After a long, cold, wet spring, June is knocking our socks off here in Minnesota with some serious heat. Today I’ve got a collection of new picture books that fit the season perfectly
— radiant with hot sun, welcoming water, and good friends.
Grab some limeade, maybe a bowl of cherries, and dive in!
Pool Party, written by Amy Duchêne and Elisa Parhad, illustrated by Anne Bentley
published in 2022 by Cameron Kids
Head to the pool with a gaggle of kids in this snappy, happy book.
Short, rhythmic couplets move us right along while bold, colorful, tremendously-friendly illustration work sweeps us right into the fun.
This is one of those books that may look simple on the surface, but is in fact brilliant. Kids ages 2 and up will love it and be happy to read it again and again.
Sand Between My Toes, illustrations by Jenny Duke, words by Caroline Cross
published in 2021 by Child’s Play Inc
I fell utterly in love with this book, which is also comprised of the slimmest of rhyming couplets and pages saturated with lovely, warmhearted artwork. Every page is a treat.
We’re going to the beach for a jam-packed day with glistening water, the lonesome cry of gulls, happy dogs bounding across the sand, ice cream cones and sandcastles, sun and surf. Sunset brings a close to this joyous, refreshing family outing.
Everything iconic about a day on the shore is sandwiched neatly in this little gem. It has an unassuming cover, but inside — this one is a total delight. Ages 2 and up.
Noah’s Seal, written and illustrated by Layn Marlow
published in 2022 by Candlewick Press
Noah and his nana spend their days on a much quieter section of beach, “at the edge of the wild blue sea.” Nana has told Noah that when she’s finished repairing their wooden sail boat, she’ll take him out to see the seals.
While Noah waits, he sculpts his own seal out of sand. But then a storm whips up, and as Noah and Nana wait it out, hunkered down in the boat under the canvas cover, Nana worries that sand-seal will be washed away. What a wondrous surprise awaits both of them when they emerge from their shelter!
Tender, imaginative, and joyous in both story and sun-drenched illustration work, for ages 3 and up.
Hot Dog, written and illustrated by Doug Salati
published in 2022 by Alfred A. Knopf
Kids and grown-ups aren’t the only ones who feel done in by the heat. In this book, it’s a small dog in a bustling, broiling city who reaches the tipping point and just…can…not……go……….on.
Thankfully, his human understands such overheated desperation and whisks him off to the seashore for a day of cool water and salt-tangy breezes, frolicsome fun and wide horizons. Utterly delightful. And mercifully, evening in the city brings a breath of coolness to day’s end as well.
Doug Salati manages to make us completely inhabit the experience of this dog — the onerous, bullying heat; the miraculous magnanimity of the shoreline; the joy of being truly away; and the restorative powers a day by the sea can bring. Hugely wonderful for ages 4 and up.
The Tide Pool Waits, written by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Amy Hevron
published in 2022 by Neal Porter Books, Holiday House
This book offers the brilliant experience of observing a tide pool and all it’s peculiar denizens. A long, anticipatory wait on the part of these small pool-dwellers culminates when the incoming tide’s refreshing waves splash in, fill up, launch all manner of activity for the sea creatures who have been lurking there.
Eminently child friendly, the text and pictures are awash with colorful, fascinating details of this very particular habitat.
It’s followed up with two pages of slightly longer introductions to the cast of characters who inhabit Pacific Coast tide pools, written with lovely specificity and zest. Ages 3 and up.
The Strangest Thing in the Sea And Other Curious Creatures of the Deep
written by Rachel Poliquin, illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler
published in 2021 by Kids Can Press
Rachel Poliquin is one of my favorite science writers for children. Her witty, engaging text scoops us right in to whatever fascination she’s got on the docket and we find ourselves happily, effortlessly slurping up copious cool knowledge.
This book offers a series of puzzling questions, tantalizes us with extraordinarily clever gatefold illustration work, and then spools out just the right amount of zesty introductions to thirteen curious creatures found in the depths of the sea.
