Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

Happy-Making Picture Books Filling Our Summer Reading Sheets

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Ashlie Swicker


Ashlie (she/her) is an educator, librarian, and writer. She is committed to diversifying the reading lives of her students and supporting fat acceptance as it intersects with other women’s issues. She's also perpetually striving to learn more about how she can use her many privileges to support marginalized groups. Interests include learning how to roller skate with her local roller derby team, buying more books than she'll ever read, hiking with her husband and sons, and making lists to avoid real work. You can find her on Instagram (@ashlieelizabeth), Twitter (@mygirlsimple) or at her website,

This summer has not turned out as I pictured it.  World events are heartbreaking, and many people I love are hurting. My family is in the middle of a move fraught with setback after setback. (I’ve seen HGTV. I knew this could happen, but I never pictured it happening to us.) Where I live there is a spate of unbearably humid weather. I’m all out of episodes of my favorite show on Netflix. There is a sliding scale of terrible, and events from the most serious to almost insignificant are under my skin.

One constant? The library. If you’re reading this, you know. There has been celebration of fun summer reading programs, and ours is no exception. The one thing we’ve stuck with through weeks of crying over the news, navigating how to explain a hateful world to my preschool-aged sons, fighting with lawyers on the phone, and cancelled beach plans: our weekly trip to the library, and daily recording of our reading on our summer reading program form. I’ve rounded up some of the books that have made us smile, and I hope they’ll bring you a little bit of the same warmth (and get you to that ice cream cone reward or a ticket in the bike raffle!)

Hug Me Simona CiraoloHug Me by Simona Ciraolo  

In Hug Me, our adorable main character is starved for love, but who can hug a cactus? I’m a huge fan of the illustration involving Sudoku and takeout containers. Hug Me is sweet and silly, a great read to remind young readers to find a friend who gets them.

Apple Pie Fourth of July Janet WongApple Pie Fourth Of July by Janet Wong and Margaret Chodos-Irvine

Apple Pie Fourth of July was a natural choice for the holiday weekend, but we enjoyed it for weeks after. A young girl spends America’s birthday fretting that her immigrant parents just don’t get it, but by the end of the day the town has celebrated with both Chinese food and the traditions of their new home. Eggrolls and fireworks,yes please!

Trixie Ten Sarah MassiniTrixie Ten by Sarah Massini

Counting to ten is one of the most basic preschool milestones, and this sweet little book presents a fresh storyline for supporting that skill, using darling fingerprint characters. Trixie can’t take the chaos of her nine brothers and sisters for one more second, but as she sets out in search of some peace, she realizes that maybe home is where she belong. We will be reading this one through the school year, I’m sure.

Nuts in Space Elys DolanNuts in Space by Elys Dolan

A comic primer picture book, this homage to classic space exploration fandoms is silly and boasts complex illustrations you can pore over for hours. The plot is conveyed through speech bubbles, so the first read can be a little rough, but luckily this book was requested over and over, so I really got to polish my performance. Adult readers will appreciate the nods to Star Wars and Star Trek. All readers will appreciate the absurdity. So fun!

Over the Ocean Taro GomiOver the Ocean by Taro Gomi

Over the Ocean is gentle. Like most Gomi stories, the simplicity radiates in short sentences and linear illustrations. A nameless character gazes over the ocean and wonders about the things that might be on the other side. Despite the seeming lack of content, my children and I actually found a lot to discuss. We saved this one for second to last at bedtime.

Adventures of Beekle Dan SantatThe Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat

Beekle has been a favorite in our house for awhile, but he’s having a renaissance in our rotation this summer. There is nothing not to love in this book with sumptuous illustrations, sweet characters, and an adventurous plot that turns the imaginary-friend narrative on it’s side. We can’t stop picking our current favorite friendship pairing  (the end pages are the place for this debate) and tracing Beekle’s journey to find the kid who needs to imagine him.
This is only a sampling of what we’re enjoying as summer reading winds down in my town, but I would love some more recs to get us to the end of our sheet! What picture books made you smile this summer?