Here is a collection of wonderful summery stories — stories about star gazing, bug collecting, playing baseball, picking berries, watching fireworks and more. Read these books on a blanket under a tree, by flashlight in a tent, or in your child’s bed after a long day of playing outside.
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. A story about a mix-up that occurs one day while Little Sal and her mother and Little Bear and his mother are picking blueberries on Blueberry Hill. This tale from 1948 still keeps young children on the edge of their seats. Ages 3+
Toot & Puddle: You Are My Sunshine by Holly Hobbie. A story about a friendship between two adorable pigs, Toot and Puddle. When Toot wakes up one day in a bad mood, Puddle goes to great lengths to try to cheer him up. Puddle bakes five-berry cobbler, takes Toot white water rafting, and invites friends over to play hide-and-seek in the woods. If you enjoy this story, look for other Toot and Puddle adventures. Ages 3+
The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer and Steve Johnson. A young boy discovers a salamander in the woods and imagines transforming his bedroom into a glorious salamander (and little kid) paradise. Ages 3+
Summertime in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Renee Graef. Describes the summertime adventures of Laura Ingalls Wilder, a young girl who lived in Wisconsin in the 1800s. Laura helps gather eggs and make cheese, plays with neighbors, and enjoys honey that her father discovers in the woods. Summertime in the Big Woods is one in a fantastic series of picture books, adapted from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House chapter books. My kids also love County Fair, a story about a young boy Almonzo who wins a blue ribbon at the county fair. Ages 3+
Olivia Forms a Band by Ian Falconer. A hilarious story about the always spunky Olivia pretending to be a marching band and watching July 4th fireworks with her family. Olivia Forms a Band is one of my children’s and husband’s favorite books. Ages 3+
Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell. Several books published within the past year would make great summer reads. See e.g. Blackout by John Rocco and Stars by Mary Lyn Ray. Of these, Me…Jane is my favorite! It is a charming story about scientist Jane Goodall’s childhood. As a child, Goodall spends her summers observing the natural world and dreaming about Africa. Ages 4+
Alejandro’s Gift by Richard Albert and Sylvia Long. A tale of a man Alejandro who lives by himself in the desert of the Southwestern United States. When Alejandro begins noticing and caring for his animal neighbors, he no longer feels lonely. Ages 4+
The Curious Garden by Peter Brown. A magical story about a young boy who discovers a patch of wildflowers growing on an abandoned railway. When the boy cares for the wildflowers, they begin to thrive and transform the city. Peter Brown has imagined and created a extraordinary green city that my children are delighted to visit. Ages 4+
Best Friends for Frances by Russell Hoban and Lillian Hoban. A rare and humorous tale of sibling friendship! Siblings Frances and Gloria and their friend Albert go on a wonderful summertime outing that includes a frog jumping contest, sack race, balloons for prizes, and an elaborate picnic. Best Friends for Frances does a great job of addressing the issue of being left out. Ages 4+
How Many Stars in the Sky? by Lenny Hort and James Ransome. On a sleepless summer night, a father and son set out to try to count all the stars in the sky. I love that the father in this story takes the time to observe the beauty of summer from his child’s point of view. Ages 4+
Chester’s Way by Kevin Henkes. A superbly entertaining story of friendship. When Lilly moves into the neighborhood, Chester and Wilson are initially suspicious of Lilly’s eccentric ways. After Chester and Wilson get past their initial distrust, they discover that they have things in common with Lilly and ultimately end up being great friends. Ages 4+
Enemy Pie by Derek Munson and Tara Calahan King. ”It should have been a perfect summer. My dad helped me build a tree house in our backyard. My sister was at camp for three whole weeks. And I was on the best baseball team in town…” So begins this witty story of what happens when Jeremy Ross, the narrator’s #1 enemy, moves into the neighborhood. Tara King’s wonderfully humorous illustrations are a perfect match for Derek Munson’s wonderfully humorous tale. Ages 5+
Henry Hikes to Fitchburg by D.B. Johnson. A story inspired by a passage from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond. While one bear works to earn enough money to take the train to Fitchburg, a second bear walks to Fitchburg. While walking to Fitchburg, the second bear discovers a bird’s nest, collects ferns and flowers, picks blackberries, and more. The endnotes introduce young readers to Thoreau and Thoreau’s love of long walks. Ages 5+
Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin and Harry Bliss. This description of life from the vantage point of a worm had me in stitches. If this book makes you — or your children — laugh, also check out Diary of a Spider and Diary of a Fly. Ages 6+
Flotsam by David Wiesner. A fanciful tale of a boy who discovers an old camera washed up on the beach. When the boy has the pictures developed, he discovers an awe-inspiring underwater world and more. This story is told without words by masterful illustrator and two-time Caldecott winner David Wiesner. Ages 6+
The Lost Lake by Allen Say. When Luke goes to live with his reserved, hardworking dad one summer, he quickly runs out of things to do. When Luke’s dad decides to take Luke on a camping trip, Luke discovers a new, more affectionate side of his dad. Ages 6+
1. Nature Table – Chalk in My Pocket 2. Land Art – The Artful Parent 3. Rainbow Popsicles – Sandy Toes & Popsicles 4. Painted Rocks – Candice Ashment Art 5. Watercolor Pages – Creative With Kids 6. Mud Pie Kitchen - Joyful Home 7. Mud Pie Kitchen - Pepper Paints 8. Outdoor Art Studio – Tinkerlab 9. Sandpit – Dwell
In addition to dreaming about the books we will read this summer, I have been dreaming about fun, summery activities. These are at the top of my list!
2) Build a sandpit or mud pie kitchen. Resolve to embrace the sand and mud that will inevitably get tracked in the house this summer. For inspiration, see this fantastic Mud Pie Kitchen Round-up from Let the Children Play or this How to Build a Natural Playscape slideshow from Dwell.
3) Give the kids a place to store and admire the rocks, pinecones and other natural treasures they discover. Offer the kids mason jars or shadow boxes to store their treasures in, or set up a nature table complete with magnify glasses and sketch pads where the kids can examine their treasures.
4) Create art outside. In the summer, my kids often choose to play outside rather than draw and paint. This summer, I would like to give the kids more opportunities to draw and paint outside. Here are a few of my favorite outdoor art projects:
- Bring an easel outside, or tape large sheets of paper to a fence.
- Make homemade fizzy sidewalk paint. (Quirky Momma)
- Make leaf and flower petal collages by pressing flower petals and leaves onto clear contact paper. (The Artful Parent)
- Paint rocks. (Candice Ashment Art)
- Introduce kids to the concept of land art. Make sculptures out of rocks, leaves, twigs and other found objects. (The Artful Parent)
5) Join us for the Summer Reading Challenge. The Summer Reading Challenge is for those of you who want to encourage your children to read but have no interest in timing your children’s reading sessions or prodding your children to work their way through a required reading list. For more information, see: Summer Reading Challenge.
You may also be interested in:
- 60 Not-to-be-Missed Picture Books
- 12 Children’s Books About Birds
- 12 Books for Nature-Loving Babies and Toddlers