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?

Lazy days and books

I've always been annoyed intrigued by the articles and trite phrases surrounding the idea of "the lazy days of summer." Summer days have never been lazy in my world, not when the nest was full, not now that it's empty. In fact, my summer days are actually far more busy than the winter ones.

One of the craziest of the lazy-day ideas, in my opinion, is that with summer stretched out before us, featuring long, glorious, sun-filled days with no schedule or agenda, we're ripe for doing nothing but lounging around with a book in hand from sun up to sun down. Doesn't happen. At least not for me. (C'mon, does it really happen for anyone?) But if I did have lazy summer days and nothing more to do than knock out a few books in the time from Memorial Day to Labor Day, these are the books I would love to include in this summer's stack:

The Help by Kathryn Stockett — I gotta get this read before seeing the movie! (Thanks, Mom, for the loaner.)

The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy — My oldest friend (in terms of time) and I used to share books and recommendations when we worked together. This is one we both have, both plan to read soon.

Emma by Jane Austen — Find out why this is on my list HERE.

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin — How can anyone resist a title like that?

The Source of All Things by Tracy Ross — Emotionally wrought memoirs of screwed up childhoods are one of my favorite genres. I kid you not. And this one seems to be a doozy. I can't wait.

I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron — I got this book when it very first came out...and still have not read it. I will, I will. This summer. I hope!

The Twisted Thread by Charlotte Bacon — Compared to Donna Tartt's Secret History? I am so there!

Don't Breathe A Word by Jennifer McMahon — Fairies, and ghosts, and other supernatural things, oh my. Plus a protagonist named Lisa, of all things.

Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult — Yeah, she's gotten rather formulaic. But I just gotta give her one more chance. And it came with a CD of songs for which she wrote the lyrics (which I haven't yet listened to...but will...when I read the book).

To say in the intro of this post that I would love to have these books in my summer stack is silly...and misleading. Because they are in my stack. Already. Every one of them. Except the tale of Mrs. Tom Thumb. But with a birthday just around the corner, ya just never know what might turn up.

Note: None of the links above are affiliate links. won't do affiliate business with Colorado residents, so these links are to the publishers or authors and are for your edification only, just because I'm nice like that.

Photo: stock.xchng/juliaf

Today's question:

What books are on your summer-reading wish list?

Summer reading

My favorite of the bunch.Now that Memorial Day -- meaning summer! -- has arrived, every print and online magazine for women touts summer reading lists. I've never really understood the emphasis on summer reading lists because summer has always been the season I'm least likely to pick up a book, as there's always far too much to do in the yard and lots of outdoor events to attend. But if I had my druthers, I would be whiling away the long summer days in the shade of a leafy tree, with a big ol' pile of books to read and Bubby at my side to share them.

Because many grandparents likely feel the same way about reading with their grandchildren, I've compiled a list of books I recently had the opportunity to review, books I think grandparents -- and parents and aunts and uncles and friends -- would be happy to share with the kids in their lives. Head to the Back Room to read my Book briefs: Summer reading for kids where you're sure to find something sweet, silly, sporty or scary, something for kids of all ages.

Enjoy! And Happy Memorial Day!

Today's question:

What adult fare do you have at the top of your summer reading list?

My answer: I'm currently reading Juliet by Anne Fortier. (I was fortunate to nab an advance copy; the book goes on sale in August.)