Warm summer months are filled with lemonade, lazy days, swimming pools, and firefly nights. This booklist celebrates a few of our favorite children’s picture books featuring all things summer!
If you’re heading to the library, I’ve assembled a library list of these titles for easy browsing if your library uses the bibliocommons catalog system. If you’re looking for more seasonal booklists, be sure to check out these autumn, winter, and spring lists.
SUMMER SOLSTICE & MIDSUMMER
Nonfiction and fiction books that are about or take place on the summer solstice or Midsummer:
The Longest Day: Celebrating the Summer Solstice by Wendy Pfeffer, illustrated by Linda Bleck
Mermaid Dance by Majorie Hakala, illustrated by Mark Jones
The Flowers’ Festival by Elsa Beskow
Summer Story by Jill Barklem
Ella Bella and The Midsummer’s Night’s Dream by James Mayhew
Long days, no school, ice cream, gardens, farmer’s markets, family and friends, free time for imagination and wonder… These picture books highlight the joys of the summer season:
It’s Summer by Linda Glaser
Summer Days and Nights by Wong Herbert Yee
Summer is Summer by Phillis and David Gershator, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Ice Cream Summer by Peter Sis
Bluebird Summer by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Bethanne Andersen
Four Friends in Summer by Tomie dePaola
Mama, Is it Summer Yet? by Nikki McClure
Summer Wonders by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Judy Stead
It’s Summertime by Elaine Good
A Summertime Song by Irene Haas
Song for A Summer Night: A Lullaby by Robert Heidbreder, illustrated by Qin Leng
Westlandia by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
Summer Sun Risin’ by W. Nikola-Lisa, illustrated by Don Tate
All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee
How I Spent My Summer Vacation by Mark Teague
The Shadow Chasers by Elly Mackay
HOT DAYS, HOT NIGHTS
Summer in the northern hemisphere in many places is typically hot, hot, hot! These stories are about the summer heat during the day and at night:
GOING TO THE BEACH
For families that live close to or vacation to the ocean or a lake, summer and shorelines go hand in hand. These books are all about visiting the seashore:
Magic Beach by Alison Lester
A Beach Tail by Karen Lynn Williams
Wave by Suzy Lee
Beach by Elisha Cooper
Bats at the Beach by Brian Lies
The Sandcastle Contest by Robert Munsch
At the Beach by Huy Voun Lee
Beach Feet by Lynn Reiser
Senses at the Seashore by Shelley Rotner
Beach Day by Karen Roosa, illustrated by Maggie Smith
Flotsam by David Weisner
One White Wishing Stone by Doris Gayzagian
If You Ever Want to Bring a Piano to the Beach, Don’t! by Elise Farsley
Hello, Ocean by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated by Mark Astrella
Can You Hear the Sea? by Judy Cumerbatch
How Will We Get to the Beach? by Brigitte Luciani, illustrated by Eve Tharlet
Beach Party by Harriet Ziefert
All You Need for a Beach by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Barbara Lavallee
Sea, Sand, and Me! by Patricia Hubbell, illustrated by Lisa Campbell Ernst
With kids out of school, some families look to the summer as a time to get out of town. Here are a few books about vacationing in the summertime:
Pictures from Our Vacation by Lynne Rae Perkins
Mayfly by Marthe Jocelyn
The Summer Visitors by Karel Hayes
See You Next Year by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Todd Stewart
Beach House by Deanna Caswell, illustrated by Amy June Bates (public library)
These twinkling insects are an icon of long summer evenings outside:
It’s a Firefly Night by Dianne Orchiltree, illustrated by Betsy Snyder
Fireflies by Julie Brickloe
The Very Lonely Firefly by Eric Carle
Among A Thousand Fireflies by Helen Frost
Ten Flashing Fireflies by Philemon Sturges, illustrated by Anna Vojtech
Sam and the Firefly by P.D. Eastman
A popular activity in the great outdoors or in the comfort of your backyard, camping is a favorite summer getaway:
Camping Spree with Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen
Sally Goes to the Mountains by Stephen Huneck
Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping by Mélanie Watt
Quiet Night by Marilyn Singer
When We Go Camping by Margiet Ruurs, illustrated by Andrew Kiss
Flashlight by Lizzie Boyd
Into the Outdoors by Susan Gal
These stories all take place poolside and/or are about learning to swim:
My Best Friend by Mary Ann Rodman
Pool by JiHyeon Lee
The Whale in My Swimming Pool by Joyce Wan
Maisy Learns to Swim by Lucy Cousins
Splish, Splash, Splat by Rob Scotton
Frog by Susan Cooper, illustrated by Jane Browne
‘Tis the season of parades! Memorial Day, Summer Solstice, Puerto Rican Day, Gay Pride, Fourth of July… These books capture the heart of summer parades:
Mermaids on Parade by Melanie Hope Greenberg
This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten
Hats Off for the Fourth of July by Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Gus Miller
Parade by Donald Crews
VINTAGE SUMMERTIME FAVORITES
Old school picture books that still hold the magic of the season:
The Summerfolk by Doris Burn
Peter in Blueberryland by Elsa Beskow
Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey*
One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
Bayberry Bluff by Blair Lent
Harry by the Sea by Gene Zion, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham
*Time of Wonder is a beautiful book to read, BUT there is one page that I’d like to note has cultural insensitivities on page 56. When I read this story with my own kids, I replace the word “Indian” with “Native Americans” and “white man” with “European settlers”. I almost left it off the list, but decided it was a good platform for discussion if you happen to read this title with children.
