Top 10: Best Picture Books for Summer Reading (ages 1-8)

Best Picture Books About Summer

When I think of picture books for toddlers and preschoolers that evoke summer, I think of the beach and the zoo because we always make a point to make at least one trip to each of these and more, if possible.  But the power of books is the ability to transport readers to new experiences that they would not necessarily have including going back in time.  These are some of my very favorite books.  I hope you enjoy them and that they transport you and your child to new places.

10. Come On, Rain by Karen Hesse

With gorgeous watercolor illustrations, this picture book evokes the heat of the inner city in the summer as well as the tightly knit community in a beautifully written story.  [preschool through 1st grade]

9. Seashells by the Seashore by Marianne Collins Berkes

This book combines counting to ten with identifying common seashells so it’s a must have for anyone thinking of beach combing this summer.  [toddler through 3rd grade]

8. Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell (A Lift-the Flap Book)

This is a very simple story about a boy who asks the zoo for a pet and receives a plethora of animals that are not quite right until the final shipment arrives.  [toddler through kindergarten]

7. Apple Pie Fourth of July by Janet S. Wong

This is a great story for any child wondering about their identity, being “American” while also celebrating their cultural heritage.  [preschool through kindergarten]

6. Rhino? No Hippo! by Jeff Newman

A crazy and funny mix up at the zoo!  [toddler through kindergarten]

5. Hot Day on Abbott Avenue by Karen English

I was fortunate to see original art work by Karen English from this book at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.  She makes these 3-D collages for each page.  This is another glimpse into an urban inner-city summer experience.  [preschool through 2nd grade]

4. The Gardener by Sarah Stewart

This is one of my all time favorite picture books about a little girl growing up during the Great Depression.  Her green thumb helps to lift her spirits as well as her uncle’s struggling bakery.  A really beautiful story told as much through the illustrations as through the words.  [preschool through 3rd grade]

3. Goodnight, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann

Did you know that you can spot the red balloon, the mouse and the banana on every page?  The balloon can be hard to find… And notice the photos in the Zoo Keeper’s house.  Do you recognize any of the animals in the portraits?   [toddler and preschool]

2. Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert

This book is so gorgeously illustrated that when I painted a mural in my daughter’s room, I had this book open for inspiration.  Summer is all about gardens and flowers and creepy crawly insects.  Plant a butterfly garden this summer after reading this book.  [toddler and preschool]

1. A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee

My five-year-old son loves this book.  If a little boy could plan his perfect summer, it might be something like the couple of weeks in this story.  [preschool through 1st grade]

To check out any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. what a great list! Some of my favorites on there and some I’ve never read–off to the library to see if I can find them!


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