Books

The picture books you’ll want to read with your kids this summer

If you’re a parent wanting to recapture the magic of a wild summer, reading seasonally themed books with your kids is a great way to become inspired to spend time outside together. (BalanceFormCreative, Shutterstock)

Estimated read time: 7-8 minutes

Every child deserves that “Sandlot” summer. You know the one: playing baseball with your friends outside until dinnertime, up the community pool to try to win over Wendy Peffer hittingcorn, and watching fireworks to Ray Charles’ “America the Beautiful.”

After a long Utah winter, summer days spent indoors feel like a total waste. And yet, sometimes playing video games in an air-conditioned basement wins kids over. If you’re a parent wanting to recatch the magic of a wild summer, reading seasonally themed books with your kids is a great way to become inspired to spend time outside together.

After reading book after book about summertime, I discovered one book I believe paints a very honest and beautiful picture of the season.

‘The Camping Trip’ by Jennifer K. Mann

Summer is a magical time of year filled with the smell of roasted marshmallows, the feel of the ocean catching your ankles before sliding away, and late nights spent playing cards and listening to crickets. Summer is also filled with mosquitos, sunburns, and for us here in Utah, protection. And yet, it seems like we easily disregard those aspects of our childhood summers, instead of choosing to romanticize memories of pool days and popsicles.

The Camping Trip” by Jennifer K. Mann is reminiscent of taking only the positive memories of summer with us.

If your family are big-time campers, you will love the nostalgia this book evokes. If you’ve never taken your kids camping, this book could absolutely spark that desire in them to try it out. This story hits the nail on the head when it comes to the good, the bad and the ugly of camping.

“The Camping Trip” by Jennifer K. Mann (Photo: Candlewick Press)

Ernestine, a city girl, goes camping for the first time with her cousin Samatha and aunt Jackie. She is very excited until she realizes setting up a tent is trickier than she thought, there are fish in the lake they are swimming in, and sleeping in a tent can get pretty cold. However, she also experiences what s’mores taste like, how many stars are visible at night in the mountains, and the joy of being with her family. In the end, she decides camping is a win.

I think all of us can relate to Ernestine at some point in the book, from her excitement in anticipation of what camping is going to be like to her disappointment of what camping is really like to her willingness to go again in the future despite the messiness of it all. This is a great book.

If you’re interested in checking out more awesome summer reads, refer to the list below.

9 more enchanting picture books about summer

I would highly recommend picking up any of these books from your local library, packing a picnic and driving to the nearest park or up the canyon to relish in what could become a favorite summer memory.

‘One-Dog Canoe’ by Mary Casanova

On a beautiful summer’s morning, a little girl and her dog set off for a nice float down the river in a red canoe, just big enough for two. However, the small space doesn’t stop the many animals they meet on their journey from wanting to hop in the boat. Soon, this one-dog canoe gets pretty crowded and there’s only one way out of the canoe. “One-Dog Canoe” will have your kids laughing.

‘Magic Beach’ by Alison Lester

Little inspires magic and imagination like the beach. “Magic Beach” perfectly encapsulates a childhood day spent on the beach, looking for adventure. It illustrates not only imaginative adventures kids might take, but some of my favorite things to do on the beach as well: hunting for things brought in from the tide, roasting marshmallows over a bonfire and flying a kite.

‘Our Great Big Backyard’ by Laura Bush and Jenna Bush Hager

It’s the classic summer teen story: Parents want teen to come on road trip with family; teen is reluctant and rude; teen ultimately realizes spending time adventuring outdoors with family is more valuable than playing games on her iPad. “Our Great Big Backyard” is filled with fun illustrations of beautiful sights across our beautiful country and could inspire you and yours to take a trip to one of our local national or state parks.

‘Fireflies’ by Julie Brinkloe

If we aren’t lucky enough to experience the wonder of fireflies here in Utah, we might as well read about them. “Fireflies” portrays a little boy spending a magical summer evening catching fireflies with his friends. His excitement throughout the book is palpable. After a successful night, he returns home with hundreds of fireflies captured in a jar. He loves the glow they create for him right in his room but soon he realizes fireflies were never meant to be kept in a jar.

‘A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee’ by Chris Van Dusen

A Camping Spree with Mr. Mage” is the story of a man and his dog headed up the mountain for a scenic campout. They’ve got a trailer, they’ve got marshmallows, they’ve got fresh air. What could go wrong, right?

Well, as experienced a camper Mr. Magee seems to be, he makes the rookie mistake of leaving his mallows out after dark while he and his dog sleep soundly in the trailer. Then enters a bear and all the trouble starts from there. Pretty soon, Mr. Magee’s trailer is headed straight for a waterfall. But don’t worry, all’s well that ends well.

‘The Wonders of Summer’ by Kealy Connor Lonning

The title of this book simply and beautifully sums up the contents of this cute story, which is all about a girl and her dad discovering the best parts of summer together. From bare feet in the grass to flower crowns, ice cream cones, wading in the river, and setting up lemonade stands,”The Wonders of Summer” is a great reminder of the child within that we can rediscover with our kids this beautiful season. This book was inspired by the author’s daughter, whose name is Summer.

‘The Raft’ by Jim LaMarche

Nicky is dreading spending the summer in the woods with his artistic grandmother, a “river rat” she calls herself. She doesn’t have a television and there are no neighbor kids to play with. The young boy isn’t sold on this summer with his grandma at first, but before long, he discovers a raft floating down the river by his grandma’s home. “The Raft” details how this crude vessel becomes the catalyst for many natural summer adventures, and soon Nicky calls himself a river rat, too.

‘Climb On!’ by Baptiste Paul

It’s not always the parents who have to convince their kids to get outside. Oftentimes, it’s the opposite. “Climb On!” is a colorful book set on the beautiful island of Haiti, where a girl and her dad set out on a hiking adventure. The dad is hesitant (he’d rather stay inside and watch futbol), but his courageous daughter encourages him on their journey as they climb to the “tippy top.”

‘And Then Comes Summer’ by Tom Brenner

“When every day is like a Saturday, and porches and lawns and sidewalks are playgrounds…” This book is a gift for the senses. Beautifully illustrated and marvelously descriptive, “And Then Comes Summer” invites the reader to participate in every lovely thing about summer on each page.

If the heat is getting you down and compelling you to spend more time inside, give this one a read for a boost to spend more time outside.

I would highly recommend picking up any of these books from your local library, packing a picnic and driving to the nearest park or up the canyon to relish in what could become a favorite summer memory.

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Meg Christensen is an avid reader, writer and language snob. She received a bachelor’s degree in communication with an emphasis in journalism in 2014 from Brigham Young University-Idaho. Meg is passionate about sharing inspiring stories in Utah, where she lives with her husband and two kids.

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