustrated by Micah Player
published in 2021 by HarperCollins
Paletero José parks his beloved popsicle-cart at the park and on a hot summer day nothing could be better!
The little boy in this story is charging down there with some dinero in his pocket to purchase the special flavor he’s longing for. Friendly neighbors call to him as he rushes along but he’s got no time for anything but an icy cold paleta.
There are a juicy array of flavors to choose from — watermelon, rice pudding, honey, chocolate. What kind does he have his heart set on today? And what will happen when he reaches the park and discovers he’s lost his money on the way? Effervescent in both lilting text and eye-popping color, this offers a fantastic, happy dip into Mexican-American culture, plus a delectable helping of Spanish vocabulary. A link to an upbeat song mirroring the story is included. Ages 4 and up.
Ruby’s Reunion Day Dinner, written by Angela Dalton, illustrated Jestenia Southerland
published in 2021 by HarperCollins
Summer is major family-reunion time. It’s an annual tradition for Ruby’s family, and to make it an even more delectable occasion, her family’s reunion includes an everyone-pitches-in, soul-food extravaganza!
Momma’s specialty is “gooey peach cobbler,” Grammy is frying up hush puppies, and Uncle Mope’s got red beans boiling in the pressure cooker. Everyone has her own cooking claim to fame for the Reunion Day Dinner. So what will Ruby’s be?
Tuck into some scrumptious food, knock elbows with a loving extended family, and discover what lip-smacking contribution Ruby supplies. A joyful treat for ages 3 and up.
Hello, Rain!, written by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Chris Turnham
published in 2021 by Chronicle Books
As I write this we in Minnesota have had precious little rain for weeks while broiling hot temperatures in early June (!) baked the earth. Out in the western U.S. the catastrophic drought and heatwave is far, far worse. All that to say far from being a day-spoiler, the prospect of rain sounds mighty good right now to many of us, and this celebration of all things rain hits the sweet spot.
Rain plays a tune on rooftops and mailboxes. Rain proffers puddles for enormous splashing and creates curbside currents for launching small boats. Rain blesses flowers and frogs alike. And when rain’s kin folk — thunder and lightning — arrive, rain invites us indoors for the cozy delights of fort-building and reading.
After rain has visited, it leaves behind refreshing scents, glistening raindrops, invigorated flowers, and maybe a rainbow! Maclear’s text is rich with observation, childlike wonder, and juicy exploration. It works hand-in-glove with the slightly-retro illustrations that abound with joy, energy, and many intriguing elements in the natural world. A book to read again and again with ages 2 and up.
Pictures from Our Vacation, written and illustrated by Lynne Rae Perkins
published in 2007 by Greenwillow Books
It’s time for a family vacation and just as the crew is loading up the car, Mom gives her two kids vacation notebooks and little Polaroid cameras, suggesting they have fun documenting the adventure.
The long road trip doesn’t exactly provide lots of great camera shots. The old family farm that’s their destination has warped badminton racquets and a ton of dust. It rains a lot. There’s a park that’s supposed to look cool from the air, but they’re on the ground. The kids snap some photos here and there but they’re fairly nondescript.
Meanwhile a lot happens that’s not able to be captured on film. Daydreaming in the car. Dad jokes. Interesting people encountered. Adventures in rainstorms. Gobs of relatives descending on the farm and intriguing family stories swapped. Sunny days full of ordinary, spectacular shenanigans with cousins. It seems that the mental pictures, the images, conversations, imaginations, and feelings etched into our hearts, might be more precious even than a snapshot. Something to think about in this day of iphones, Snapchat, Instagram and all the rest.
I’m a huge fan of Lynne Rae Perkins. Her perspectives about life and meaningfulness always provoke food for thought. The warm, richly-human narrative and images in this book nourished me and will surely captivate kids ages 5 and up.
Sandcastle, written and illustrated by Einat Tsarfati
first U.S. edition 2020 by Candlewick Press
It’s time to head to the beach for the rest of our stories today. This first one is an explosion of imagination and pizzazz!
Epic sandcastles are a priority for our family beach vacations but nothing we have ever built or will ever build could possibly compare with the fantastical, lalapalooza of a sandcastle this gal creates. Grand sweeping staircases usher us into cavernous ballrooms. Sumptuous banquets are attended by royalty from around the world.
The details, surprises, humor, and tidal wave of imaginative splendors invite us to pour over these pages and leave us grinning from ear to ear. A gleeful blast for ages 3 and up, up, up!
Beach Feet, written by Kiyomi Konagaya, illustrated by Masamitsu Saito
originally published in Japan in 2006; American edition in 2012 by Enchanted Lion
Experience the oceanside with your bare feet, just the way every kid does.
That scorching sand that makes you hop-skedaddle! The lovely coolness of the packed sand at the water’s edge. The cold rush of waves frothing over your toes, and the tug and ripple of the tide pulling it back. A hard smooth shell under your foot. The floaty sensation when waves pick you up and the steady security of your tippy toes touching bottom.
This narration perfectly captures the sensations and thoughts of a child, and is accompanied by exuberant, sun-soaked, sea-drenched artwork that is enormously appealing to both children and their grown-ups. Enjoy this with ages 2 and up.
Noni the Pony Goes to the Beach, written and illustrated by Alison Lester
originally published in Australia in 2014; first US edition 2015 by Beach Lane Books
Noni the Pony is the hero of several tales and here she heads to the beach with her pals Dave the dog, Coco the cat, and “the ladies next door” who happen to be a small bunch of affable cows.
It’s a blue-skies, gentle-waves, frolicsome day with dolphins dancing past and tide pools full of curious creatures to investigate. There’s only one small ripple in the day’s events when Dave the dog requires rescuing, but Noni the Pony is on top of that in a heartbeat and all is well as the gang wends their way home in the pink sunset glow.
Lester’s cheerful, rhyming text and stupendously friendly troupe make all the Noni stories hits with the preschool crowd. This one will please folks ages 2 and up.
Sea Glass Summer, written by Michelle Houts, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
published in 2019 by Candlewick Press
Finally, this warm, nostalgic story that seems to take place on an island off the coast of New England where one young boy is staying with his grandmother at her cottage.
Grandmother introduces him to sea glass, the smooth, frosty pieces that have been tumbled by waves for who-knows-how-long and have finally washed up onto rocky beaches. Grandmother explains that every piece of sea glass holds its own mysterious story: Where did it come from? What was it before it broke to bits? As the boy adds the glass fragments to his collection on the bedside table, they inspire dreams of ship’s christenings and storms at sea, origin stories for these particular bits.
The book’s ending contains a lovely, generational twist. Gorgeous, photo-realist paintings usher us right into these sun-dappled, salt-air scenes. It’s an intriguing, beautiful read for ages 5 and up.
Find gallons more summery reads on my list here
and a list swimming with all things beach-y here.