SJP Mama asked me to track down a few great children’s summer reading lists. While thinking about summer, I began perusing my son’s old picture books, and I discovered a serious bias. Apparently, summer to me is New England. It’s oceans and cottages and islands and hot summer nights. Below are some of my favorite summer picture books and at the bottom are links to summer reading lists for all ages:
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McClosky
Everybody’s heard of Sal’s adventures collecting blueberries with her mother (“Plink!”) and the most unlikely interspecies mix-up of offspring ever. Parents might be less familiar with One Morning in Maine, also by McClosky, which continues Sal’s adventures. Now living on an Island, Sal goes clamming, takes a boat ride off her island, visits the ice cream store, and loses her first tooth. My favorite part? The clam chowder ready for them when they get home. Mmmmm.
Night of the Moonjellies by Mark Shasha
Speaking of good New England seafood, Night of The Moonjellies follows a little boy visiting his grandmother. She runs a very popular seaside hamburger stand that also serves fried clams, one of the foods that I miss most about a New England summer. Mark spends his day helping his grand mother at the busy stand. She then rewards him with a nighttime boat ride out to see the moonjellies light up the shimmering sea.
The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown and Leonard Weisgard
Brown, author of the classic Good Night Moon, captures pure island charm in this book that follows a year in the life of a little island— “It was good to be a little island. A part of the world and a world of its own.” Children will learn about sea life around an island and more when a kitten comes to visit on a sail boat.
Moonflute by Audrey Wood
Honeysuckle vines smell as sweet as syrup on a hot summer’s night in Moonflute, when young Firen petitions the moon to return her sleep. Instead, she receives a magical flute that makes “the music of billowing clouds, the songs of migrating birds, and the sighs of blooming flowers.” The moonflute allows Firen to fly high above her town and away to visit whales, bats, and monkeys as she fruitlessly searches for her sleep. Gorgeously illustrated and lyrical, this book was a favorite from my own childhood. I spent years trying to remember its name before stumbling on it in an independent bookstore one day. (so support your indy stores! They have treasures B&N does not!)
The Whale’s Song by Dylan Sheldon
While searching for the above book, I stumbled on this one, which is just as beautifully illustrated and written. Lilly’s grandmother tells her of how the whales once sang for her, and Lilly is entranced. Uncle Frederick is not so understanding (the voice I used for him scared my son until I toned it down). Lilly offers the whales a gift and waits through a long, hot night to hear them call her name. The ending still gives me glorious chills.
Like a Windy Day by Frank Asch & Devin Asch
This is perhaps a little more spring-time than summertime, but it’s delightful nonetheless. I used to emphasize the repeating sentence in this book in the voice of a gentler, playful Verucca Salt: I want to play like a windy day. This is a book for very young readers, but whenever the wind blows, I still think of that line. The book follows along as a little girl explains all the different ways she’d like to play like a windy day. It’s colorful, fun, and vivid.
When the Sky is Like Lace by Elinor Lander Horwitz
We all know what it looks like when the nighttime sky is like lace, but we’ve never thought about it this way, and we certainly don’t know what to do on such a night. This book provides the guidance. For instance, one should never talk to a rabbit or a kissing gourami. Wearing orange is forbidden and spaghetti is a must. It’s a night for celebration: trees dance the eucalyptus, otters sing, and presents are exchanged. This truly imaginative and gorgeously illustrated book explains exactly what to do on a hot and “bimulous” summer’s night when the sky is like lace.
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
Miss Rumphius is known as the Lupine Lady, and with good reason. As a young girl, she explored and traveled the world, but she finally came home to live in a seaside cottage and wasn’t content until she had made the world a more beautiful place. How she transforms her small seaside town into a haven of Lupines is for readers to discover.
Willow By the Sea by Camilla Ashforth
It’s been several years since I read this book to my son, but when he was young, it was a bedtime favorite. He couldn’t fall asleep unless I sang the song. Readers follow Willow the Bear (gorgeously captured in watercolors, along with scenes of the English countryside) as he packs up the farm animals at Paradise Fields and heads across Appleby Downs to Salt Cottage, his home by the sea. Accompanied by a gentle rhyming poem and lyrical text, this book is a summer treasure. One day as I was dreaming of sun and sand and sea…
June 29, 1999 by David Wiesner
As crazy as Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, but without a single word of text, the evocative June 29, 1999 tells the story of a science experiment gone awry. When Holly Evans launches vegetable seedlings into the sky, they return the size of buildings. But do they? Holly didn’t send up some of those vegetables as seeds, and how they came to float down to earth is fun mystery.
The Good Night Sleep Tight Book by Mircea Vasiliu
Out of print now but worth every penny to track down a used copy, this is another absolute favorite from my childhood that evokes the best parts of summer. The drawings are what every child should get to experience in her dreams….flying on dragons, swimming under the sea, hanging out in a bird’s nest, being a giant, visiting a candy land and a mouse family underground, sliding down a rainbow in slippers, a pirate ship party. An absolute classic.
Looking for places to track down summer reading for your children? Start here!
Bookmama is a writer, parent, and avid reader. She likes to think she has good taste in books, but she doesn’t always agree with the literary crowd. Her nine-year-old son is even harder to please, and together they hope to provide occasional reviews of great books for both adults and kids.
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