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2017 Summer Reading from The Horn Book: Picture Books

Need suggestions for beach reading or books to bring to summer camp? Here are our top ten books for different age ranges — including fiction, nonfiction, and poetry — all published 2016–2017 and ideal for the season. Grade levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion.

For a handy take-along list of titles, download our printable PDF.

Easy Readers and Primary Grades | Intermediate | Middle School | High School

Picture Books

Suggested grade level for all entries: PS–2

Life on Mars written and illus. by Jon Agee (Dial)
A little astronaut brings chocolate cupcakes to Mars but thinks, “I don’t think I’ll find anybody to eat them.” The story depends on a repeated visual joke — the astronaut keeps missing the Martian in the background — and the humor continues through the very last page. 32 pages.

Rescue Squad No. 9 written and illus. by Mike Austin (Random House)
Rescue Squad No. 9’s helicopter and boat crews race into a storm to find a stranded young sailor and a Dalmatian. Dynamic illustrations and forceful text (“S O S / MAYDAY! / MAYDAY! / MAYDAY!”) are skillfully incorporated into a propulsive design. 40 pages.

Jabari Jumps written and illus. by Gaia Cornwall (Candlewick)
After swimming lessons, Jabari is ready to jump off the diving board — or is he? Luckily, our young hero has plenty of loving encouragement from Dad and baby sis. Watercolor and collage illustrations featuring warm brown skin tones and cool aqua water accompany the empowering and celebratory story. 32 pages.

Chirri & Chirra written and illus. by Kaya Doi, trans. by Yuki Kaneko (Enchanted Lion)
In this Japanese import, Chirri and Chirra take a day-long bike ride through a pastoral world. The sisters arrive at a forest hotel (staffed entirely by animals) just in time for a symphony concert. Crayon/pastel illustrations in gentle, saturated colors capture the girls’ summer idyll. 40 pages.

Egg written and illus. by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow)
Three little chicks hatch from their pastel-colored eggs, but what (eventually) hatches from a fourth egg is not another chick. Will the others reject the foundling, or embrace it? Using just a few words of text, this simple story taps into preschoolers’ deepest emotions with a surfeit of personality and humor. 32 pages.

We Found a HatWe Found a Hat written and illus. by Jon Klassen (Candlewick)
Two turtles find a hat amidst a desert landscape. It looks good on both of them, but “there is only one hat,” so they leave it where they found it. The tenderness of this story about friendship is just as surprising as the black humor of Klassen’s previous hat books (I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat). 56 pages.

Rudas: Niño’s Horrendous Hermanitas written and illus. by Yuyi Morales (Porter/Roaring Brook)
It’s técnicos (“Good guys”) vs. rudos (“Tough guys”) as Niño recounts a spirited wrestling rumpus with his misbehaving little sisters. Vibrant collages, varied typefaces, and speech bubbles with both English and Spanish expressions reflect the siblings’ boisterous fun. 40 pages.

Best Frints in the Whole Universe written and illus. by Antoinette Portis (Porter/Roaring Brook)
Two young aliens on planet Boborp, Omek and Yelfred, “have been best frints since they were little blobbies.” But then Omek crashes Yelfred’s new spaceship. Can the frints make up? The text plays it straight — not easy with all those near-nonsense words — and vibrant, pop art–like illustrations convey the Boborpian setting. 40 pages.

Anywhere Farm by Phyllis Root, illus. by G. Brian Karas (Candlewick)
“For an anywhere farm, / here’s all that you need: / soil / and sunshine, / some water, / a seed.” Upbeat rhyming text details how to start an “anywhere farm”; the illustrations show a diverse neighborhood transforming a barren urban space into a lush garden. 32 pages.

A Perfect Day written and illus. by Lane Smith (Roaring Brook)
Backyard inhabitants are having the best day. Cat enjoys the sunshine; Dog sits in the wading pool; Chickadee has a full bird feeder. But then in lumbers Bear, whose “perfect day” flies in the others’ faces. It’s hard to blame Bear, though, whose glee is contagious from the mixed-media illustrations. 32 pages.

From the May 2017 issue of Notes from the Horn Book: Summer Reading.

For past years’ summer reading lists from The Horn Book, click on the tag summer reading.

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