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Summer staycations

These picture books show that summer vacations don’t have to be elaborate going-away affairs — with a little imagination and some good friends, they can be a state of mind.

In Deborah Underwood’s Monster & Mouse Go Camping, outdoor enthusiast Mouse convinces her anxious pal Monster to go camping with her: “Camping is great!” Mouse’s eagerness and her promise of “lots of yummy food” help calm Monster’s nerves. The story’s humor comes from the interplay of the understated text and the digital cartoon art. What Mouse doesn’t notice (and Jared Chapman’s cheeky illustrations clearly show) is Monster snacking on the camping supplies all along the way. Well, at least Mouse brought plenty of food…Uh-oh. “Monster?” “Yes, Mouse?” “I forgot the food.” (Houghton, 2–5 years)

In The Grand Expedition by Emma Adbåge, two towheaded children plan and embark upon a grand adventure — which turns out to be a truncated night in a tent in the backyard. Their time in the tent is grand indeed, until darkness sets in, accompanied by mosquitoes, sharp rocks between shoulder blades, and the “need to poop.” Adbåge’s soft illustrations — clear, spare pencil sketches in undefined planes, overlaid with loose washes of watercolor — establish a gentle, slightly offbeat family scene. (Enchanted Lion, 5–8 years)

At the start of Sally Lloyd-Jones’s amiable Goldfish on Vacation, three city-dwelling siblings, goldfish owners, feel sad for the derelict fountain at the end of their street. Then a sign appears on the fountain: “COMING IN TWO WEEKS! CALLING ALL GOLDFISH LOOKING FOR A SUMMER HOME.” Day by day, the children watch as a park worker cleans up the fountain; when it’s ready, they bring their goldfish and plop them in. Leo Espinosa’s bright illustrations bring a sense of joy to every page. (Random/Schwartz & Wade, 5–8 years)

The unnamed (and unspeaking) protagonist of Trampoline Boy by Nan Forler, illustrated by Marion Arbona, loves jumping on his backyard trampoline. The neighborhood kids often gawk and jeer, but nothing stops the bouncing boy until one determined girl whispers: “Trampoline Boy, I wish I could see what you see up there in that blue, blue sky.” The fact that someone reaches out to the boy in an effort to understand and share in his joy is enough to stop him, momentarily. Vivid, saturated colors dominate the earthbound spreads while warm blues and swirling, curved lines surround the children as they are fantastically, and delightedly, suspended in the ether. (Tundra, 5–8 years)

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

Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and a BA from Oberlin College.

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