Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Three Picture Books for Some Summer Fun

2020 Summer Reading
Who knew that sheltering in place could end up being such a bounty of good books. But it has been, and I've reading and reading and now it's time to start reviewing some of the wonderful books I've read. To start, here are three of my new favorite summertime picture books, perfect for sharing with your young readers.

The Camping Trip 
written and illustrated by Jennifer K. Mann
Candlewick Press, 2020, 56 pages
Ernestine is beyond excited when she is invited to go camping with her Aunt Jackie and cousin Samantha. She's never been camping before but luckily Aunt Jackie has given her a list of things she will need to bring with her. Then she and her dad make some trail mix to take. It's a long drive to the campground, but Ernestine and Samantha find things to do in the car to make the trip go faster. Setting up camp isn't exactly like the blanket tents Ernestine builds at home, it's hard work. Everyone is hot and sweaty afterwards, so they decide to take a swim. But lake swimming isn't like pool swimming, and Ernestine isn't comfortable sharing the lake with all those fish and decides to sit the swim out. Later, it's off for a hike, but hiking in nature isn't exactly what Ernestine thought is would be - it's much harder than "hiking" to school everyday. But there's lots to explore and the downhill trip is much easier. Back at camp, Tofu hot dogs for dinner aren't a hit with Ernestine, but the s'mores sure are. And when night comes, Aunt Jackie and Samantha fall right asleep, but not Ernestine - homesickness and missing dad make her want to go home. What to do? Wise Aunt Jackie takes the girls stargazing until she hears some yawns. The next day, a very different Ernestine wakes up, one who can't wait to go camping again next year. Narrated by Ernestine, this is a wonderful book about some of the realities of camping for the first time. But Mann wisely shows readers Ernestine's growth as she faces and overcomes her fears and learns to enjoy these new experiences. All this is wrapped in the warm family love of her single father, her aunt and her cousin. The humorous pencil illustrations are digitally collaged and painted, really capture what camping is all about from the individual items packed to the night sky full of stars. I can't wait to share this book with my young readers when we are able to be together again. I know they will love Ernestine.

written and illustrated by Einat Tsarfati
Candlewick Press, 2020, 48 pages
It's a hot, busy day at the beach and it seems like just about everyone has found a bit of sand for themselves, including some real surprises. One young red-headed girl heads to the shoreline with her pail and shovel, and begins to build a sandcastle. But not just any ordinary sandcastle. No, indeed. It is a sandcastle fit for royalty, and that's exactly who shows up to enjoy the many spacious rooms, to dance the night away in the grand ballroom, to feast, and especially to enjoy the ice cream available round the clock. It's all wonderful until the next morning, when sand is found in the royal almond strudel and in the knight's armor just before a tournament, and the rare plants in the glorious greenhouse have wilted. Everyone is angry at the red-headed castle builder, until suddenly along comes the one thing that washes all sandcastles away -a big wave as the tide comes in. I wouldn't exactly call this book a fantasy, but I would call it far-fetched fun, from the moment the red-headed girl arrives at the beach to the moment the ocean washes away her castle. Tsarfati's colorful digital images are diverse and whimsical and simply a delight to explore, from the crowded beach that includes an elephant and a seal sunbathing among the humans, to the multiple turrets representing a wide variety of cultures, to the knights playing Twister, to the two-page spread of all the rooms in the sandcastle. This is another book I am excited to share with my young readers when we can be together again. There is so much for kids to explore on each page, much of which will provide a real laugh. This is imagination at its best.

written and illustrated by Pete Oswald
Candlewick Press, 2020, 40 pages
In this lavishly illustrated wordless picture book, a father and his child (could be a girl, could be a boy) get up early one morning, climb into their car, head out of the city where they live and head for a a day of hiking through a nearby forest. The forest is a busy place, filled with creatures and critters, birds and insects. The child has come prepared, bringing along a compass, binoculars, a magnifying glass, a camera, and book for identifying tracks, some trail mix, and even helmets for climbing high places, all meant to see and enjoy nature without disturbing it. Together, father and child spot deer, eagles, bear tracks and more. When the pair come to a river near a waterfall, it takes some encouragement on dad's part to convince his child to walk across the water on a fallen log and lots of happy hugs when the child makes it across. But the real purpose of their trip, besides a wonderful day spent together, is planting a tree seedling that perhaps the child had started and nourished from a pinecone, a nice example on giving back to nature instead of taking from it. Back home, readers will discover, this father and child outing was more than just a perfect day of enjoying each other and nature, it was actually a family tradition, as the photos in the family album show. There are so many things to love about this book. First, the relationship between parent and child is so loving and respectful. And I love the way is connects them to their past. The illustrations are done in a forest palette of greens and browns, and the blue sky is like a breath of fresh air. Plus, there are lots of different creatures for young readers to find and name on almost every page. I said it was wordless, but that's not exactly true - you will find some sound word throughout, adding to the nuance of the story. I was lucky enough to be able to briefly share this book with my young readers and I am excited to do it again when we are back together. We talked about collecting pinecones in the park and beginning our own seedlings to replant, and making a leaf book in the fall. I suspect this is a book we will go back to again and again.

Thank you to Candlewick Press, these books were gratefully received by me.

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