Poems about lemonade, ice cream, berry picking, camping, flowers, and the highs and lows of summer:
Flower Fairies of the Summer by Cicely Mary Barker
From the Belly Button of the Moon and Other Summer Poems by Francisco X. Alarcón, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez
Fireflies at Midnight by Marilyn Singer
Lemonade Sun: And Other Summer Poems by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Jan Gilchrist
Lemonade by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Nancy Doniger
Summersaults by Douglas Floiran
Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems by Kristine O’Connell George, illustrated by Kate Kiesler
Ocean Soup: Tide-Pool Poems by Stephen R. Swinburne, illustrated by Mary Peterson
NONFICITON BOOKS FOR SUMMER LEARNING
All about the summer seasons, nature in summer, and seaside ecology.
What Happens in Summer? by Sara L. Latta
Summer by Anna Claybourne, pictures by Stephen Lewis
What Camping Can Teach Us by Willow Creek Press
A Kid’s Summer Ecojournal by Toni Albert and Margaret Brandt
Firelfies in the Night by Judy Hawes, illustrated by Ellen Alexandar
Ferdiand Fox’s First Summer by Mary Holland
Looking Closely Along the Shore by Frank Serafini
In One Tidepool: Crabs, Snails, and Salty Tails by Antony D. Fredricks, illustated by Jennifer Dirubbio
The Seaside Switch by Kathleen V. Kudlinski
Seashells, Crabs, and Sea Stars by Christine Kump Tibbitts, illustrate by Linda Garrow
A Pod of Orcas by Sheryl McFarlane
What Lives in a Shell? by Kathleen Weidner Zoefeld, illustrated by Helen K. Davie
SUMMER BOOKS FOR BABIES & TODDLERS
Seasonal books for the littlest readers.
Summer by Gerda Muller
Baby Loves Summer! by Karen Katz
Summer by Roger Priddy
Mouse’s First Summer by Lauren Thomapson
Leo Can Swim by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Ruth Hearson
I See Summer by Charles Ghigna
Beach Feet by Kiyomi Konagaya, illustrated by Masamitsu Saito
Beach Baby by Laurie Elmquist, illustrated by Elly MacKay
Marshmallow Kisses by Linda Crotta Brennan, Illustrated by Mari Takabayashi
Kitten’s Summer by Eugenie Fernandes
A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Baby Lit Fairies Primer by Jennifer Adams
Summer Beach Day by Liesbet Slegers
At the Beach by Salina Yoon
At the Beach by Anne Rockwell
What’s your favorite book about summer for kids? Please share in the comments below!
The question I get asked most often about homeschooling since we started is, “What curriculum do you use?”
Well, the long and short of it is we don’t use a set curriculum. At least not yet. In the beginning it was a lot of trial and error to find a rhythm and schedule that worked for everyone. I tried my best to create an inquiry-based learning environment. Instead of being the teacher, my goal was act as more of a facilitator in my 5-year old’s learning. Each week or two I would ask her what she was interested in learning about and we would form her lessons around that topic of interest. I did use Oak Meadow as a guide in the beginning (like this sample lesson plan) even though we don’t formally subscribe yet. It’s a resource I’m considering if we decide to continue homeschooling into first grade. I also used a printout of the kindergarten standards for our state, which was given to me by her teacher along with a few other materials for literacy and handwriting. These weren’t the forefront of my lesson planning, but more of a checklist that I would look at from time to time to make sure we were covering our bases. Lessons are typically in the morning after making our bed, getting dressed, and eating breakfast. Call me old-fashioned, but I always feel like that’s a good way to start the day. Getting dressed sometimes means a jazzy leotard and rainboots, but wearing whatever you want is a perk of homeschool life.
