It’s August and that makes me think of summer books for kids and titles to read before summer ends. I can’t be the only adult who feels nostalgic thinking about a string of warm weather days with no particular plans. I imagine myself going on adventurous hikes through stunning mountains or learning an exciting new language while sampling the best baked goods available in a foreign country. Obviously as a real-life adult, I don’t usually have that kind of time. And if I did, let’s be real. I would probably just spend it reading, drinking coffee, and ignoring my to-do list. However, I do like the idea of all that free time.
If you’re an adult with caregiving responsibilities, then unscheduled days mean figuring out how to keep little monsters fed and occupied, without your living or work space slipping into an intolerable level of chaos. Of course, this is where books can help. If you’re specifically looking for recommendations for very young readers, try these titles for preschoolers. However, if your readers are a bit older, then I have ideas for elementary school readers from about 5 to 10 years of age. Below is a list of children’s books about summer for now or whenever the mood strikes you to imagine long, sunny days full of possibility.
Granny’s Kitchen: A Jamaican Story of Food and Family by Sadé Smith and illustrated by Ken Daley
This picture fiction by Canadian author Sadé Smith is the story of a girl living in Jamaica and spending time with her most favorite person, her grandmother. Shelly-Ann asks her grandmother how to cook dishes like dumplins and ackee, but she makes mistakes along the way. Her grandmother encourages and gently corrects her, saying she will get it right next time. The book includes recipes for dumplins, ackee, saltfish, and fried plantains at the end and some facts about Jamaica for little readers.
If you like the vivid illustrations or want another book set in the Caribbean for your summer books for kids, check out Auntie Luce’s Talking Paintings by Francie Latour and also illustrated by Ken Daley. It’s about a little girl who travels from the U.S. back to Haiti to visit her beloved aunt. For slightly older readers, Latour and Daley’s book provide vibrant scenes and help readers make connections between Haiti’s past and its present. The aunt says, “To paint Haiti takes the darkest colors and the brightest ones, and all the colors in between.” The author includes a glossary about the words she used in her story and a note about the U.S. and Haiti’s birth stories at the end. Definitely get a copy if you can!
Nana, Nenek & Nina by Liza Ferneyhough (August 9)
Nina has two grandmothers in different countries, one in the UK and one in Malaysia. Adorable illustrations take the reader through how to pronounce both grandmothers’ nicknames and some of the activities that Nina does with both. Great for families and readers from diverse backgrounds.
More Than Peach by Bellen Woodard and illustrated by Fanny Liem
This book is written by 11-year-old Bellen Woodard, who noticed that when her friends referred to the “skin color crayon,” they meant peach. Knowing that skin color comes in many shades, Woodard started a project to include more than just peach for “skin color” in boxes of crayons. Good for little budding activists and anyone who needs a little encouragement about changing and improving the world they see around them. This is also a good “back-to-school” addition to your collection.
Another good “back-to-school” book to preorder is Keah Brown’s Sam’s Super Seats. If you aren’t familiar with Brown’s work, check out her memoir The Pretty One: On Life, Pop Culture, Disability and Other Reasons to Fall in Love with Me. Her children’s book Sam’s Super Seats releases August 23 and conveys the importance of resting for a little girl who has cerebral palsy, a condition Brown knows first-hand. I’m looking forward to reading this one soon and hope many people will pick it up too.
My Name is Cool by Antonio Sacre and illustrated by Sarah Demonteverde
Sacre is Cuban Irish American and bilingual in Spanish and English. The boy in his picture fiction book has a lot of nicknames, some from his English-speaking mother and some from his Spanish-speaking father and other loved ones. This is a nice addition to the more diverse titles that have been published recently about names.
If you like this, you could also check out Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow’s Your Name Is a Song. Also with slightly older elementary readers, try The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi or Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal to name a few excellent books that have come out recently.
The Moon Jumpers by Janice May Udry and illustrated by Maurice Sendak
Written in 1959, this classic about four children and a cat romping around on a summer’s night received a Caldecott Honor for Maurice Sendak’s illustrations. I’ve read Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are many times, but I had never picked up any other books of his until now. Glad I stumbled across this one. There is something very magical about his depictions of these children playing outside at night.
Sakamoto’s Swim Club by Julie Abery and Chris Sasaki
This is based on the true story of Soichi Sakamoto, a science teacher who determined to teach some local kids to swim in 1930s Maui. Although he wasn’t a formal coach, he figured out ways to help them improve so much that they eventually formed a club and went on to compete in swim matches that led to Olympic gold. If you read this and want to know the whole story, check out Julie Checkoway’s The Three-Year Swim Club: The Untold Story of Maui’s Sugar Ditch Kids and Their Quest for Olympic Glory.
Saving American Beach by Heidi Tyline King and illustrated by Ekua Holmes
This tells the true story of African American Environmentalist MaVynee Betsch and her quest to save a beach her grandfather bought and offered to other kids like her who couldn’t go to segregated beaches under Jim Crow laws. Once a beautiful vacation spot, this Florida beach fell into disrepair after years of neglect. Betsch worked to preserve it for future generations and this is a great beach book for kids that doesn’t just focus on the sound of waves and seagulls. If you’re interested in learning more about this historic place, read about the history of American Beach from the U.S. National Park Service.
Summer Days and Nights by Wong Herbert Yee
This is about an adventuresome little girl exploring the world of summer, chasing butterflies, and cooling off with lemonade under a shady tree. This is told in rhyming text and feels like a classic book about summer vacation to me. If you like this, also check out Yee’s My Autumn Book or Who Likes Rain?
Manatee Summer by Evan Griffith
Griffith’s debut is another summer book for kids set in Florida. It revolves around the relationship between Peter and his best friend Tommy as they learn about and fight to protect manatees in their hometown. A middle grade novel, this might be a good pick for a longer trip or for reading together with a group of people. Peter lives with his loving mother and an ailing grandfather suffering from memory lapses, in addition to other normal challenges faced by any 11-year-old getting ready to start middle school. Well worth a read or listen!
Another middle grade novel that is a great summer book for older kids is one I’ve preordered. It is called Sweet and Sour by Debbi Michiko Florence. Set in the summer with Japanese American characters, this book should be available starting September 6, 2022. I’m looking forward to reading it.
That’s my list of summer books for kids. I have already noted a few above that you should preorder now like Keah Brown’s Sam’s Super Seats. If you’re looking for more to preorder, here are three more to look forward to:
Plus 3 to Preorder!
If you like nature sounds, look for I Hear You, Ocean: Sounds of Nature by Kallie George and illustrated by Carmen Mok. This title releases September 7, 2022 and is about listening to the sounds of nature. Another one I’m very curious to see is Thao Lam’s The Line in the Sand. This is a wordless picture book about the arbitrariness of borders drawn between monsters at the beach. Sounds good to me!
Another one to look forward to is Build A House by Rhiannon Giddens. This is a book based on Giddens’s song she wrote for the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth. If you’re not already familiar with this Grammy winner and MacArthur Grant recipient’s music, you can listen to the song as recorded with the famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma. The book pairs Giddens’s spare and moving lyrics with visuals by Monica Mikai, an artist who has also illustrated several other books including The Proudest Color and the forthcoming Stacy Abrams: Lift Every Voice. While Build a House doesn’t come out until October 11, 2022, it’s one to preorder now so you can share it with big and small readers alike in the fall.
I hope you’ve found something you want to read this summer!
Finally, if you want to get kids excited about reading, try these best summer reading programs or these awesome summer reading program ideas for kids. And of course, I think some of these would work well for people who are a little older too.