Get little readers ready for a great summer vacation with one of these four picks.
Waiting for Chicken Smith, written and illustrated by David Mackintosh, is a quirky, touching book that captures the essence of summertime friendships. At the beach, a young boy awaits the arrival of his pal Chicken Smith, who stays in a nearby cabin each year with his father. The boy looks back on summers spent in the company of Chicken and his dog, Jelly, as they trekked to the lighthouse in hopes of seeing a whale. “Chicken Smith knows the beach like the back of his hand, and I do too,” the boy says. But Chicken never shows, and a rental sign appears on the house he usually stays in. On the bright side, the boy connects with his own pesky little sister, Mary Ann. Mackintosh’s charming line drawings are deceptively simple, and the story’s text appears to have been pecked out on a typewriter. Innovative visuals and a poignant plot make this story a winner.
Sea Glass Summer, written by Michelle Houts and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, is a beautifully depicted story about family, discovery and the mysteries of nature. Thomas is spending the summer with his grandmother at her island home. Down on the beach, they pick up bits of sea glass, and Thomas wonders how the pieces got there. “I’m not sure,” his grandmother says, “but your grandfather used to say that each piece of sea glass has a story all its own.” At night, Thomas dreams about the origins of the glass. In one dream, a schooner sinks into the sea, taking with it broken jars and bits of crockery. Ibatoulline’s gorgeous, realistic illustrations capture the fine details of the natural world and Thomas’ sense of excitement. Readers will be intrigued by this tale and the lessons it imparts about being attentive to the wonders of the great outdoors.
An essential book for young beachcombers, Seashells: More Than a Home provides a fascinating overview of 13 kinds of shells. In her accessible text, author Melissa Stewart covers the form, function and native habitat of each shellfish, from the beautifully curved chambered nautilus and the heart-shaped cockle to the Atlantic bay scallop with its rows of fine ridges. Stewart uses analogies from everyday life to help readers understand how these “treasures from a secret world beneath the waves” house clams, snails, oysters and other creatures. Artist Sarah S. Brannen brings the narrative to life through watercolor scenes of boys and girls exploring the seashore and collecting specimens. Precise sketches and diagrams of the shells lend a naturalist feel to the proceedings. Suggestions for further reading and a listing of mollusk types round out the volume. This fun, fact-filled book will inspire up-and-coming collectors while equipping them with important information.
A friendship is born in author and illustrator Kate Pugsley’s sweet seaside story, Mermaid Dreams. Little Maya arrives at the beach with her parents on a picture-perfect day. She’s eager to play, but they’re ready to relax. Left to her own devices, Maya climbs on her turtle float and falls asleep. She dreams that she’s riding on the turtle’s back in the ocean. Together, they dive down into the sea and find “a secret underwater world” filled with bright fish of every imaginable kind. There, Maya becomes a mermaid with a gorgeous blue tail. She swims among the coral and meets an octopus and a group of seahorses, and she even meets another mermaid. When Maya wakes up from her dream, she’s no longer in the watery wonderland, but a little girl named Pearl is standing by her turtle float, ready to play. Pugsley’s illustrations have a naive, childlike simplicity that kids will connect with. Bursting with color and a sense of adventure, Pugsley’s book has the makings of a summertime classic.