In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Guest blog: Picture Books that Capture the Essence of Summer

Dear Aunt Debbie,

We are so thrilled to welcome Natasha as part of the family!  In our extended cousin mix, Eleanor and Isabel have been the only representatives of their generation, and it's thrilling to see the ranks expand.
I'm very close to the end of portfolio grading, and will return as my full self next week.  Until then, here is my friend Denise, middle-school teacher and mom of Eleanor's friend Jazzy, who has guest-blogged before, on books for summer:

Some signs of summer that stand out to me are:
  • the scent of linden trees on most Brooklyn sidewalks and throughout Prospect Park
  • red, bright pink, yellow roses in peak abundance
  • the elusive mosquito escaping a determined palm then leaving itchy marks on limbs
  • sprinklers, water balloons, sandals
  • free park concerts - I especially enjoyed the ones at Pier 1 Brooklyn Bridge Park
  • the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island tomorrow that will re-awaken the sea creatures within my daughter Jazzy and me
  • reading books to my kids that capture the essence of summer

Mermaids on Parade
by Melanie Hope Greenberg: a picture book from the point of view of a girl who participates in the mermaid parade as the Shy Mermaid Coming Out of Her Shell. I love the colorful artwork that captures the artistic and creative vibrancy of this event. The girl describes the excitement vividly and simply: “King Neptune and Queen Mermaid lead the parade of gorgeous glistening creatures. The heat rising from the steamy sidewalk makes them seem to sway and shimmer. I can hear ocean waves pounding onto the shore and my heart beats faster.” At the end of the book is a brief history on the parade and a page on how to make your own mermaid tail. While not the most creative narrative, the book is fun to read in preparation for the parade.

by Dubose and Dorothy Heyward based on the lyrics to the song by George and Ira Gershwin. The paintings by Mike Wimmer capture bucolic scenes of children playing in the countryside, a nice contrast to the cityscapes we are so accustomed to. Listening to a version of the song (I like Billie Holiday singing it) combined with reading the book is a good way to introduce a great American standard into a child’s musical vernacular. 

Mama, Is It Summer Yet?
by Nikki McClure has simple words and a simple narrative; a child is repeatedly asking his mother if it is summer yet and the mother explains different aspects of nature that show that it is spring and that summer is imminent. For instance, the first response the child’s inquiry is, “Not yet, my little one. But the buds are swelling. Soon new leaves will unfold.” Another response: “Not yet, my little one. But the swallows are singing. Soon warmer winds will blow.” Of course in the end, summer arrives and the landscape changes. What I love best about this book and others by McClure is her distinct style of illustrations that she creates by using an X-Acto knife on black paper.

We're Going on a Bear Hunt
by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury is a precious book about a family going on an adventure to hunt a bear. There is a repeated chorus: we’re going on a bear hunt, we’re going to catch a big one, what a beautiful day, we’re not scared. Then they cross several obstacles until they finally meet the bear in gloomy, dark cave. This is a book that we recite when go hiking and/or camping or even when we’re just walking to daycare in the morning. It’s a book that really makes you value the great outdoors.

by Suzy Lee makes me so excited to go to the beach (even if it’s just the beach at Coney Island tomorrow which will be crowded with people in costumes and other large groups of people). Lee is one of my favorite children’s book illustrators/writers. This one is wordless and follows a girl and her interaction with waves. As my daughter looks at the illustrations, I ask her questions to aid her in narrating her own story.

Other beach books we’ve borrowed from the library and enjoyed are:

Bats at the Library by Brian Lies
Ladybug Girl at the Beach by Jacky Davis and David Soman


I'm feeling it.  Bring on summer!

Love, Annie  

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