When I think of summer, I think of reading. I think of checking out stacks of books from the library and laying around for hours devouring them. My toddler isn’t quite old enough for that yet, but what we can do is fill our book basket up with stories about this special time of year and snuggle up to read them together. Here’s what’s in our next-to-the-rocking-chair stack right now:
We read Bruce Degen’s crazy, fantastical Jamberry all year long, but I especially like to pull it out in late spring and keep reading it through the summer while berries are in season. It rhymes, but it’s more like a frenzied chant than a poem. It takes you through a flurry of over-the-top berry-themed spring and summer action from capsizing boats spraying blueberries everywhere to firework berry explosions in the sky. All the vehicles and berries flying all over the place got my little one’s attention early on. These days his favorite part is the afterword on the last page where Degen describes berry picking as a child and with his family now that he’s grown up. We used to try to skip this part by pretending to read nonsense syllables, but now he’s on to us and wants hear the whole thing.
Why your toddler will love it: Boats! Trains! Fireworks! Hot air balloons! Big messes! Boisterous, rollicking rhymes. And descriptions of delicious sounding pies and jams at the very end.
Why you’ll love it: Nostalgia (or fauxstalgia) for summers spent romping around outside in freedom and the smell of berry pie being baked by someone else.
Maryanne Cocca-Leffler takes you on an all-around tour of summer fun in Let It Shine, from swimming and making sandcastles, to playing baseball and watching fireworks. Unlike lots of other children’s book authors, Cocca-Leffler also covers some of the downsides of summer (one picture shows a kid trying to shake the sand out of his swim trunks while holding a dripping half-eaten popsicle).
Why your toddler will love it: Lots of pictures of things he can map to his own experiences; great rhymes.
Why you’ll love it: If you’re looking for a book to walk your kid through what makes summer special, this is it.
A colony of bats flies to the shore after dark carrying picnic baskets, tote bags and a banjo in Brian Lies’s Bats at the Beach. They set up tiny drink umbrellas in the sand for shade, rub on “moon-tan lotion,” and set to work building sand caves (with little sandy stalactites) or sailing in styrofoam ice cream bowls and nachos boxes. At the very end of the book, you’ll find three terrific verses of a “Bat Hymn” that can be sung to the tune of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Why your toddler will love it: Everything is all mixed up. Night is day, down is up. Those bats are standing upside down on the CEILING! Those marshmallows have BUG LEGS sticking out of them!
Why you’ll love it: Who doesn’t like bats acting like tiny people?
In Sandra Boynton’s Belly Button Book, hippos get very excited about beach weather because they love to show off their belly buttons.
Why your toddler will love it: Belly buttons.
Why you’ll love it: It’s a joyful, body-positive reminder that being out in the sun just feels good (kind of like the picture book version of How to get that bikini body you all crave).
In Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham’s Harry by the Sea, a wave dumps seaweed on Harry the dog, and everyone thinks he’s a sea monster, until a hot dog man unwittingly helps to set things right.
Why your toddler will love it: Harry experiences things toddlers worry about — he gets lost and found — in a funny, action-packed, but gentle and reassuring way.
Why you’ll love it: A whimsical story with great illustrations that have held up over 50+ years. For people like me who remember reading this as a kid, it’s doubly fun: I enjoy my kid’s enjoyment of it, and reading it brings back memories of my parents reading it out loud to me.