Tales of Summer

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Tales of Summer

Picture Books on Family, Fun and Adventure

Summer can be a great time to enjoy a story or create one through experiences.  Below is a book list inspired by summer and the National Building Museum’s upcoming exhibit, Lawn.  Free admission is available to D.C. residents on their ward day, beginning in July. Check the National Building Museum’s website for more information and don’t forget to join Summer Challenge and read 20 minutes each day.

The Lost Picnic: A Seek and Find Book by B.B. Cronin
Grandad and the kids go on another adventure in this follow up to Lost House.  After loading the picnic basket with their favorite foods, the family heads to a scenic spot.  Their journey along the highway takes them through several interesting places with delicious treats, which the three pass up, anticipating the marvelous picnic they’ve prepared.  When they get to their destination, the picnic basket is empty. Where did all the food go? Can you, the reader, help them find their lost picnic? Cronin’s dense and colorful illustration makes for a fun, but challenging treasure hunt.  

We Had a Picnic This Sunday Past by Jacqueline Woodson; illustrated by Diane Greenseid
Granddaughter Teeka emulates the family matriarch during a family gathering in the park.  As each relative arrives, with or without food for the picnic, Teeka crosses her arms and gives a grandmotherly comment.  The family plays kickball, badminton and other lawn games before sitting down to the feast. One family member’s much anticipated dish proves quite the surprise as the get together winds down. Woodson's folksy delivery and Greenseid's spot on images make for a humorous story to remember.


The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant
The long drive from the Virginia countryside begins at 4 a.m.  After a day’s travel, the relatives are embraced and gathered into groups for conversation, play and lots of food.  At night, the house is so full, relatives share beds and sleep on the floor. The extended family visits together for weeks, doing chores and eating lots of homegrown strawberries and melons.  After the relatives head back to Virginia, the house seems too empty, too quiet. There’s nothing left but to think of a reciprocal visit to Virginia, just in time for fresh peaches and grapes. The Relatives Came, like The Lost Picnic, is a story to share for any time of year, but is especially evocative of summertime travel.

One Family by George Shannon; illustrated by Blanca Gomez
As the previous books show, summertime is when many visit with family.  One Family explores what constitutes a family and the many ways families come together.  A woman and her cat are one type of family; a brother and sister another. Families of increasing size follow until a total of ten individuals is reached.  Animal and human families, communities, and interracial, multi-ethnic, multi-generational and LGBTQ families come together as one. 

Siesta by Ginger Fogelsong Guy; illustrated by Rene King Moreno
A family of two prepares for a trip.  A little brother gathers items with his sister prompting him with “¿Algo más?”. The items are named and described in, first, Spanish, then, English. After all necessities have been gathered, the brother and sister enjoy a siesta in their backyard.  The text and story are simple; the sibling cooperation endearing. 

Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold
Cassie Louise Lightfoot lives in New York City near the George Washington Bridge.  At night the bridge is lit up like a jeweled necklace and Cassie wants to fly up and make it her own from her vantage point on tar beach.  Tar beach is the apartment building rooftop where Cassie, her brother Be Be, her parents and Mr. and Mrs. Honey go during hot summer nights.  The adults play card games and Cassie and her brother rest on blankets, staring up into the night sky. This classic story of summertime in the city is magical and calls to mind places where one can dream and feel loved.  

Peter Spit a Seed at Sue by Jackie French Koller; illustrated by John Manders
It’s a hot, boring day on the front porch for four young neighbors until a wagonload of watermelons comes down the street.  The children excitedly buy the fruit by the slice. One of the children spits out a seed that lands on another child’s cheek and seed spitting battle begins.  The children spit seeds at each other, objects and community members until the mayor appears to give them their comeuppance.  

And Then Comes Summer by Tom Brenner; illustrated by Jaime Kim
It’s summer. Play moves from playgrounds to porches, sidewalks and lawns.  There is hide and seek, camping, parades and visits to the beach. The smell of grass pervades walks to special places where family and friends gather.


Our Celebración! by Susan Middleton Elya; illustrated by Ana Aranda
Rain doesn't stop community members from gathering for the sights and sounds in the town square. Dancing, colorful costumes and fireworks dazzle as a diverse community spends the day out of doors. The rhyming text in English and Spanish is given more bounce with vibrant illustration.  Characters of many hues appear repeatedly as the day progresses.  The mystery of the story's locale and holiday becomes inconsequential as the reader is drawn into a visual festival.    

Red, White, and Boom! by Lee Wardlaw; illustrated by Huy Voun Lee
It’s Independence Day and there is so much to do. First comes a parade, then a trip to the beach.  Kite flying, Frisbee, sandcastles and tasty food are just the thing to make the day perfect. After sunset, everyone gathers in the park to catch fireflies and watch the fireworks. Get inspired to make a memorable holiday of your own.  

The Lonely Firefly by Eric Carle
Encountering fireflies are a welcome part of summer.  Carle writes and illustrates a firefly encounter from the firefly's point of view. A firefly is born and immediately sets out to find other fireflies.  It instinctively knows to look for the flashing lights of other fireflies, but gets confused by other sources of light.  Light bulbs to fireworks repeatedly thwart the firefly, but it's perseverance eventually pays off.

The National Building Museum's exhibit Lawn will have fireflies for visitors of all ages to catch and release. Plan your visit from July 4 to September 2.