Each weird ocean-dweller seems like a slam dunk for “the strangest thing in the sea” but with each meet-and-greet, our fearless guide assures us that this is not the strangest thing of all. What could it be?! A whole lot of awesome for ages 6-ish and older.
Hurricane, written and illustrated by John Rocco
published in 2021 by Little, Brown and Company
This is the third in a sort of series John Rocco has done over the years, exploring the adventure of living through various phenomena. I loved the first two — Blackout and Blizzard. Now it’s time to experience a hurricane.
One young boy loves spending his days fishing off the neighborhood dock, an old, rickety, splintered thing which no one uses but him. When a hurricane tears through the community, that beloved dock isn’t the only wreckage. Everywhere folks are busy cleaning up and fixing up. So, he sets out to repair the dock on his own, but it’s a whole lot harder than he’s figured on. Thankfully, a bevy of kind and clever neighbors pitch in and build something better than ever.
Deftly balancing the fearsomeness of a hurricane with the warmheartedness of neighborliness, Rocco’s spun a story that will engross lots of kids, with his brilliant illustration work making it all feel as real as next door. Ages 5 and up.
Kick Push, written and illustrated by Frank Morrison
published in 2022 by Bloomsbury
Not every summer day is spent on the beach. Meet Ivan, aka Epic, “a kickflipping big rail king,” who is moving with his skateboard into a new neighborhood.
Epic rides off, ready to find a new crew in this new space, throwing down gnarly tricks one after another, but all the kids in the area already seem to have found their places, their friends, their zone. No matter how cool Epic’s moves are, they just seem to wilt in the anonymous unseenness that comes with being the new kid on the block.
With a bit of encouragement from his parents, though, and a lot of effort on Epic’s part, a lot of dead-ends along the way, Epic finally finds his groove and his people.
Literally no one paints like Frank Morrison. My goodness, the grit and heat, the flying skateboard moves and urban graffiti, the personalities in this neighborhood — it all simply sings off the page. An epic blend of reality and hope for ages 7 and up.
Mr. Filkins in the Desert, written and illustrated by Quentin Blake
published in 2021 by Tate Publishing
You think the city is hot, try the desert! That’s where Mr. Filkins finds himself — walking through the desert to celebrate his 90th birthday at his granddaughter’s house with the whole fam.
It is one daunting prospect, and to top it off the sun is still high in the sky and his destination a long way off when he has eaten up all his cream cheese sandwiches. Egads. Luckily for Mr. Filkins, he’s still got a bottle of sparkling mineral water in his knapsack and boy howdy! does that water come in handy!
Because it turns out there are large, strange, and toothy creatures in this desert and one of them is in desperate need of rehydrating. And when Mr. Filkins kindly shares his precious water, he gets quite a gift in return.
Quirky as ever, Quentin Blake’s wild story and even wilder, kooky, iconic illustration work are sure to score huge grins with kids ages 4 and up!
The Barn, written by Leah H. Rogers, illustrated by Barry Root
published in 2021 by Candlewick Press
Finally, a nostalgic wander through one summer’s day, dawn to dusk, on a small family farm, featuring the gorgeous artwork of Barry Root who knows his way around a rural landscape like no one else.
The story is narrated by a 100-year-old barn. This gentle giant tells us how it was built, about all the animals who make their home within, and of the ways it cares for them. The text is redolent with a sense of pride and responsibility for these residents. These cows, these swallows, these small peeping featherballs of chicks — they belong to the barn, and the barn nurtures each one.
Thus the entire book breathes out a sense of security and belonging, of at-homeness and tender care. It’s a lovely, reassuring account that would make a marvelously soothing bedtime story for ages 4 and up.
I’ll be back before too long with a big jumble featuring picture book gems, some fabulous nonfiction finds, more summertime selections, some new, under-100-page choices, a novel or two or three…whatever tickles my fancy. Plus a yard restoration update! I haven’t forgotten — I’ve just been up to my elbows in planting and watering and whacking down weeds.
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