Young children will delight in these sweetly charming summertime picture books.
SMILEY’S DREAM BOOK
Written and illustrated by Jeff Smith
Smith’s capacious imagination takes flight, literally, in this picture book starring the happy-go-lucky, slightly dim Smiley Bone from the iconic Bone graphic novel series. Smiley takes a walk in the woods, counting the birds he sees, and finds himself flying, too. There’s a suspenseful turn, and a surprise ending when he wakes and realizes it was all a dream. If you plan to steer a child toward the Bone books later (and you should!), this is a terrific introduction to a world full of wonder and unexpected rewards.
32 pp. Scholastic. $17.99. (Ages 2 to 6)
THE SANDCASTLE THAT LOLA BUILT
By Megan Maynor. Illustrated by Kate Berube.
The joys of a day at the beach — along with those inevitable moments of frustration, too — are packed into this story of a girl building a sandcastle. There’s a “dude with a Frisbee” who at first steps right on it, then helps fix it. There’s a little guy with a bulldozer and a girl from Minnesota who end up helping, too. There’s the wave that wipes their masterpiece away, and then the sweet moment of realizing they’ve formed a spontaneous “we” and can start building again. Berube’s delightful paint-and-collage illustrations capture an easy, playful beach mood, with a hint of mystery in the ocean and sky. 32 pp. Alfred A. Knopf. $17.99. (Ages 2 to 6)
By Aaron Reynolds. Illustrated by Dan Santat.
So much action and humor, so few words — just one, in fact (see the title), written in capitals or lowercase, in speech bubbles, or streeeeetched out. Expressed in the cheerfully bonkers illustrations by Santat, a Caldecott medalist, “Dude!” tells the story of a platypus and a beaver who go surfing together and meet a shark. A friendly one, it turns out, who wants to catch some waves with them: “Dude…?” he offers when they meet. More than half the fun, of course, is in reading this book out loud. Be ready for even the youngest kids to “read” it, too.
40 pp. Neal Porter/Roaring Brook. $17.99. (Ages 4 to 8)
PIE IS FOR SHARING
By Stephanie Parsley Ledyard. Illustrated by Jason Chin.
A book about sharing doesn’t sound like much fun, but this one takes all the sting out. Ledyard’s spare text is a poetic ode to things that are easy to share (a ball, a climbing tree, a story, a hideout), with an acknowledgment of one that’s hard (a best friend). Chin’s sublime watercolor and gouache illustrations, a master class in visual storytelling, follow a group of family and friends on a daylong picnic near the beach. Once the sun starts setting it’s clear this is the Fourth of July, adding even greater resonance — a nation is, after all, above all a shared idea.
40 pp. Neal Porter/Roaring Brook. $17.99. (Ages 2 to 6)
Written and illustrated by Sam Usher
“Rain” and “Snow” came first in this series of stories about a boy who’s stuck at home with his grandpa in all kinds of weather. Now it’s a scorching summer day, and as in the previous books, the delicately handled subtext is that it takes patience and imagination to navigate the generational divide and get through the long hours. The pair “gather their provisions” and go for a walk, which the boy pictures as crossing the desert. Then they stop at a pirate’s cove, picnicking with a merry band of buccaneers. Usher’s jaunty visual style is a mash-up of two British greats, Quentin Blake and John Burningham.
40 pp. Candlewick. $16.99. (Ages 3 to 7)
GOLDFISH ON VACATION
By Sally Lloyd-Jones. Illustrated by Leo Espinosa.
Enjoying summer in the city requires ingenuity, as this entertaining tale — based on real-life events — shows. Three siblings glumly pass time in their hot Manhattan apartment until the broken fountain down the street gets cleaned up and a sign suddenly appears on it, inviting goldfish to take a vacation. A neighborhood hangout is born, as all the residents stop by to visit their fish. Espinosa’s sunny illustrations are a visual party. The only downer, we learn in a note, is that once the fountain was fixed for good, the goldfish summer vacations ended.
40 pp. Schwartz & Wade/Random House. $16.99. (Ages 4 to 8)
SAFFRON ICE CREAM
Written and illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh
When a little girl named Rashin is on her way to the beach in Brooklyn for the first time, she remembers what it was like to go to the beach when her family lived in Iran, where the men’s and women’s sections were strictly separated (severe-looking burka-clad ladies patrol) and saffron ice cream was her favorite treat. With her colorful, exuberant folk-art illustrations and upbeat, friendly tone, Rashin makes a daunting cross-cultural leap seem as easy as a summer breeze.
40 pp. Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic. $17.99. (Ages 4 to 8)
THE GRAND EXPEDITION
Written and illustrated by Emma Adbage
There are those (like me) who feel that “camping out” in the backyard is a high point of childhood adventure, and this adorable book from Sweden confirms it. Two small siblings inform their dad of their plans, and after gathering their supplies they pitch a tent and hunker down. No, they don’t make it through the whole night out there, but does that even matter? With winsome mixed-media illustrations that capture all the most telling details, and a fine-tuned ear for the way kids think and talk, Adbage understands the fun that can be found in a child’s everyday reality.
40 pp. Enchanted Lion. $16.95. (Ages 4 to 8)
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