3 New Summery Picture Books

Grains of Sand by Sibylle Delacroix

Grains of Sand by Sibylle Delacroix (9781771472050)

Two small children return home from a beach vacation. The little girl notices that her shoes are still filled with sand. When her brother asks her what she will do with them, she decides to plant them in the garden like seeds. Perhaps they will grow into yellow beach umbrellas, or huge pinwheels, or lemon ice cream. They could form a huge sandcastle, big enough to live in. Or best of all, maybe a beach will form at home. Before they can think of more ideas though, it’s time for bed and their father promises another trip to the beach next year. This picture book has a lovely mix of boisterous imaginings and also a steady quietness. The two children dream of what would grow from the grains of sand, thinking together about the possibilities even as they settle in at home. The illustrations are beautifully done in pencil with bursts of blue and yellow, the yellow setting the page aglow. This is a winner of a summer read, just right for bedtime. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The Sandcastle That Lola Built by Megan Maynor

The Sandcastle That Lola Built by Megan Maynor, illustrated by Kate Berube (9781524716165)

This summery picture book offers a riff on The House That Jack Built. Lola is busily building a sandcastle on the beach. She makes a tall tower and tops it with a piece of sea glass that will signal the mermaids. But then a kid playing frisbee accidentally knocks her castle down. He stays to help rebuild this time with a wall around the castle to protect it. A little boy pushes a bulldozer into the wall and he stays to help dig a moat around the wall. A girl trips and spills her shells. She stays to build too. But then a wave wipes all of their building away. Lola is ready to quit until the others inspire her to keep on building.

Using the format of The House That Jack Built as a place to build from, this book does not stick solely to that structure. Instead it adds walls, moats, and friendship to the tale, creating a looser storyline. The illustrations are friendly and bright with a diverse cast of children who play together and others who fill the beach in the background. A great book to enjoy with your feet in the sand. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from e-galley provided by Edelweiss and Alfred A. Knopf.)

Summer Supper by Rubin Pfeffer

Summer Supper by Rubin Pfeffer, illustrated by Mike Austin (9781524714642)

Told entirely in words that start with the letter S, this picture book is a celebration of summer, seeds and sunshine. In their garden, a family grows spinach, squash, spuds, strawberries and sunflowers. The story begins with the sowing of the seeds, watering them and the sprouts growing. It moves quickly on to harvest where the vegetables are made into salad and succotash. The night ends with music, cleaning up and bed. And maybe one final snack.

Told in very simple words, the story is accented by “s” words shared right in the illustrations. The book is fast moving which will be welcomed by small children who are eager to see the results of the hard work of gardening. The celebratory nature of the book revolves around the harvest and the family. The illustrations are bright and merry, showing the color of the garden. A yummy book to share throughout the spring, summer and fall. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from e-galley provided by Edelweiss and Random House.)

Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea by Lynne Rae Perkins

Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea by Lynne Rae Perkins

Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea by Lynne Rae Perkins (9780062499684)

Released May 15, 2018.

Newbery-Medal winner Perkins returns with a charming story of a summer vacation on the beach. Alix and Jools are heading out with their parents for their first beach vacation ever. It means leaving Alix’s best friend behind as well as their dog for a whole week. Both Alix and Jools are nervous about the trip, but they soon discover the many pleasures of being on a beach: sandcastles, long walks on the shore, bike rides, a local bakery, and maybe even a new friend. There are also surprises for them like eating periwinkles they gather themselves, seeing horseshoe crabs, and making a connection with a wounded falcon. It’s a week they will never forget and one that they hope to repeat again.

Perkins writes with a light hand for young readers. There is a sense of adventure on the pages and yet the discoveries and experiences are wonderfully mundane and things that children might experience themselves. The two sisters are quite different with Alix being a person who jumps in and tries things and Jools being more mature about things and less likely to take risks. As their vacation week progresses, they both learn that the other sister wishes they had some of the same qualities.

The art in the book breaks the text up nicely for young readers and also invites the reader to better understand what is happening the story. From horseshoe crabs to the landlady to releasing a falcon, the images are sand-filled and merry.

A great summer read for younger readers. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Greenwillow Books and Edelweiss.

Over the Ocean by Taro Gomi

Over the Ocean by Taro Gomi

Over the Ocean by Taro Gomi

Released May 17, 2016.

Originally published in Japan in 1979, Gomi has created a timeless picture book that will speak to modern children beautifully. A child is standing on a beach looking over the ocean. The child wonders what is beyond the ocean. Is it more ocean? Perhaps many boats. The land beyond may be filled with farms, or huge cities, or small houses. Children may live in those houses, ones who could be friends or could be bullies. Are there icebergs? Is it night? Or perhaps there is another solitary child looking right back across the ocean.

So simple, this Japanese picture book offers an imaginative look at what is in our world from a child’s point of view. Gomi captures that childlike view perfectly, allowing jumps of attention and new thoughts to create a natural flow to the narrative. The ending is a gorgeous cap to the book, showing throughout that the people on either side of an ocean are more similar than they are different in a subtle way.

