Our Four Favorite Picture Books For Summer


Can you tell we’re getting ready to go back to the beach?  Here are a few books we’ll be packing (and have been reading nonstop).Untitled


1.  If You Want to See a Whale by Julie Fogliano

if you want to see a whale

you will need a not-too-comfy chair

and a not-too-cozy blanket

because sleeping eyes can’t watch for whales

and whales won’t wait for watching.

The lyrical nature of this book, coupled with the deceptively simple (yet gorgeous) illustrations make this one a joy to read over and over (and over and over) and over and over again.

The end is pretty awesome, too.



2.  When a Dragon Moves In by Jodi Moore

This book is pure fun.  “If you build a perfect sandcastle, a dragon will move in.”  However, only the little boy can actually see the dragon.  All of the dragon’s antics *could* be explained away (are those dragon prints in the sand, or the prints from the boy’s flippers?) and it’s been fun to see Raines start to realize that there’s more to the story.  Also? The book is funny.  Like honestly and ever-so-slightly-dry humor, funny.  Making it another one of the few I can read three times in a row without losing my marbles.


3. Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

When I was little, this book was called The Lupine Lady.  It’s a story of Alice, a little girl whose grandfather tells her that there are three things she must do in life: visit far away places, live by the sea, and do something to make the world more beautiful.

This story is simple, yet feels expansive.  It’s heartfelt and meaningful, but never preachy.  The illustrations steal my breath.  It’s a perfect story for setting out on an adventure of your own, or looking up at the stars and trying to make sense of our very small place in this big world.

The book ends with Alice’s great-niece (the narrator all along) saying,

“When I grow up, I too will go to faraway places and come home to live by the sea.”

“That is all very well, little Alice,” says my aunt, “but there is a third thing you must do.”

“What is that?” I ask.

“You must do something to make the world more beautiful.”

“All right,” I say.

But I do not know yet what that can be.

(And the strong woman role model here just totally floats my boat.)


4. The Seashore Book by Charlotte Zolotow

One night, a mother is asked by her son to describe the seashore.  This book is her description, complete with illustrations so gorgeous, it’s impossible not to be transported.  The text is longer than most picture books, however, so the littlest ones might have trouble.  However, the author invokes all of the senses (for example the water feels like “peppermint” on your skin) and it never fails to calm my boys.   In fact, this is the book to read at the end of a long summer day.  It’s like reading a lullaby (aka THEY WILL SLEEP.  YESSSSS).


These are our summer favorites….I’d sincerely love to hear yours.  (We’re pretty big book nerds around here.)





  1. Books are the one thing we are unabashedly extravagant about. Part of my excuse is that we live in Amsterdam and the library has a very small selection of English books, but honestly, I doubt it would change much even if we were still in Canada.

    For beach-themed, Flotsam by David Wiesner is wordless and wonderful. About a boy who discovers an underwater camera washed up on the beach and develops the photos which are completely magical.

    We love Robert Munsch books, especially The Paperbag Princess, which I think every child should read. But for more summery, maybe Murmel, Murmel, Murmel (about a girl who discovers something unusual in her sandbox).

    Another current favourite is Oliver Jeffers’s The Incredible Book-Eating Boy. The illustrations are fabulous and the story is funny.

    My 3-year-old actually loves Winnie-the-Pooh stories already even though the picture to text ratio is low. Best for bedtime when they’re ready to sit still for a bit. The Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel are also great. Simple stories but they are so, so funny. I have re-read them a million times and am not sick of them yet.

    Some other current favourites are The Day I Swapped my Dad for 2 Goldfish by Neil Gaiman, Little Night by Yuyi Morales (wonderful bedtime book), Bread and Jam for Frances by Russel Hoban, Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey is a classic, The Boy From the Sun by Duncan Weller has wonderfully surreal illustrations, and Mrs.Armitage Queen of the Road by Quentin Blake is just awesome because what other kids book has an eccentric old lady make friends with a bunch of bikers! Happy Reading!

  2. When I was a child Where The Wild Things Are was read until the book became a stack of pages. I still own them. Other than that anything by Lauren Child.

  3. My Two yearold machine, robot loving son has recently been discovering picture books (instead of board books). Library visits are some of my favourite adventures now. We will be reserving the whale and dragon one for sure.