Every day we start with the same song, “Good Morning Dear Earth” from A Child’s Seasonal Treasury. I found that singing the same short little song first was a good way to transition into our lesson time. After our song, we talk about the date and what the weather is like outside, I recite a poem that was chosen for the week, and then we start our lesson for the day. A lesson will take anywhere from 20-35 minutes. On Sunday evenings I sit down and plan out everything that we’re going to do for the week on a chart (pictured above). The number in parentheses is the number of times we devote attention to that subject each week, but most of the time many of the prompts and activities apply to multiple subjects. Whatever the topic of interest is that week, I create or research activities and prompts around that interest in the various subjects and write them in the chart. I also write down books she’s read or we read aloud and whatever pages she’s working on in her workbook. Even though I had hoped to stay away from workbooks, she really loves using them– Especially these Brain Quest workbooks and the Handwriting Without Tears workbook her kindergarten teacher gave us when started homeschooling.
At the bottom of the chart, you’re probably wondering what the heck is “Neighborhood Time”? Well, it’s loosely based off of a library program my brilliant friend Cat Levinson created. She would show an episode of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood and then after they watched the show or clip, the kids would engage in an activity that relates to the show’s topic. I adapted that concept for homeschooling by showing my daughter an episode that usually relates to something we’re working on that week and then we discuss the episode or participate in an extension activity based on the concepts presented. This has been a wonderful platform to address social emotional topics. Even as an adult, I find watching Mister Rogers has a calming effect and I learn so much from him.
The late morning or afternoon is spent outside. We are outside ALL THE TIME. We go to the park, we go to the woods, we walk along the prairies, we splash in the wetland. Snow, rain, wind, or sunny skies we try to get outside and explore every day. She also attends 1-2 classes each week outside of home such as piano, ballet, swimming lessons, etc. What else… Oh yes. We read a lot. There are books in every room of our little house. We sit and read together at least once a day and also spend quite a bit of time at the library. Books are just a part of our everyday fabric. After lunch, the afternoons are devoted to either Neighborhood Time, free play, resting, free art time, or “project work“. Project work, also called “project time” in our house, is a time set aside for free, unstructured learning.
Her 2-year-old sister loves to do all of this with us. I give her her own special lessons to perform while her sister is working. These “lessons” are usually coloring, Playdoh, Magnatiles, blocks, or assembling a puzzle. Sometimes we have lessons in the afternoon too while little sister naps, but for the most part we stick to mornings. Sometimes we don’t get to everything. Sometimes we do. Sometimes a kid is sick and there goes the day. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, and continue to learn, from homeschooling, it’s to be flexible.
I started out planning our schedule a wee bit obsessively when I started homeschooling. I was reading as much as I could about homeschooling and wanted to make sure she was meeting all the standards her peers were learning in school. I had her journal once a week and I assembled pictures of her week along with the journal, but the truth is it was exhausting. What I learned the most about our months homeschooling was we could cover most of the material we needed to in one 30 minutes session. I stopped planning like a maniac. Now, it takes me maybe an hour to plan the entire week if I’m feeling ambitious. The internet is my most favorite co-teacher and I’m so so so grateful for all the educators and institutions that provide free resources. I’ve also found Instagram to be a terrific source of inspiration as well.
If you’re interested in homeschooling or learning a little more about how we balance our home/school life, below is a list of resources that I found helpful in our homeschooling adventures. Only the first couple of the books are actually about homeschooling, but all helped me in finding a new rhythm for our homeschool life. The last book is actually a picture book that my daughter felt she could identify with as a homeschooling kid. If you have any recommendations, I’d love to know what they are!
Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners by Lori McWilliam Pickert
The Homeschooling Book of Answers by Linda Dobson
David Hawkins and the Pond Study by Elizabeth Kellogg
The Rhythm of Family: Discovering a Sense of Wonder Through the Seasons by Amanda Blake Soule and Stephen Soule
This is My Home, This is My School by Jonathan Bean
FURTHER READING + HOMESCHOOL INSPIRATION
It was the day before school started back up after winter break and every twenty minutes I was asking myself: “Am I really going to do this?”
