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Summer lessons

The following new summery picture books for preschoolers and up touch on themes of overcoming fears, making new friends, defining home, and persevering, all in light-and-breezy summertime-friendly ways. For more recommended summertime reads, check out our Summer Reading list. See also our new Five Questions interviews with Julián Is a Mermaid author/illustrator Jessica Love and Pie Is for Sharing author Stephanie Parsley Ledyard and illustrator Jason Chin.

In Valeri Gorbachev’s No Swimming for Nelly, the main character — a pink piglet with a jaunty red bow—is thrilled with her new red-and-white polka-dotted swimsuit, but she refuses to get in the water: “No swimming for me.” Gorbachev’s pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations use lots of sea-greens and golden-yellows, and include funny details for children to find. The pictures depict a happy mother-daughter pair throughout, joined at the end by Grandma — a champion swimmer. (Holiday, 2–5 years)

Like Nelly (in No Swimming for Nelly, above), the unnamed little girl in Saturday Is Swimming Day by Hyewon Yum loves her (strawberry-decorated) swimsuit and is afraid of the water. During her first swim lesson, she stays poolside. By her second, she’s ready to get in, although cautiously. By the third, she’s excited to go to class, and fully participates. Yum’s watercolor and colored-pencil illustrations convey the little girl’s shifting emotions through easy-to-interpret body language. (Candlewick, 4–7 years)

In Rashin Kheiriyeh’s Saffron Ice Cream, young narrator Rashin compares the beach in her birthplace of Iran to the beach in her new home of Brooklyn. The absence of two highlights of her beach fun in Iran — her best friend and saffron ice cream — is a stumbling block, but a new friend and a chocolate-crunch cone at Coney Island help. Kheiriyeh’s sensory text and her bright and colorful textured illustrations evoke the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes experienced along each journey. (Scholastic/Levine, 4–7 years)

Ruby, protagonist of The Little Red Fort, asks her brothers for help to build a fort. In true “Little Red Hen” fashion, no one agrees: “Oscar Lee pretended not to hear her. Rodrigo gave her a look that could melt Popsicles. José almost fell off the fence. ‘You don’t know how to build anything,’ they said. Ruby shrugged. ‘Then I’ll learn.'” And she does. Brenda Maier’s girl-power-meets-classic-folktale story line is engaging; Sonia Sánchez’s colorfully patterned and textured illustrations depict a determined and endearing pigtailed heroine. (Scholastic, 5–8 years)

From the June 2018 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She is a current member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee.

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