Help youngsters celebrate summer with a selection of alluring books bursting with vacation-time fun. From picture books to graphic novels, there’s something here for every reader.
Dozens of Cousins. By Shutta Crum. illus. by David Catrow. Clarion. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-618-15874-4.
PreS-Gr 3–It’s family reunion time, and unruly cousins race willy-nilly through the yard, tramp barefoot through the house, splash and frog-catch in the creek, eat everything in sight, and finally fall into an exhausted and happy-dream-filled sleep. The antics of these “rowdy ogres” gleefully unfurl in vivacious verses and sun-bright paintings packed with comical details.
It’s a Firefly Night. By Dianne Ochiltree. illus. by Betsy Snyder. Blue Apple. 2013. Tr $12.99. ISBN 978-160905291-1.
PreS-K–Rhyming text and vibrant collage artwork describe how a nightgown-clad girl and her father venture outdoors on a warm night to capture–and eventually release–a jar full of shimmering insects. The hushed narrative is aglow with wonder, and the lovely illustrations are filled with luminous touches. A sweet choice for bedtime sharing or celebrating special daddy-daughter moments.
Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping. By Mélanie Watt. illus. by author. Kids Can. 2013.Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-1-894786-86-7.
PreS-Gr 3–Rather than venturing into the rugged wilderness (where mosquitoes, quicksand, and penguins abound), the ever-anxious protagonist opts to remain safely in his tree and watch camping shows on TV. Unfortunately, the nearest electrical outlet is across the park. Equipped with survival gear and a carefully constructed plan, Scaredy Squirrel sets off on an adventure that results in comical mishaps and an eye-opening revelation about the great outdoors. Colorful cartoon artwork, amusing diagrams and charts, and spot-on storytelling keep this fretful–and lovable–character on top of his game.
Spike & Ike Take a Hike. By S. D. Schindler. illus. by author. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-24495-7.
PreS-Gr 2–Hungry from their trek, Spike the hedgehog and Ike the coatimundi decide to pay a lunchtime visit to Ike’s cousin. As they amble through various terrains, they encounter an assortment of critters, including a “big buzzy bumblebee,” “soggy froggy,” and “itty-bitty kitty.” Winsome details fill the textured artwork, which depicts dazzling landscapes and charismatic characters. Fueled by clever wordplay, terse rhymes, and tongue-tingling alliteration, this share-aloud romp will also appeal to beginning readers and language lovers.
A Stick Is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play. By Marilyn Singer. illus. by LeUyen Pham. Clarion. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-12493-3.
K-Gr 4–“A stick is an excellent thing./If you find the perfect one,/it’s a scepter for a king….” Eighteen pithy poems and dynamic double-page illustrations pay homage to the simple pleasures of summer, as a flock of high-spirited friends dash through sprinklers (“Big drops flash./Hurry, dash!”), barrel down hills, blow bubbles, soar on swings, and more. Simply worded yet humming with imaginative imagery, the enchanting verses resound with joyful activity and the power of play.
This Monster Cannot Wait! By Bethany Barton. illus. by author. Dial. 2013.Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3779-2.
PreS-Gr 1–Stewart’s first camping trip is only a week away and the irrepressible youngster will try almost anything to make the time pass more quickly, even tearing–literally–through the book’s pages to rush to the story’s end. Taking a friend’s advice, he slows down and savors the “right now,” a philosophy that ultimately pays off. Barton’s loose-lined monsters are a hoot, and the tongue-in-cheek text perfectly pegs the agony of anticipating a grand adventure and the ecstasy of enjoying the much-awaited day.
Chapter Books and Graphic Novels
Bluffton: My Summers with Buster. By Matt Phelan. illus. by author. Candlewick. July 2013. Tr $22.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-5079-7.
Gr 5-8–Henry Harrison’s ho-hum life in Muskegon, MI, is best described as “ordinary,” until the summer of 1908 when a troupe of vaudeville performers arrives, complete with baggage, elephants, and a young Buster Keaton (pratfall artist extraordinaire), to vacation by the lake. An extravaganza of gags and high jinks blends with more typical hot-weather pursuits as the boys strike up a friendship and Henry begins to dream of a different sort of life. In this historical graphic novel, watercolor panels and understated text paint a glorious picture of a time gone by and a poignant portrait of a boy’s journey of self-discovery.
Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Summer Vacation. By Tommy Greenwald. illus. by J. P. Coovert. Roaring Brook. 2013. Tr $14.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-757-9.
Gr 4-7–The outspoken book-hater and star of two previous adventures is heading off to Camp Rituhbukkee (“Pronounced ‘Read-a-Bookie”) for three weeks of academic enrichment at his parents’ behest. Adrift in a sea of kids who love to learn, the self-professed slacker resolves to mold his fellow campers into “normal, non-reading people,” but as events unfold and personal challenges abound, it begins to look like his plan might backfire. The snarky first-person narrative is peppered with wry humor, and the entertaining action is augmented by astutely presented friendship dilemmas. This snicker-inducing page-turner makes an engaging read-aloud and holds strong appeal for Charlie Joe’s reluctant-reader compatriots.
Like Bug Juice on a Burger. By Julie Sternberg. illus. by Matthew Cordell. Amulet/Abrams. 2013. Tr $14.95. ISBN 978-1-4197-0190-0.
Gr 2-4–At first, nine-year-old Eleanor is excited about going to her first-ever sleepaway camp, but a few mishaps–a tree-root tumble, a swim test that lands her in the baby group, yucky food, and far too many creepy-crawlies–soon have her longing for home. However, a kind new friend, intriguing new experiences, and small victories add up to positive experience. Told in first-person verse and illustrated with line drawings that reflect each emotional up and down, this charmer provides a candid, believable, and engaging look at growing up.
Lulu and the Dog from the Sea. By Hilary McKay. illus. by Priscilla Lamont. Albert Whitman. 2013. Tr $13.99. ISBN 978-0-8075-4820-2.
K-Gr 3–Seven-year-old Lulu and her family are looking forward to a pleasant seaside vacation, but when they arrive, they discover that the cottage they are renting has been besieged by a food-stealing, sand-scruffy stray. While the adults see a menace, Lulu sees a new friend and sets her sights on taming the pooch. Illustrated with breezy black-and-white sketches, this early chapter book percolates with warmhearted humor, true-to-life happenings, and honest emotion.