And then we did it. This past January, we decided to homeschool my 5-year old for the remainder of the kindergarten school year. It was both challenging and wonderful all rolled up into one big whirlwind, and it completely changed whatever opinions I had previously about homeschooling. Yet, it’s still a very personal decision that has taken awhile for me to be vocal about.
Each homeschooling family have their own unique reasons for making the decision to homeschool. Our reason was that after several months of kindergarten, our 5-year old was shutting down. “I hate school!” she would cry while getting dressed in the morning. Every single morning was a battle to reassure her. She had gone to preschool every weekday since she was 2 and has always loved school. We assumed that this was going to be a natural transition. Maybe this was a phase? Lots of kids have a rough time starting elementary school, but these outbursts lasted for the entire first semester of kindergarten. Along with tantrums in the morning she exhibited extremes of every emotion when she wasn’t in school. Over winter break she transformed back into the kid she was before starting kindergarten. She whistled to herself in the morning. She was different. She was herself. My partner and I worried. We didn’t want her to lose her inquisitive, creative spirit and above all we didn’t want her to hate learning.
Both my partner and I went to public school. My husband is a public high school math teacher. We are big advocates for public education. So, what this post is not about is public school bashing. I love my daughter’s kindergarten teacher and her elementary school, but it just wasn’t working for her. Academically, she was doing well. She has a lot of friends at school. Maybe it was too overwhelming? Maybe we should have waited until she turned six? Maybe we needed to take a step back and reevaluate? I laid all the maybes on the table one night and decided aloud, “Maybe we try homeschooling.”
She didn’t return to school after winter break. Our days found a quiet rhythm. I enjoyed both children being home and taking on the responsibility of my daughter cultivating her learning. She found the flexibility encouraging. I used her interests and natural transitions of the year as a guide for her learning… OUR learning. Sure there were days that were hard and frustrating, but more often than not our days were filled with playing, creating, exploring, and moving at our own pace.
When we first started homeschooling there were a lot of questions. Have you ever thought about sending your child to a therapist to pinpoint why she doesn’t enjoy school? Doesn’t it drive you crazy to have your kids home all the time? Have you thought about private school? What will happen if you go back to work? Isn’t homeschooling extremely time consuming? Aren’t you worried about socialization? These questions were asked out of genuine curiosity or concern, but here’s the thing– We gave a lot of careful consideration to all these questions for weeks. Lots of reading and researching and reaching out to individuals and in the end we decided it was worth a try. If it didn’t work out, well then it was a good experiment. So far, so good! A lesson I continue to learn time and time again as a parent is that sometimes (actually most times) things don’t go as planned. We’re forced to adapt and improvise. We do our best to find what works best for our kids, for our family, and for ourselves. This is what works for us.
Originally, homeschool was a temporary arrangement and now we’re faced with the decision of “Do we keep going? Are we a homeschool family now?” Regardless of what we decide, I’ll always look back fondly on this time and think to myself.. I can’t believe we did it. Even if it was only for 6 months, we did it.
Summer is almost here, which means it’s that age-old time when kids flood the library in search of books to read or have read to them. Books for outside picnics, books for vacations, books for summer day dreams, and books for hot starry nights with a side of ice cream. The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read by Curtis Manley, illustrated by Kate Berube (public library), is the perfect celebration of this time when both reading and one’s imagination are unrestricted with the ease of longer days and more free time. For some kids, an interest in reading doesn’t come easily or quickly and that happens to be the case with Nick’s two cats, Verne and Stevenson. In the summer, Nick, Verne, and Stevenson do everything together. Well, they do everything together except one thing– Reading. The cats couldn’t be more indifferent to books, so one summer Nick decides he will teach Verne and Stevenson to read.
Nick’s first attempts fail, but slowly Verne becomes more and more intrigued, and with practice and Nick’s encouragement he’s able to read stories on his own. Stevenson on the other hand continues to be grouchy and actively disinterested whenever books or talk of reading enters the picture. That is, until the day Nick finds something of Stevenson’s that he uses to help foster an interest in reading. Everyone (even cats) learn to read in their own way and in their own time. Sometimes it just takes one special book to get a beginning reader hooked on reading for life.