The art is filled with deep colors that are so rich they almost bleed on the page. The art is so vibrant, each page anchored by the child looking across the ocean with small waves breaking. It is a place where imagination soars and a journey is made from right there without ever getting wet.

A vibrant picture book from Japan that offers a glimpse of what lays beyond our doors. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

 

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley, illustrated by Lauren Castillo (InfoSoup)

Lucy spent a long time playing at the beach with her mother and father. The three of them played in the waves, dug holes in the sand, and rolled down the dunes. Soon they were all yawning and Mom declared it was a day for early bedtime! As they got ready for bed, everyone was yawning and Lucy’s mom even fell asleep reading the bedtime book. In the middle of the night the moon shone brightly through Lucy’s window and she was suddenly wide awake. She tiptoed out of bed and through the living room where her father was asleep in a chair. Lucy was looking for Molasses, her bear. She found not only Molasses but all of her stuffed animals who all wanted to come with her to bed. Once again everyone was yawning, even the pictures on the wall, as Lucy fell asleep with her bed full of stuffed friends.

Smiley has done a brilliant job of capturing a day at the beach and then the wonder of being awake at night as a small child. She keeps the language simple, so this book can be shared successfully with very small children who will relate to the joy of playing at a beach, the quiet of early bedtime and then the pure loveliness of moonlight, tiptoeing to find a treasured toy and the imagination at play.

Castillo’s illustrations are glorious. She captures the brilliant light of summer sun at a sandy beach, the hours of play, and the languid sleepiness that rolls over you after a day like that. Her illustrations keep the dark night from being dangerous or frightening, instead keeping the house dimly lit and easily navigated. It is much more a delight than a fright to be alone and awake.

A lovely book of celebrating the warmth of both family togetherness and then the joy of being little and awake alone. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Two Lions.

 

 

Review: The Forget-Me-Not Summer by Leila Howland

The Forget Me Not Summer by Leila Howland

The Forget-Me-Not Summer by Leila Howland (InfoSoup)

Marigold, Zinnie and Lily are sisters. They live busy lives in California where Marigold is hoping to have a real kiss for the first time, not one done on set. Zinnie is trying to get her curly wild hair under control and hopes to be able to spend time with Marigold and her friends. Lily is five and wants nothing more than to stay home with her nanny and eat great food. But then their parents get jobs out of town and the sisters are sent to spend the summer with an aunt they have never met across the country in Cape Cod. The three girls suddenly have to share a room with one another, live without a TV, not have cell phone service, and even the internet access is outdated and slow. Marigold is furious at losing a chance to be in a major film and having to spend time with her little sisters. Zinnie finds herself talking to trees for advice and watching for surprises created by special brownies. Lily longs for the food she had at home but also enjoys a good clambake too. Just as things seem to be starting to turn around, parts of California life appear and set everything askew again. These three sisters will have to figure out how to be themselves even when kisses, peer pressure and fame appear.

This book will inevitably be compared to the Penderwicks and rightly so. The sisters have that same spunk about them and the setting offers that timelessness that works so well. Though in this book, the girls chafe against the loss of TV and Internet, struggling to get along with one another. These sisters have fights, that are so well done that you understand both sides of the problem and can take the side of either one. The two older girls in particular both are human and far from perfect. Lily may look angelic but she too can throw tantrums and have horrible days, especially if baths are not negotiated properly.

It is that human quality that makes this book work so very well. The sisters are realistically portrayed and their relationships develop and change right in front of the reader in a way that makes sense. The unknown aunt turns out to be a very special person, kind and caring and someone who is a leader in the Cape Cod community. It’s a treat to see such a great female adult portrayed in a children’s book. One who is strong, enjoys children and gives them plenty of space to learn and grow without being overly odd or incompetent in any way.

A great summer read for fans of The Penderwicks, I’m hoping for another book featuring these girls. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

Review: Beach House by Deanna Caswell

Beach House by Deanna Caswell

Beach House by Deanna Caswell, illustrated by Amy June Bates (InfoSoup)

A family is headed to a beach house after waiting a year for summer to return. When they arrive it’s not time for the beach yet. The car has to be unloaded and things have to be unpacked. The kids make their beds, but can’t stop looking out the window at the waves and the beach. Then chores are done and it’s time to go! The family heads out to the beach where they spend the day in the water, building sandcastles, clam digging, chasing crabs and much more. In the evening, they have a campfire and roast hotdogs before heading inside for baths and bed. And one last moonlit look at the beach before falling asleep.

Caswell captures the beach and the sun and the water and sand in her rhyming couplets. It could be a sea, it could be a lake, it’s all about the experience of being near water and playing in waves. A day spent with family soaking in the sun and then being together still when the day is done. Families who have spent time together near the water will all recognize their days of sun and waves on these pages.

The illustrations shine with golden sand and dancing water. They are filled with the movement of the breeze at the beach, with the joy of the sun and the connection with family. One can almost smell the campfire smoke in the air or the ocean salt. The pictures here sing with freedom and long days spent together. The washes of watercolor that make the waves and the sky create a sense of timeless ease on the page.

