It’s summertime with its big bowl of a blue sky. Outside becomes another room, with open fields and the whir and buzz of bugs and baseball, and the voice of the water and the touch of sand.
Day One of summer, my son asks, “Now what?” So we ride our bikes to the library and load our backpacks with books about summer. Here’s a list to fill up the baggy pockets of summertime.
Summer and the Outside World
Oceans: Making Waves! created by Simon Basher and written by Dan Green and Dr. Frances Dipper (independent marine consultant) takes kids underwater to discover mountains taller than anything on dry land, and trenches deeper than Mount Everest is high. Green personifies the aspects of the ocean. Here’s the Tide talking: “I’m a bit of a lunatic! As the Moon passes overhead, the water in the ocean feels a tug toward it. That’s gravity. In fact the whole planet feels this force of attraction…” Filled with interesting facts that make you see the world of the ocean with new eyes (the giant kelp grows up to 20 inches (50 cm) per day!)
Ages 10-15 | Publisher: Kingfisher | March 27, 2012
By Charles Siebert; illustrated by Molly Baker
You’ll learn in The Secret World of Whales by Charles Siebert, illustrated by Molly Baker that the human brain and the whale brain are surprisingly similar and the sperm whale has the largest brain on earth, weighing more than 19 pounds (8.6 kilograms). Siebert explores the history, legends stories and science of whales. By the end, as the author did, you’ll want to have your own face-to-face encounter with this amazing creature.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Chronicle Books | April 20, 2011
Summer means getting outside and Citizen Scientists by Loree Griffin Burns, photography by Ellen Harasimowicz shows you how to engage with the natural world in a scientific way. You’ll discover how to capture and tag a Monarch butterfly without damaging its wings, and you’ll learn to distinguish between a male and female Monarch (no, I’m not going to tell you). You’ll find out how to step into the night and count frogs by their mating calls. You might be inspired to join the Lost Ladybug Project, in which kids around the country upload pictures of ladybugs to help scientists locate the nine-spotted ladybug, the transverse ladybug and the two-spotted ladybug.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. | February 14, 2012
By Vanessa Giancamilli Birch; illustrated by Alton Langford
When you go to the beach, you’re likely to see flocks of seagulls. Seagull by the Shore: The Story of a Herring Gull by Vanessa Giancamilli Birch, illustrated by Alton Langford gives you a new appreciation for the bird. To impress a female gull, a male gull with find a clam and drop it near the female, hoping to crack it and give the female something to eat. Eggs are laid, hatched, and the chicks are cared for—two months of caring before they fly from the nest.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Soundprints | June 28, 2011
Summer Days and Nights by Wong Herbert Yee uses a rhyme scheme and soft-colored illustrations to describe the summer days and nights of a little Asian girl and her family. “Summer nights, too hot to sleep, From the windowsill I peep. I hear a noise…a scritch-scratch sound. Something’s creeping on the ground.”
Ages 3-6 | Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. | April 10, 2011
The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Mermaids by Ammi-Joan Paquette, illustrated by Marie Letourneau, blends fact and fiction in its story and illustrations to tell the story of a boy and girl who go to the beach, hunting for mermaids. Photographs are merged with illustrations and wonderfully, suddenly mermaids are in the tide pools, along the shore, and so are their jewels. Facts about shells are combined with mermaids to bring realism and magic side-by-side: “This shell (abalone) has a tiny hole at the top. With the fine strand of a spider’s web, a mermaid can string herself a necklace that will glow like sunset.”
Ages 3-8 | Publisher: Tanglewood Press | February 8, 2011
Invariably, as your kid studies the outside world, they will come across the word “endangered.” Leopard & Silkie: One Boy’s Quest to Save the Seal Pups by Brenda Peterson, photographs by Robin Lindsey, is an antidote to the despair that threatens to take root. Six-year-old Miles organizes a rescue mission to help the baby seals left on the shore in the Pacific Northwest while their mothers hunt for food. “Every day during the summer, Miles looks for pups on the beach. He is a kid volunteer for the organization Seal Sitters.”
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.| April 24, 2011
Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems by Kate Coombs, illustrated by Meilo So takes you to the ocean, that big blue expanse, to praise it and laugh, to hear the “Sand’s Story,” “We used to be rocks, we used to be stones, We stood proud as castles, altars, and thrones. Once we were massive, looming in rings, holding up temples and posing as kings.” Appropriately Meilo So’s medium is watercolor and the images of water are rich and varied and beautiful.
Ages 1-8 | Publisher: Chronicle Books | March 14, 2011
Summer and Baseball
The fourth book in Nolan Carlson’s Summer and Shiner series, Shiner and Baseball finds Carley and his friends on a losing baseball team. They eventually find a coach who helps, but the real pleasure of this novel comes in its Kansas setting and a throw-back-to-another-time atmosphere. Harvey’s Hole is the best place to swim in all of Turtle Creek. The Rydell Carnival comes to town with a freak show and Casey listens not to itunes, but the radio and Benny Goodman.
Ages 9-12 | Publisher: Vinspire Publishing | December 31, 2011
By Tim Green
In Pinch Hit, by Tim Green, Sam and Trevor look like identical twins, but their lives couldn’t be more different. Trevor lives in a Bel Air mansion and has a lead role in a feature film; Sam’s family struggles to pay its bills, but Sam has something Trevor wants: Sam is a great baseball player. So Trevor proposes they trade places and there the adventure begins.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: HarperCollins | March 20, 2012
When baseball is outlawed, winter goes on, month after month, with endless piles of snow. In How Georgie Radbourn Saved Baseball by David Shannon the ballparks are bulldozed over and the ballplayers are thrown in the freezing cold Candlestick Prison. Shannon, who also illustrates the book, uses lots of dark and shadows to convey the melancholy that settles over the baseball-less land. But everything begins to change when Georgie Radbourn is born—when he begins to talk, the forbidden sayings of baseball pop out—“Batter up!”
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Scholastic | March 1, 2012
Summer and Sports
Something for kids who are lukewarm on baseball
In Gold Medal Summer by Donna Freitas, Joey Jordan, a gymnast, is at a crossroad, deciding whether to give up her sport or pursue her gold medal dreams. Frietas, a former gymnast, draws on her experience to create a realistic world—how it feels to do a back flip on a beam, to hear the cheers of the crowd and perform cartwheels, aerials, and handstands.
Ages 10-14 | Publisher: Scholastic | June 1, 2012
By John Coy
In the final installment of his 4 for 4 series, John Coy’s Take Your Best Shot portrays four middle school boys who are looking forward to basketball season. But life threatens to intrude: Jackson’s mom is marrying her boyfriend, Gig is worried about his father who is stationed in Afghanistan and the two others have so much going on they might not even play. Coy captures the volatile time of middle school, with the boys’ new interest in girls and school dances and the obligations of homework.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Square Fish | February 28, 2012
Nina Schuyler‘s first novel, The Painting, (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill/2004), was a finalist for the Northern California Book Awards. It was also selected by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the Best Books for 2004 and a “Great Debut from 2004” by the Rocky Mountain News. She currently teaches creative writing at the University of San Francisco and is working on a third novel.