Monday, July 19, 2021

# IMWAYR Summer Reading: A Picture Book Roundup πŸ“š

Reading is Fun
Last week was a busy week for me, but I still had time to share some summer books with my young readers, even though we are not officially together until September. 

Sweet Pea Summer
written and illustrated by Hazel Mitchell
Candlewick Press, 2021, 40 pages
A young girl goes to stay with her grandparents during summer vacation while her mom is in the hospital. A few days after her arrival, her Grandpa asks if she would like to help out in his garden, which was full of flowers and vegetables, including his prized sweet peas and would she like to care for them and then enter them into the flower show at the end of the summer. But, as she learns about caring for the plants, all kinds of things go wrong so that the plants don't bud. The girl studies her Grandpa's gardening books looking for solutions, while she and Grandpa also work hard to solve the problems. Meanwhile, the girl keeps in touch with her Mom and Dad, to see how Mom is doing. Finally, she figures out what is going wrong and sure enough, new buds begin to appear. This is a gentle intergenerational summer story that shows the valuable of patience and nurturing - for both child and plant. The graphite and watercolor illustrations are done in an array of summertime colors, and kids will enjoy seeing the little marmalade kitty by the girl's side in most images. It's a happy ending story, with Mom and Dad both coming just in time for the flower show and to bring their daughter home.  

written and illustrated by Sam Usher
Templar Books, 2021, 40 pages
I thought we had seen the last of Boy and his Granddad after the final book in the Seasons with Granddad series, but, I am happy to say, they are back. Free is the first book of a quartet in which Boy and Granddad explore the wonders of nature. One morning Boy wakes up to find a sick bird outside his window. He and Granddad care for it, and when the bird is better, put it outside. But the bird comes back in, and again they put it outside. This goes on all day. Boy of course wants to keep bird, but Granddad says it will be happier outside and free. They read that this particular bird needs a particular kind of tree to call home, so they gather up their expedition equipment and head off to find the right tree. And what an expedition it is - full of happiness and birdsong. The ink and watercolor illustrations are done in the same style as the previous Boy and Granddad books so it feels like visiting old friends. There's always an element of learning in these book, and here there is an charming element of the fantastic when the pair reach the tree at the top of a mountain that kids will surely think is fun. I just love the wonderful intergenerational relationship between Boy and Granddad, and how easy they are in each other's company.

One Summer Up North
written and illustrated by Sam Usher
University of Minnesota Press, 2020, 32 pages
A family of three set off on a summer vacation, canoeing and camping in the wilderness of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) in northern Minnesota in this lushly illustrated wordless picture book. At first, the child is bored and uninterested, trailing slumped shouldered and not looking around.By the first night, even in the pouring raid, the glimmering of enjoying the trip begins show on the child face and demeanor. Pretty soon, the child is totally onboard with the trip and readers can focus on the wonderfully detailed and accurate illustrations. When I shared this with my young readers, one the child begin enjoying the trip, we had to go back to the beginning of the book and comb through the illustrations. They loved spotting the different insects, animals, and birds throughout. We talked about the abundant lily pads, trees and blueberry picking, the kinds of food people eat while camping, and then we came to the two-page spread of the milky way - WOW! I love a book that gets my kids talking and this was perfect. We did have some debate about whether the child was a boy or girl, but decided it didn't matter. My young readers also noticed that the father is white, the mother is brown, so the child is biracial. The illustrations are colorful and nicely textured, done in a palette of greens, browns, and blues. Owens has really captured the wonder of nature and there is nothing to match the peaceful feeling of floating quietly though water in a canoe. This book has a special place in our small library of books my young readers love. 

Ferry Boat
written and illustrated by Michael Garland
Holiday House, 2021, 32 pages
This isn't really a summer story, but I include it here because of my own personal memory of all the times my friends and I took the ferry on hot summer Sundays  because it was such a cool ride - in more ways than one. In this book with minimal text, Garland gives a blow by blow account of taking a ferry ride from lower Manhattan to Staten Island. Once on the ferry, riders can look out the window, watch as Manhattan recedes and sights come into view - Ellis Island, Castle Fort, the Verrazano Bridge, and of course, the Statue of Liberty. The ferry also sells food and souvenirs. Once it arrives in Staten Island, some people get off, new people get on and the ferry sails back to Manhattan. What makes this book so special are the detailed illustrations created with pencil and charcoal, scanned and digitally colored in digi-woodcut and the level reading text for beginning readers. The ferry can get crowded and I love that the diversity of New York and its visitors are captured in these images. And yes, NYC's ferry boats are just that orange.

William Shakespeare A Midsummer Night's Dream
retold by Georghia Ellinas, illustrated by Jane Ray
Candlewick Press, 2021, 32 pages
Introducing kids to Shakespeare can be difficult, but thanks to Georghia Ellinas it has become easier and this retelling of A Midsummer Night's Dream is a perfect summertime read. Full of mischief making, love, mistaken identities, this comedy of errors is narrated by Robin Goodfellow and called Puck, a sprite who likes to play tricks on fairies. Oberon and Titania, the King and Queen of the fairies, are fighting over a young boy Titania has adopted and Oberon wants as a page. At the same time, Lysander and Hermia have run away from Athens to Puck's enchanted forest in order to get married. But Hermia is supposed to marry Demetrius, whom she doesn't love and who has followed Lysander and Hermia into the forest. Helena, who is in love with Demetrius and who does not lover her back, followed him into the forest. Meanwhile, Oberon has sent Puck to fetch a magical flower that will cause a person to fall in love with the first person they see, intending it to be used on Titania. Returning with the flower, Oberon tells Puck to use it on Demetrius so he will fall in love with Helena. But a case of mistaken identity happens and, well, mayhem ensures. Not surprisingly, none of the original flavor or humor of the story is lost in this retelling. Georghia Ellinas really knows her Shakespeare, after all, she is Head of Learning at the Globe Theater in London. The text of this picture book for older readers is perfectly matched with the colorful watercolor illustrations, done in a palette of blues, with plenty of details on each page for exploration and conversation. And to really add to the flavor, and introduce young readers to Shakespeare's writing itself,  there are plenty quotes from the actual play interspersed throughout. 

I also read
The Hollywood Spy (A Maggie Hope Mystery #10) by Susan Elia MacNeal
The Seventh Raven by David Elliott
Bartali's Bicycle by Megan Holt

It's Monday! What are you reading? is the original weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey and is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.  It's Monday! What are you reading? - from Picture Books to YA is a kidlit focused meme just like the original and is hosted weekly by Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers. The purpose is the same: to recap what you have read and/or reviewed and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week.


  1. I am so excited about this new Sam Usher book. I have adored all the other boy and grandfather books.

  2. What a wonderful set of picture books! I'm especially intrigued by Free—I haven't heard of that series, but the illustrations look beautiful! One Summer Up North sounds great as well, as does the retelling of A Midsummer Night's Dream! Thanks so much for the great post!

  3. Sam Usher books do look great, and some other interesting options here as well. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  4. These all sound really delightful! I'm especially intrigued by Sweet Pea Summer, since I love to garden, Ferry Boat, and the Midsummer's Night Dream retelling. I would've loved using that when we did Shakespeare when we studied Shakespeare in our homeschool.

  5. I love wordless picture books, so I will seeking up that camping book. Lots of good choices here!

  6. As a gardener- Sweet Pea Summer jumps right out to me. These were all new to me. Thanks for sharing. :)

  7. These are all new to me--thank you for sharing them! Ferry Boat and One Summer Up North look great!


Imagination Designs