Dads rule and sea life's cool: A picture book roundup for summer reading


When my daughters were little, we spent many summer days perusing the shelves at the public library, gathering up stacks of stories to take home and read together. No matter their ages, picture books were always represented in the piles we happily carted away — for my enjoyment as much as for theirs.

I love picture books and love, too, sharing with you those I think you will enjoy reading with your favorite kids — or on your own, if your penchant for picture books is as strong as mine. Following are six delightful hardcover releases that recently came my way courtesy the publishers (for free, without obligation), stories that make perfect additions to summer reading lists for kids of all ages.

With Father's Day soon on the horizon, what better place to begin a reading roundup than with some top tales featuring fathers.

Deer WatchThe Deer Watch by Pat Lowery Collins, illustrated by David Slonim (ages 3-7, Candlewick Press, $15.99). This perfect summer story tells of a young boy's eager anticipation of spotting for himself the deer he's heard so much about from his dad. Father and son traverse sand dunes, marshes, an unexpected rain (followed by puddles!) and more in search of a buck or fawn. Staying still and quiet enough to witness the wonder is hard for a small boy, but if he can manage, the payoff will be one to remember.

Matchbox DiaryThe Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline (ages 6-10, Candlewick Press, $16.99) A young girl visits her great-grandfather and upon his urging, chooses from his shelves a cigar box filled with matchboxes for him to tell her its story. Each matchbox holds within it a keepsake from the great-grandfather's boyhood. As a child, the great-grandfather couldn't read or write, so he created a matchbox rather than written diary, filling it with baseball tickets, bottle caps, a lost tooth and more. He shares with his great-granddaughter the mementos of his journey from Italy and his early years in America and encourages her to start her own written diary.

My dad thinks he's funnyMy Dad Thinks He's Funny by Katrina Germein, illustrated by Tom Jellett (ages 5-8, Candlewick Press, $15.99). Dads say the darnedest things and this book hilariously highlights quite a few of those silly things that come out of their mouths. This one made both Jim and me chuckle. (Yes, I made him sit down and let me read it to him.) Kids will no doubt see their own dad in one or more of the utterings and especially giggle at the page in which Dad offers up words that clear the room — "before it really starts to smell."

FArTHERFArTHER, written and illustrated by Graham Baker-Smith (ages 5-7, Templar Books — an imprint of Candlewick Press, $17.99) In magical artwork and heartrending prose, this book tells the story of one young boy whose dad goes off to war and never returns, leaving a life-long dream behind, unrealized. The boy takes up his father's dream — to fly on homemade wings — tweaking those left by his father. Through magnificent drawings of magical machinery, we see the dream of the boy and his father take flight.

nighty night sleep tightNighty-Night, Sleep Tight by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by David Walker (Ages 3-5, Sterling Children's Books, $9.95) Getting little ones off to dreamland can be a bit more of a challenge during summer. This rhyming bedtime story makes the transition smoother and will have even the most rambunctious kiddo cuddling up to say nighty-night to creatures all across the globe. Tigers, chimps, turtles and other stars of the animal kingdom get the goodnight greeting from the charming pink-jammie clad cutie.

Shimmer & SplashShimmer & Splash: The Sparkling World of Sea Life, written and illustrated by Jim Arnosky (ages 6-10, Sterling Children's Books, $14.95) Of all the books here, when Jim saw this oversized book, he exclaimed, "Bubby is going to love this one." And he is, as will all little naturalists who get a kick out of aquatic creatures of endless variety. The author and illustrator — a renowned naturalist — has so jam-packed this book with life-size illustrations, it took seven fold-out pages to feature it all. Personal stories of close encounters with sea creatures plus fascinating facts and descriptions of everything from fiddler crabs to blacktip sharks and manatees make this a must-have for any child (or adult) who appreciates amazing ocean dwellers and related accounts of their discovery.

Disclosure: I received free copies of these books; I share them here not because I was paid or obligated to do so (I wasn't), but because I think they're pretty darn good. I hope you do, too.

Today's question:

What books have you read (picture book or not) that feature memorable fathers, good or bad?