    Our favourites recently (that I think your older boys will enjoy) are:

    1- Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen
    Also notable are his “If I Built” books about a boy who invents the coolest of cars and houses.

    2- Clink by Kelly DiPucchio

    3- GoGo Gorillas and Cha Cha Chimps by Julia Durango

    4- And The Train Goes by William Bee
    (also And The Car Goes) These have the greatest illustrations and room for fun accents.

    5- Roller Coaster by Marla Frazee

  4. LOVE these picks- and “Miss Rumphius” is a favorite of mine on so many levels. As a matter of fact, it is often a book I gift to teachers along with a lupine plant.

    “Flotsam” by David Wiesner is another favorite of my boys- it lead to a week of them taking their own photos and drawing what they imagined they would find under the sea (oh, and buying a camera to do just that when we visited the seashore in Cape Cod and Maine).

    “If You Find a Rock” by Peggy Christian. The photos are not as gorgeous as the ones in the books you have listed, but the story of different types of rocks captivated my two sons….skipping rocks, chalk rocks, resting rocks, and their most favorite- wishing rocks.

    “The Curious Garden” by Peter Brown. Fabulous book inspired by the High Line in NYC- a FABULOUS spot to visit with your children if you are in the area. And a wonderful message of how the dreams and efforts of one little boy can help change the world- this was a powerful one for my boys to read.

    Love this post. I LOVE books and second to Legos, books over run our home- and I am perfectly okay with that.

    • Legos and books over run our house as well. We love Oliver Jeffers and we just checked out Lemony Snicket’s Dark. It’s really good. Kind of creepy but good.

  5. Love all the suggestions!
    We also love Ladybug Girl books (but not the board books, which are lame) by David Soman and Jackie Davis — strong female characters, the world from the perspective of a child, great life lessons, and gorgeous painted pictures. Ladybug Girl at the Beach is a good summer one, and Ladybug Girl and Bingo is about camping.

  6. Since having kids I’ve developed a deeply dorky love of children’s literature. We love Kevin Henkes at our house and have just discovered Graeme Base (Animalia and The Watering Hole are my son’s FAVORITE books). I love the Grace series by Mary Hoffman and the Frances series by Russell Hoban, especially for my little girl. I want to thank you for recommending Iggy Peck Architect. That, and Rosie Revere Engineer, are two of our favorites.

  7. Absolutely love Miss Rumphius. It’s one of my favorite children’s books…when I was teaching, I’d read it to my class at the beginning & end of the year. Such a great message. Just put “If you want to see a whale” on hold at our library–thanks for the recommendation! We’ve got potty training on our brains, so it’s nothing but potty related books around our house, but…another one I’m loving is “We planted a tree” by Diane Muldrow…tells the story of a couple of families from different parts of the world who planted trees, and how they grow and change (and are different) across the seasons. Love it!

  8. My two year old loves to read, and sits through 2-4 books before bedtime. And often when she’s quiet we find her “reading” to herself (and sometimes she’s unrolling the toilet paper). But my fav out of all her books is The Little House. I like the idea of the quiet countryside & simple life.


    But I love all the above selections. I there will be a book buying trip in the near future. I’m always on the hunt for books that don’t make you crazy to read them.

    • We love Mo Willems, too. His Elephant and Piggie series is awesome for new readers. It’s characteristic Mo WIllems humor, and also it’s mostly dialogue between Gerald the elephant and his best friend Piggie, so one of you can read each character and you can get through the book at a reasonable pace, even with a beginner.

  9. Thanks..added to my library list for the kids..we all love to read in this house..Shana, you should do a future post on book picks for us mommas

  10. Holland by Charlotte Dematons. No words, just beautiful illustrations of people and places in Holland, with recurring hidden things. Beautiful.

  11. Just wanted to thank you for the suggestion of Miss Rumphius. Read it to my daughter (age 5) today. I told her it might be about my mother, whose name is Alice, who lived a very adventurous life, who now has white hair, a bad back and loves to garden. My daughter was thrilled. You see, my mother is quite old now and my daughter thinks she is “boring” because she can’t run and play. In the moments we finished the book, she viewed my mother differently & that was a gift to me. While my mother is older and “boring” now, she was once wild and brave and I love the stories of who she used to be. This book gave my daughter a connection to her grandmother that she never had before.

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