The summer is a great time to explore new topics with the kids, study the wonders of nature or learn about interesting places. Either at the library or bookstore, there’s no shortage of summer-themed books on a variety of topics to fit every age. Here are some recent releases worth checking out, along with some family favorites.
New & Noteworthy
Bring On the Birds
Written and Illustrated by Susan Stockdale
Peachtree Publishers (2011), $15.95, ages 2-6
Birds are fascinating creatures that kids see around them almost every day, and this picture book is like an imaginary set of binoculars that allows parents and kids to explore different types of birds together. Simple copy and vibrant illustrations showcase each bird and give a hint at its habitat. For older kids who may want to learn more, including bird names, there is a detailed listing of each bird in the back of the book. I had the pleasure of meeting author and illustrator Susan Stockdale, at the recent BookExpo America (BEA) in New York, and she talked about the hours of research she devoted to deliver an engaging and factual learning experience for both parents and children.
Written and Illustrated by Kevin Henkes
Greenwillow Books (2010), $17.99, ages 2-7
A garden can be a strong catalyst for imagination, especially to a child. In this story, as a young girl helps her mother in the garden, her mind wanders to a magical garden all of her own. Her garden would have ever-blooming flowers that never die, chocolate rabbits, a jellybean bush and glowing strawberries, among many other wondrous things. Best-selling author and illustrator Kevin Henkes captures the wonder of a child’s mind through his verse and vivid watercolors that beckon readers to explore each beautiful page. Mr. Henkes spoke at BEA and his passion for creating quality children’s literature is very inspirational.
The Jellybeans and the Big Camp Kickoff
By Laura Numeroff and Nate Evens, Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
Abrams Books for Young Readers (2011), $16.95, ages n/a
The newest title in the “Jellybeans” series by Laura Numeroff, creator of the “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” franchise, has the furry friends getting ready for summer camp. Just as jellybeans have different flavors, each of these Jellybeans have different interests. However, Camp Pook-A-Wow didn’t have Nicole’s favorite activity—soccer. After unsuccessfully trying many things, she becomes downhearted. To cheer her up, her friends create a camp soccer team. During a close game with a neighboring camp, Nicole scores the winning goal with much encouragement from the rest of the Jellybeans. This is a sweet story of friendship and, with its sparkly book jacket, makes a special—and impressive—gift.
A Place Where Hurricanes Happen
By Renee Watson, Illustrated by Shadra Strickland
Random House Children’s Books (2010), $17.99, ages 7-10
Visions of Hurricane Katrina are still vivid in many of our minds, and this story is tactfully told through the eyes of four young friends who survived the disastrous storm. They tell us about a joyful life in pre-Katrina New Orleans and proceed through their families’ preparations for the hurricane: how they endured the storm and coped with the aftermath. Each youngster has a different experience, but one thing they all have in common is their friendship and optimism that together they will rebuild their lives and bring back the joy that makes New Orleans such a special place. The author and illustrator duo have created a magnificent work of art that is a tribute to the city’s unique character and the resolve of its citizens, young and old. Children are increasingly exposed to natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina and the recent tornadoes in many parts of the U.S. This book provides a well-rounded view of such a situation for school-aged kids, and sends a powerful message of friendship and hope.
“Faves” from the Bookcase
Written and Illustrated by Mary Ann Fraser
Walker Children’s Books (2008), $15.95, ages 4-7
Young Shelly wishes she had a sister instead of her little brother, Gordy, who can be a “pain in the patootie.” While at the beach, she puts a “sister wanted” note in a bottle and tosses it into the ocean. Soon enough, Coral the mermaid pops up and the two become fast friends. Coral joins Shelly’s family and their daily life. Eventually Coral begins to miss her family and wants to go home. They return to the beach and Coral dives back into the ocean. To Shelly and Gordy’s surprise, Coral surfaces again with a surprise for Gordy ... her own little mermaid brother. The story is a light read, with colorful illustrations, and a favorite of my mermaid-loving daughter since she was four.
Nat, Nat, the Nantucket Cat Goes to the Beach
By Peter W. Barnes and Cheryl Saw Barnes, Illustrated by Susan Arciero
VSP Books (2001), $15.95, ages 5-8
There’s nothing like a beautiful sunny day with nothing to do but stroll through town, grab a friend and head to the beach, and that’s just what Nat the Nantucket Cat does in this story. As he makes his way to Captain Pat’s house and then to Nantucket’s Jetties Beach, the Barnes’ rhyming narration and whimsical illustrations give us a tour of the quaint island off the coast of Cape Cod. The story describes the perfect day at the beach, which can be appreciated by people of any age, complete with swimming, sand castles and sea shells. We discovered this book about six years ago, while on a trip to Nantucket, and fell in love with it instantly. We still read it from time to time and Nat will always be dear to us.
The Night Before Summer Vacation
By Natasha Wing, Illustrated by Julie Durrel
Grosset & Dunlap (2001), $3.99, ages 3-8
This book is one in a series by Natasha Wing that “adapts” the classic Clement Moore poem to seasonal themes. Anyone who has been a child or a parent preparing for a family vacation knows the chaos that can occur the night before departure. The rhyming verse perfectly captures an environment of parents running to and fro, often checking multiple lists, while the children are nearly climbing the walls with excitement. Loads of laughs are to be had as the night progresses with memories of vacations past and the car being packed. At last, the moment to leave home arrives and, let’s just say, their departure is more hectic than Santa graciously bidding all a good night as he flies off in his sleigh!
The Statue of Liberty
By Lucille Recht Penner, Illustrated by Jada Rowland
Random House Children’s Books (1995), $3.99, ages 3-7
The celebration of our nation’s 235th birthday on July 4th is a great opportunity to learn about the Statue of Liberty. This “Step 2” reader is a great book for early readers, but its simple text and colorful illustrations also make it easy to understand for kids as young as preschoolers. We learn how people made the voyage to America by boat in search of freedom and a better life. As the immigrants see the statue in New York harbor, the story “fades” to its own voyage from France, and the statue’s complex creation. The Statue of Liberty is a breath-taking site and an American tradition that is both fun and poignant to share with the kids.