Tuesday, June 26, 2018

2018 Picture Book Summer Reading Roundup

It's summertime and the living is easy, especially for kids. And what could be more fun that days at the beach even if they are only in a storybook. Here are a few new books for summer reading pleasure.

Saffron Ice Cream written and illustrated by Rashin Kheirtyeh
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2018, 40 pages

Rashin and her family are heading to the beach at Coney Island for the first time since moving from Iran to Brooklyn, NY. On the subway ride, Rashin reminisces about what a day of swimming in the Caspian Sea was like for her family, from the halim her mother made for breakfast, to driving in her father's old car and listening to Persian music. In Iran, the beach was divided by a large curtain - men and boys on one side, women and girls on the other, and the beach was patrolled by burka-clad women to make sure everyone obey's the rules. Rashin's favorite part of the day was the wonderful saffron ice cream she and her best friend Azadeh would always enjoy. And Coney Island? Well, there may not be saffron ice cream, but there is chocolate crunch and a new friend named Aijah. This is a wonderful summertime story, that not only entertains, but gives insight into some of the ways living in an Islamic country differs from living in the US without pitting one against the other, which was totally refreshing. The oil and acrylic illustrations are done on handmade paper giving each one some lovely texture. Using a palette of bright pastels, the whimsical style reminds us of fun summer days (and took me right back to my own Coney Island summer days).

Sun written and illustrated by Sun
Templar Books, 2018, 40 pages

It's the hottest day of the year, a real scorcher, and a boy and his granddad decide to go on a picnic adventure. After packing their provisions, navigator granddad and lookout grandson set off to find the perfect spot for their picnic. As they walk and rest, walk and rest, and walk and rest some more, the hot sun beats down on them and the terrain they traverse becomes more and more imaginative while they look for a spot that is picturesque, in the shade, and has a cool breeze. Each time they stop, the story takes on more fantastic elements. When they finally come to a cave, they discover that someone else has discovered the same spot - the perfect picnic spot. Provisions are gathered and shared with a family and a bunch of pirates on a pirate ship that becomes increasingly more opulent. How much of this story is real and how much is pure imagination? Let your little ones be the judge. There are hints to be found throughout the story. This is such a delightfully playful book that nicely highlights the intergenerational relationship between grandson and granddad, and who really know how to make the most of unpleasant weather conditions. And the ink and watercolor illustrations capture not only the heat of the hottest day of the year but also the coolness of the cave and the house. This is a jolly companion to Usher's other grandson/granddad adventure stories (Rain, Snow, and the soon to be published Storm).

Pie is for Sharing by Stephanie Parsley Ledyard, illustrated by Jason Chin
Roaring Brook Press, 2018, 32 pages

A family of four gets on their bikes to join a diverse group friends and neighbors gathering at a riverside park. It's the Fourth of July, and the perfect day for a picnic. Each family brings something special, contributing food to share with each other in the best spirit of pot luck. And while fun is definitely on the menu, so is the concept of sharing. Kids learn that not only is a yummy pie for sharing, cut into almost as many pieces as you may wish, but books, balls, trees, jump ropes, a jump rope rhyme and so much more are also for sharing. An ideal day of sharing fun and games, of eating, swimming, singing, even sharing a faithful dog culminates in an evening of sharing a blanket to watch fireworks. While the idea of sharing runs through each page, this gentle story never gets preachy or overbearing in making its point. And Jason Chins subtle but powerful watercolor and gouache illustrations only add the enjoyment of seeing how pleasurable life can be. What else is for sharing? This beautiful picture book is definitely one you will want to share with your young readers.

Saturday is Swimming Day written and illustrated by Hyewon Yum
Candlewick Press, 2018, 40 pages

A young girl has been signed up by her mother for Saturday morning swimming lessons and she isn't very happy about it. The first Saturday, she says she has a stomachache, but with no fever, she is off to the pool. And spends the time standing by the wall, watching the other kids have fun during their lesson. The next week, she gets as far as sitting on the edge of the pool, watching the other kids have fun during their lesson. But the third week, Mary, the instructor, helps the girl get into the pool and by the end of the lesson, she is a more willing beginning swimmer (with lots more lessons to go). This is a sensitive, simple story about fear of the water, a fear that many young kids experience, and overcoming it. The real beauty of this story is not only that the girl gets past her fear and begins to enjoy learning to swim, but that the adults, her mom and Mary, don't pressure her, and let her come to the water in her own time. Hyewon Yum's watercolor and colored pencil illustrations are done in a palette of pool blues and tile whites, with lots of colorful bathing suits. Pair this book with Jabari Jumps for your young swimmers. 

The Sandcastle That Lola Built by Megan Maynor, illustrated by Kate Berube
Alfred A. Knopf, 2018, 40 pages

It's a day at the beach, and Lola decides to build a sandcastle, with a tall, tall, tower topped with sea glass to signal mermaids. When a boy accidentally steps on the tower, he finds himself helping Lola rebuild. But along comes a small boy with a digger truck, knocking their sandcastle down, and he also finds himself helping to rebuild. When Lola starts collecting shells for her sandcastle, she collides with another girl and both lose their shells. The girl finds herself helping Lola and her two new friends. But when a wave comes along and washes away their whole elaborate sandcastle, it's too much for Lola, who sits on the beach dejectedly. Luckily, Lola has just made three new beach friends who are willing to rebuild, and so they begin anew. Anyone who has ever taken kids to the beach knows how easily a beach friend can be made, if only for a day or two, and this beach tale has captured that transient friendship so well. No names are exchanged, but the foursome work together as if they have been friends their whole lives. The text tries to imitate the building rhyme of "The House That Jack Built" but deviates in a very surprising and humorous way each time the sandcastle get destroyed. The simple but effective illustrations, done in a beachy palette of blues and yellows, add to the fun of Lola's endeavors with her new friends.

A Lullaby of Summer Things by Natalie Zlarnik, illustrated by Madeline Valentine
Schwartz & Wade Books, 2018, 40 pages

A day at the beach comes to an end and a family heads for home. As three children put away their beach toys and towels, the youngest girl is reminded of her day at the beach: "And you remember the beach that day/the sea so cool/the waves at play." Each usual evening activity - the kids taking a bath, the family eating dinners, getting ready for bed, good night kisses - elicits new memories of an idyllic day gone by. But there is the promise of more beach days to come as the story ends showing the sleeping house by the water as "Ocean breezes sigh/your favorite summer lullaby." Told in rhyming couplets, the vivid language with lots of visual and sound words really evokes the happy, carefree days of summertime at the beach that are reflected in the animated, playful gouache and digital illustrations. This makes a great bedtime book whether or not your young readers are at the beach, or just have their own good memories.

What are your summertime reading plans?

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