A book of family connection and love that brings the glory of a beach vacation right off the page. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

Review: The Specific Ocean by Kyo Maclear

Specific Ocean by Kyo Maclear

The Specific Ocean by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Katty Maurey

Released on August 1, 2015.

A girl does not want to leaver her friends behind in the city and head off for summer vacation. There’s nothing to do in the little house near the ocean that she used to call The Specific Ocean instead of the Pacific. She starts out with a moping schedule and refuses to head to the water. The next day though, she does go down with her family and the water is cold but it also has warm spots. The next day, she races her brother down to the beach. They spend time floating in the waves, walking along the shoreline, and sitting on the rocks to watch the waves. The girl decides that she wants to have some of the ocean to call her own and to bring home, but that won’t work. So she has to figure out how to take the feeling of it home with her, deep inside.

Maclear has written a book about the process of change and the time that it takes to allow new experiences in. Time in the book moves slowly forward, allowing the girl the chance to change her mind in a natural way. Then the connection with nature becomes a delight, a way to spend the long days of vacation. The ocean becomes not just a source of activity for her, but a source of personal peace and joy. That process is honored here, that feeling of being connected to the world as a whole and wanting to keep that feeling with you every day. The prose in this book is exceptional. Maclear writes in first person and allows the girl’s voice to be poetic but still childlike and simple.

Maurey’s illustrations are filled with an inner glow that is helped by the pastel palette that is used. The sun shines on the page, the water beckons. The book has that dreamlike quality that many good vacations do, especially those filled with salt water and sand.

This quiet picture book speaks to those who don’t like change but is ultimately about nature and its power in our lives. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.

Review: Feet Go to Sleep by Barbara Bottner

Feet Go to Sleep by Barbara Bottner

Feet Go to Sleep by Barbara Bottner, illustrated by Maggie Smith

In a house on the beach, Fiona doesn’t want to go to sleep. She’s had such an amazing day that she doesn’t want it to end! But she is just a little tired after all that they’ve done. As she climbs into bed, she starts with her toes, telling them to go to sleep. She tells her feet next, remembering how they loved stomping in the waves. Then come her knees that had held her strong on the sand as she build a castle. Her legs are the next to go to sleep, after spending the day running. Her tummy ate lots of berries during the day and goes to sleep too. Fiona works her way all the way up to her ears, eyes and mouth, until finally her mind is quiet enough to sleep.

With a proven technique, Bottner demonstrates a way that children can calm themselves at bedtime by both taking control of their body and mind but also celebrating the day that they have had. The book shows the technique clearly rather that teaching it to the adult separately. This approach to bedtime is simple and calming, creating moments where child and parent can share what they found joy in during their busy day. Fiona’s mother stays with her for most of the process, but leaves as Fiona finishes on her own, shutting her ears and eyes to the activity around her and drifting gracefully off to sleep.

Smith’s illustrations use an inset image to show in the large portion of the picture the grand and sunny day that Fiona has experienced and then in a smaller and darker image Fiona putting a body part to sleep that matches the activity of the larger picture. The book shines with the joy of a beach vacation captured in all of its wild colors and sun. Yet at the same time it is an immensely soothing book with its focus on quiet and calm.

A bedtime book that just might result in actual sleep! This picture book shows a different way for parents to approach bedtime wiggles. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from digital copy received from Edelweiss and Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Review: Lulu and the Dog from the Sea by Hilary McKay

lulu and the dog from the sea

Lulu and the Dog from the Sea by Hilary McKay

Released on March 1, 2013.

This second book in the Lulu series continues the story of Lulu, a seven-year-old girl who loves all kinds of animals.  In this story, Lulu goes on vacation by the seaside with her parents, her dog,  and her cousin, Mellie, who is also seven.  At the seaside, they stay at a small cottage and Lulu quickly finds out about a stray dog who has been living off of garbage along the beach.  Lulu sets out to make friends with the dog, but no one else is enthusiastic.  Mellie just wants to build her kite, Lulu’s mother just wants to read the stack of books she brought along, and her dad wants to work on his running.  But Lulu knows that this stray is actually a very special dog, she just has to convince the rest of them.

McKay has a knack for creating characters and experiences that read as vibrantly true and honest.  In her books, there are lost kite bits, sand tracked into the house, trashed garbage cans, and too many shopping trips for forgotten items.  At the same time, there is also the love of a dog, a family that truly spends time with one another, and the success of plans coming together in the end, perhaps not exactly as planned.  As with her previous books, I have always wanted to live in a McKay novel in the midst of the loving mess.

I must also mention that this is an early reader series featuring a modern family of color.  Nothing is made of this fact in the stories.  It is just there, not a plot point, just a fact.  It’s handled with a matter-of-fact nature that I wish we saw more of in books for children.

A great addition to this growing series, the second Lulu book is sure to please fans of the first and bring new fans to the series too.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from digital copy received from Albert Whitman & Company.