Growing Reader

Feel-Good Picture Books for the Warm Days of Summer

by Jennifer Garry

With bookbags retiring to closets, schedules getting tossed out the window, and the summer sun soaking everything in a magical glow, it’s time to turn our attention to books that fit the mood. Feel-good, nature-drenched, easy-breezy tales are at the very top of my family’s to-be-read list this season.

These eight picture books are exactly what you and your little readers need to get into that summertime groove.

  • The Sandcastle That Lola Built

    by Megan Maynor, illustrated by Kate Berube

    This funny and modern take on The House that Jack Built is sure to make your whole family want to pack up and head to the beach. Lola is building a dreamy sandcastle and has visions of mermaids moving in. But the beach is crowded, and her sandcastle falls again and again. Undaunted, Lola recruits the responsible parties to help out, and her sandcastle (and circle of friends) gets bigger and bigger — until a wave crashes in. Will the sandcastle — and Lola’s cheerful can-do attitude — recover? With messages of cooperation and perseverance, this book is sure to become a favorite.

  • Finding Wild

    by Megan Wagner Lloyd, illustrated by Abigail Halpin

    Two city kids step off the subway and into a wonder-filled nature adventure in this delightful story. Lyrical prose and gorgeous watercolor illustrations envelop you in natural beauty, reminding readers young and old that you can find a little bit of wild just about anywhere. Guaranteed to spark curiosity and an itch to explore, this book is perfect for a wide-open summer afternoon.

  • The Night Is Yours

    by Abdul-Razak Zachariah, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo

    This story, narrated by a father, takes place one hot summer’s night as a group of friends play hide-and-seek by moonlight outside of their apartment complex. Amani and the moon seem to work together to find her hiding friends and the moon’s glow spotlights Amani’s beauty and strength. An ode to the fun and freedom found during summer nights, this story also celebrates community and self-confidence.

  • Sun

    by Sam Usher

    It’s the hottest day of the year — the perfect time for a boy and his grandpa to embark on a picnic adventure. With the sun beating down, Granddad keeps suggesting they stop for a rest on their quest for the perfect spot. But when they finally arrive, pirates have discovered the spot first! Beautifully illustrated and brimming with imagination, this book is the summery companion to Snow, Rain, and Storm.

  • And Then Comes Summer

    by Tom Brenner, illustrated by Jaime Kim

    This positively delightful, nostalgic book is an ode to summer, from a child’s joyful anticipation of the last day of school to all the sweaty, sticky, glorious moments that follow. A celebration of the season that will engage all your senses, this is the perfect read for “when the days stretch out like a slow yawn.” (I’m feeling dozy already.)

  • How to Code a Sandcastle

    by Josh Funk, illustrated by Sara Palacios

    It’s the last day of summer vacation, and Pearl really wants to finish the sandcastle she’s been working on all season. She decides to join forces with her robot friend, Pascal, and use computer coding to break the project down into smaller, more manageable steps. Combining humor, sun-filled illustrations, and introductory coding concepts, this book from the nonprofit group Girls Who Code celebrates the joys of summer while teaching kids a little something in the process.

  • The Golden Glow

    by Benjamin Flouw

    Fox loves nature, and he loves looking through his botany books. One night, he discovers a rare flower from the Wellhidden family that only grows high in the mountains, and he decides to go in search of it. Come morning, he heads to the woods on a grand hike, observing lots of different trees and plants and meeting friends who help him make it to the top. Blending fiction with nonfiction elements, this book joyously celebrates the natural world.

  • Goldfish on Vacation

    by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Leo Espinosa

    What seems like a pretty boring summer vacation quickly becomes exciting when an unkept fountain in New York City is fixed up and turned into a goldfish pond. The entire community comes together to bring their goldfish for a little vacation and listen to stories about the olden days. With bright retro-style illustrations and a sweet storyline based on true events, this book will draw in young and old readers alike.