What Are You Reading? August Book Picks
SHARED By: Katherine Grier, Librarian at York Avenue Preschool
I am getting things ready for our annual trip to Pine Point in Scarborough, Maine where my family has rented a beach house for six years now. Pine Point is a great place to vacation. The ocean air is wonderful and the beach is seven-miles of flat sand leading into some very cold, but refreshing water. It makes me feel relaxed and allows me to remember all of my favorite things about summer—sun, sand, watermelon, ice cream, amusement parks, swimming and more. Here are some of my favorite books that capture these feelings.
“Wave” by Suzy Lee
This elegant wordless picture book perfectly captures a little girl’s day at the beach and her flirtation with the waves on the shore. The book is a long rectangle shape which mimics the expansiveness of the beach brilliantly. The illustrations are done in soft charcoal with splashes of a dazzling blue that very effectively capture the ebb and flow (pun intended) of the movement and emotions of the girl, a flock of seagulls that is following her and the ocean itself. The story that these illustrations tells is in turn humorous, tender, playful, cheeky and bold. You can’t help but smile when the little girl taunts the ocean first with a roar and then by sticking out her tongue. You will also celebrate as the little girl conquers her fear and splashes gleefully in the water at the shore’s edge. Besides being the quintessential beach book, Wave also is a beautiful story of how children form friendships and how they come to know things. I highly recommend it.
“The Watermelon Seed” by Greg Pizzoli
This book is fun to read and to listen to. The author takes an age-old childhood myth and does a great job of turning it into an extremely entertaining summertime picture book. His exclusive use of the colors black, white, green and pink on every page is very captivating, too. The attractive front cover made me hungry for a big slice of watermelon the first time I saw it in the bookstore. And, the “Have you ever swallowed a watermelon seed?” question on the inside flap hooked me so that I had to read the entire thing right then and there. The story stars a bright green crocodile who absolutely loves watermelon. He loves it so much he eats it for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert (“Chomp, Chomp, Chomp”). But, his love turns to worry when he thinks he may have swallowed a seed. He imagines all sorts of things that will result and desperately pleads “Somebody please help me!” Just when it seems the little croc’s imagination and despair will get the best of him, the seed is ejected by a satisfying watermelon “Bburrrrrppp.” The relieved croc vows to never eat his favorite food again. Can he resist? The ending aptly informs you if he is able to keep his resolve!
We Had a Picnic This Sunday Past by Jacqueline Woodson
Whether it is held on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day or some other lazy weekend day in between, summer is not complete for me without a big family picnic. Author Jacqueline Woodson would seem to agree in her heartening, multi-cultural picture book “We Had a Picnic This Sunday Past.” In it, a young girl named Teeka takes a basket of chicken and some biscuits to the park with her grandmother. Various friends and relatives join them in succession, bringing delicious food and even more delicious personalities to the feast. Through lively dialogue and marvelous illustrations, we learn something interesting about each additional picnic-goer, and wait anxiously with them for the arrival of Aunt Martha and her apple pies (she eventually arrives with store bought cake, much to everyone’s surprise). The page showing Auntie Sadie’s shocked face when she finds her corn-on-the-cob platter covered with flies is my favorite. (Spoiler alert: the flies are plastic ones put there by a mischievous boy cousin whose parents are chasing after him in the background). I also love the warm bonds between the family members that are clearly evident in the illustrations and language. This picnic is a grand event begging to be read-aloud and shared with your own families.)
The Ice Cream King by Steve Metzger
This book may be hard to find, but it is worth searching out because it is a creative children’s fantasy that is a perfect treat for a hot summer day! The story is about a boy named Teddy Jones who goes to a new ice cream shop with his mom one day. While he is trying to decide what to get, the server puts a gold paper crown on Teddy. With the crown on his head, Teddy the “Ice Cream King” leaves the “real world” and dreams of his ice cream kingdom and all the magical things he can do there. Eventually he realizes that he is all alone in the kingdom without anyone to share the fun with, so he takes off the crown and decides to share a banana split with his mom instead. I liked the sharing message of the book, but really loved the way the book is presented. The author and illustrator show Teddy’s two contrasting worlds the same way MGM did in the classic Wizard of Oz movie starring Judy Garland. The real world of the ice cream shop is depicted primarily in black and white. The fantasy world of the ice cream kingdom is full of bright and colorful illustrations and rhyming text that really grab your attention. These contrasts make for a story book that is interesting and fun, and one which you and your children will thoroughly enjoy.
Roller Coaster by Marla Frazee
Wheeeeeeeeee! This picture book is the best introduction to the thrills and chills of riding a roller coaster I have ever come across. The story follows a diverse group of people who want to ride the “Rocket” roller coaster. Among them are an older couple, some tough guys, a little boy with a propeller cap, twins, and a brave little girl and her Dad. Readers will enjoy following all of these characters throughout the book, but will especially root for the little girl who is on her very first roller coaster ride. As the story progresses, it perfectly chronicles through words and illustrations the experience of riding (or changing your mind and not riding) this beloved amusement park staple, including the anticipation of waiting in line, the fear of not being tall enough to meet the ride’s height requirement, the decision whether or not to scream and hold up your arms, the nausea in your stomach from the loops, swoops and dives of the car and the wobbly legs you have when the ride is over. Every page of “Roller Coaster” is designed to delight and amuse. Hats fall off and get caught by birds, a woman’s perfect hair is completely mussed up, the tough guys get ill and the elderly couple visibly has a blast. If you read this book, I guarantee you will have a blast too.