I have vivid memories of spending long summer mornings at the library picking out piles of books to read. My very first trip to the library was the summer after my kindergarten graduation. The elderly librarian handed me a vintage hardback of Betsy’s Busy Summer by Carolyn Haywood–a little treasure in a sweet series of chapter books about Betsy–and I dreamed of lemonade stands for the rest of the summer. Unfortunately, our modern libraries are filled with far more television twaddle than good, true, and beautiful children’s literature. But take heart; there are still wonderful summer books to read with your children–your librarian just might not know about them.
Here are my favorite summer picture books to read aloud with my children. (I usually start reading these to my littler ones. The sign of a good book, however, is when the big kids start creeping over to see and hear, as they do with these titles.) A few of these are out of print but worth purchasing at a good price, so keep your eyes peeled, and check your local library system!
The Summerfolk by Doris Burn
This is an out of print title, but perhaps my favorite on this list. I never tire of reading about these “summerfolk” children who open up a new world of imagination to a little boy who lives by the sea year-round. These are the things of children’s dreams, and my kids request this one often.
A Summertime Song by Irene Haas
In this magical, lyrical story, a moonbeam touches Lucy’s hat one summer night and makes her as tiny as a leaf. She is invited a birthday party with the other tiny creatures of the garden and discovers a precious surprise that brings a touching ending to the little adventure.
Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey
Robert McCloskey is one of the authors I associate with summer. His peaceful writing style enchants the reader, especially in this book about the sea, and his illustrations are lovely.
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
Another McCloskey classic, Little Sal and her mother go blueberry picking, as do Little Bear and his mother.
One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey
This story is another story about Sal, who lives on an island with her family off the coast of Maine. They dig for clams and boat to the mainland for supplies among other things in this endearing tale.
The Raft by Jim LaMarche
I don’t often find books this modern that I love, but this is one that I look forward to reading every summer. Taken from the author’s own summers on the river, city-boy Nicky spends the summer with his grandmother, a “river rat,” and discovers a love for the river and its creatures via a raft that he finds.
Pond by Jim LaMarche
Only the middle part of this story takes place in summer, but it tells the story of a boy, his sister, and his friend re-damming a stream to become the pond it once was, and all the creatures return. The children boat and swim in the pond and camp out before summer’s end.
Corgiville Fair by Tasha Tudor
I always buy Tasha Tudor’s books when I find them. Fortunately, this one is still in print (unlike many in her Corgiville series). In this book, the Corgis have adventures at the summer fair, especially at the goat race.
The Seashore Book by Charlotte Zolotow
Though he’s never seen the sea, a little boy imagines being at the seashore through his mother’s evocative description of a day at the sea.
Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran
I spent most of my childhood summers making forts in dirt mounds and playing house and spy in the woods with my sister and neighborhood children. In this book a group of children’s imaginations come to life as they imagine all sorts of possibilities on the rocky hill across the road. I always get choked up at the end of this one. It’s so sweet, and the illustrations are by the incomparable Barbara Cooney.
Night of the Moonjellies by Mark Shasha
A tale from the author’s childhood, little Mark works at his grandmother’s hot dog stand one summer, and she takes him out in a boat to see the moonjellies in the nighttime ocean.
The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant
This one reminds me of when my husband’s family comes and we have 18 people sleeping in our house–on the floor and every which way–and eating big family meals. It’s a fun tale of a summer visit to distant family.
Lucy’s Summer by Donald Hall
This is a story of the author’s mother Lucy as a child and her family in the summer of 1910. Her mother opened a hat shop in their front parlor, and she and Lucy and sister Caroline watch and help their mother as she enjoys creating. It’s a sweet, everyday story of a simpler time in Donald Hall’s unassuming style with lovely woodcuts by Michael McCurdy.
Animals in Summer
This National Geographic book takes a look at what various animals do in the summertime. It has short paragraphs about each animal rather than just fact lists, and the photography is detailed and lovely. (Out of Print)
A Day at the Beach by Mircea Vasiliu
I loved this book as a child. It tells the many adventures and nature discoveries of a family’s long day at the beach. (Out of Print)
The Storm Book by Charlotte Zolotow
I live in the South, where thunderstorms and summer are practically synonymous. This book, another by Charlotte Zolotow, is about a summer storm on a hot day, as it rolls through the country, the city, and the seashore. Beautiful text and illustrations.
Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco
Another storm book, this one tells of the author visiting her grandmother’s farm in Michigan and baking “thunder cakes” during a summer storm to overcome her fear of thunder.
I Saw the Sea Come In by Alvin Tresselt
This sweet book with charming illustrations by Roger Duvoisin tells of a small boy exploring the beach in the early morning. (Out of Print)
The 4th of July Story by Alice Dalgliesh
Not long, but with “chapters,” this lovely look tells short stories about the various aspects of the birthday of America and how the citizens learned the news of the nation’s independence.
This book of seasonal poetry is in the wonderful Poetry for Young People series. The summer section contains selections by Longfellow, Stevenson, and others.