MAKE YOUR OWN CAT READING BUDDY
Readers can be just like Nick (who loves reading with his cats) by making this easy DIY cat stuffed animal via a repurposed sock that transforms into a cuddly reading companion in no time!
MATERIALS FOR CAT STUFFED ANIMAL
- Fabric scissors
- Fabric glue
- Buttons, felt, yarn, ribbon (Anything you’d like to use to decorate your kitty)
The sock you use can be any old sock. The one I used had been missing its mate for awhile and may have a tiny hole in the heel. Also, don’t be restricted to the materials I listed for decorating your kitty’s face. Sequins, fabric, beads, and anything you happen to find that might work are also fair game.
Start by filling your sock with poly-fil. Stuff it to a huggable size and leave an inch of room at the opening of the sock.
Cut off the opening of the sock in a “V” shape. These will be the ears of your cat!
Flip your sock over so the toe of the sock is facing down and the opening is facing up. Wrap a rubber band around the two points you just cut out of the sock’s opening. Kitty ears! If there is still a little opening between the ears, glue those ends together with fabric glue.
Using another rubber band, create a head by wrapping it around an inch or two below the ears. It’s starting to look like a cat!
Next, use whatever materials you’d like to make the face of your cat. I used yarn, felt, and buttons and glued them all on with fabric glue.
We decided this cat was quite dapper and added an orange bow tie around his neck for the finishing touch.
Now you’re cuddly stuffed animal kitty is ready for all the reading adventures to be had! Not only will your child have a friend to read with, but the act of reading aloud to animals, stuffed or living, helps build reading skills and beginning readers gain confidence by creating a non-judgmental, nurturing environment (see here and here).
And if you happen to have a lovable furball at home, I’m sure they won’t be opposed to a story or two from time to time as well. Especially, if there’s petting and snuggles involved.
*Source of book reviewed: Review copy provided by the kind folks at Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Images from top to bottom:
1. “Listening for baby animals”
2. Five little, hungry beaks
3. Sea of bees
4. Early morning strawberry picking
6. Prairie rose
7. Sketching May’s full moon
8. Spooky beautiful pre-storm sky
9. Fairy umbrellas
10. Turtle watching
11. Fairy soup
12. Wild strawberry foraging
Strawberries came early as expected this year. I took the girls to a local farm to pick a bucket early in the month and we had a feast right on the farm just before 9am. It felt a bit strange eating strawberries so early in the year, but they tasted just as ripe as June strawberries nonetheless.
May brought a few surprises. A couple weeks ago I found wild strawberries for the first time walking through a prairie. I laughed when I first spotted them. Could it be? Little ruby gems of delightfully sweet goodness at my foot? There were patches and patches of them hidden by fast growing tall grass and wildflowers that are already to my knees.
Another surprise came in the form of an army of unexpected guests when, one afternoon, my older and I were visited by a swarm of honey bees. We stared at them, mesmerized by their number as hundreds of them formed a cluster in our backyard tree overhead. I called a beekeeper who promptly arrived and we watched as he hypnotized them into a cardboard box that was then strapped to his truck. Then they were off to the honey farm. I’ll never forget the way they hummed and buzzed wildly, filling up the blue sky overhead. He called later that night to say he weighed the bees and they were just over 5lbs, a good size swarm. He also said that they were an extraordinary bright yellow and asked if he could name them after my daughter.
The last surprise wasn’t really a surprise– I knew it was coming. It was the morning I looked up at the house finch nest and it was quiet, it was empty. The nest had been a home to a pair of adult house finches and their clutch of five for several weeks. They’ve been our beloved house guests and we’ve enjoyed watching the faintest blue eggs hatch into hatchlings and grow into fledglings. A couple days before, I watched one of the fledglings jump from its nest and fly with ease. His father praised him, and encouraged his siblings to do the same in a nearby tree. I read that House finches may use abandoned nests of other birds, so maybe my Lord and Lady Carmine will return for their next clutch as they will parent several this season.
In last month’s Wild Things post, I started listing gratitudes from the past month and I’ve decided to continue this habit into this month and the ones following.
The swarm of honey bees that visited us one afternoon
Foraging wild strawberries for the first time
The smell of a prairie rose
Running my fingers along the tips of tall grass in an open field
Spring thunderstorms (and sump pumps)
The ever-evolving Kansas skyscape
The bittersweet feeling of finding a nest once filled with life, empty. Life goes on.