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scrounge: /skrounj/ informal verb: to actively seek [books] from any available source

Summer in literature is often seen as a time of adventure and exploration -- but it can also be a time to stop, relax, and enjoy nature. Regardless, here are some picture books we really enjoy, that seem to embody the spirit of summer.

Time of Wonder is a classic McCloskey book (winner of the Caldecott Medal in 1958) that I read as a child, but I'm not sure I really came to appreciate it much until adulthood. The text is very evocative, and written from a second-person perspective, but it is also fairly wordy for a picture book, especially since it doesn't really tell much of a story until closer to the end. I think this might make it less accessible to some children, especially younger ones. However, both of my kids have seemed to enjoy it at various points, especially reading about the storm at the end, and how the people and creatures prepare for and clean up after it. By the end, the sadness at leaving that place and going back to school feels very real.

 

Flotsam is David Wiesner's fantasy story (winner of the Caldecott Medal in 2007) provides a secret view into what fish and other sea creatures are really up to down in the deep ocean, as discovered by a boy who finds a mysterious old camera that washes up on the beach. The story is told without any text at all, and while fairly simple, also manages to be absurd and mysterious, and the wordless nature of the book leaves some aspects and questions open to interpretation by the reader. 

 

Probably not many Americans are familiar with Jill Barklem's Brambly Hedge series, but growing up in Britain, I was fortunate enough to have been introduced to it there and grew up with this sweet wedding story from the series. Summer is definitely "wedding season," yet I haven't found many picture books featuring weddings that aren't completely "about" them. This one covers the nuptials of Poppy and Dusty, two mice who decide to get married on a barge in the middle of a stream on a warm summer day. While it focuses on the wedding and preparations, the story doesn't get bogged down in the details, and leaves room for character development and lovely, detailed illustrations of the setting, including the mill (which Dusty oversees) and the intricate inner workings of the "dairy stump" (which Poppy oversees). It is really very evocative of summer in the British countryside, and as I've said before, no one seems to anthropomorphize rodents quite as well as the British.

 

Grains of sand is a short and simple story of two children's summertime imaginings as they bring some sand home from the beach and wonder what would happen if they planted it. Nice illustrations as well -- see my full review here.

 

While Finding Wild is not necessarily about summer, it does embody the adventurous spirit that is so often a part of summer vacations and escapes. This book explores the concept of "wild" -- what is it, where is it, and how do you find it? Is it scary? Is it harmless? It may be harder to find in more populous areas, but it's still there -- if you look! See my full review here.

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