25 Wonderful Books for Kids Celebrating Summer (ages 2-12)

26 Wonderful Books for Kids Celebrating Summer (ages 2-12)

We made it to summer which starts today! Every winter here in Boston, it seems like summer will never arrive. It’s not just the warm we crave, but the relaxed schedule and the long days. It’s time to celebrate summer! What are your favorite books set during the summer? Thanks for sharing!


26 Wonderful Books for Kids Celebrating Summer

Picture Books That Epitomize Summer

And Then Comes Summer by Tom Brenner, illustrated by Jaime Kim

It feels like summer will never arrive, but when it does, it’s time for a celebration of simple things like breaking out the flip-flops, digging up the bikes, selling lemonade, and playing outside until it gets dark. Summer is a joyful feeling as well as season of sunshine and free play. This is a book to remember to enjoy the simple pleasures. [picture book, ages 4 and up]

Hot Day on Abbott Avenue by Karen English, illustrated by Javaka Steptoe

Wonderfully illustrated with collage art, this picture book makes palpable the hottest day of summer in an inner city as two best friends wait for the other to apologize so they can enjoy the pleasures this steamy day also brings — double dutch, ice pops, and their renewed bond of best friendship. [picture book, ages 4 and up]

What Can You Do With a Paleta?/ ¿Qué Puedes Hacer con una Paleta? by Carmen Tafolla, illustrated by Magaly Morales

A paleta is a Mexican popsicle and this gorgeously illustrated picture book portrays the glorious wonders of the paleta as well as life in the barrio (neighborhood).  [picture book, ages 2-8]

The First Strawberries by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Anna Vojtech

Joseph Bruchac retells this Cherokee legend of how strawberries came to be long ago when the first man and woman walked the earth and quarreled. The sun coaxed the angry woman back with these sweet offerings. [picture book, ages 3 and up]

Apple Pie Fourth of July by Janet Wong, illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine

When her parents cook Chinese food to sell at their store on the 4th of July, the little 2nd generation Chinese American girl thinks that her parents “don’t get it.”  No one wants Chinese food on the 4th of July, right?  A simple story that depicts perfectly the straddling of two worlds that 2nd generation children feel and, as it turns out, there are all kinds of ways to celebrate America’s birthday!   [picture book, ages 2-6]

Little Pig Saves the Ship by David Hyde Costello

Little Pig is too little to go to sailing camp with his brothers and sisters so he learns about sailing and knots with his grandpa and poppy. Together, they help Little Pig sail the toy ship that they built for him. When the ship almost gets away, Little Pig’s skill with knots comes in handy. Read this picture book with younger siblings who are too little to go to camp. [picture book, ages 3 and up]


Summer Picture Books To Overcome Fears

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Jubari is ready to jump off the high dive, but there as he thinks about it, there are a few things to do first! This is a sweet and and gentle story about finding the courage to take a big leap into the unknown, and the rewards that it brings. A perfect picture book for anyone thinking of jumping off the diving board! [picture book, ages 4 and up]

There Might Be Lobsters by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Laurel Molk

Eleanor’s dog Suki is a timid creature, afraid of the stairs, waves, and even possible lobsters at the beach. She isn’t convinced to participate, but hangs instead at the edge  with her stuffed animal, Chunka Munka, until Eleanor picks her up. When a wave takes Chunka Munka out to sea, Suki finds her courage to make a rescue! Read this picture book if you plan to go to the beach with your dog! [picture book, ages 4 and up]

Hattie & Hudson by Chris Van Dusen

When a sea monster comes to listen to Hattie singing in her canoe, she’s not afraid, but others are. Hudson, is, after all, a giant sea creature. Together, they have to come up with a plan to show the townspeople that he’s not dangerous. A perfect picture book to read lakeside! [picture book, ages 4 and up]


Funny Summer Picture Books

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

This is, by far, my favorite funny picture book. It has two levels of humor built in; one for adults with sly sarcasm, and one for kids. Eamon and his friend James spend a week at Eamon’s grandparents house where they attend a week of day camp. The grandparents plan a special week for the boys but it turns out that the best week ever is when they deviate from well laid plans. [picture book, ages 4 and up]

The House Takes A Vacation by Jacqueline Davies and Lee White

The house decided to take a vacation when its family went away, but the different parts of the house had trouble agreeing where to go. Finally, the sea was agreed upon, except for the basement which refused to go. It’s a vacation to remember full of clever puns to amuse readers.  [picture book, ages 4 and up]

A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen

Mr. Magee and his dog go on a camping trip that turns into a misadventure involving a bear, marshmallows, and a runaway hitch. [rhyming picture book, ages 4 and up]


Rainy Summer Picture Books

Rain by Sam Usher

A grandfather and grandson don’t let the rain deter them from adventures with sea monsters. A simple trip to mail a letter becomes an exciting voyage thanks to their imagination. This is the perfect book to read when it rains all day long this summer. [picture book, ages 4 and up]

Home in the Rain by Bob Graham

The long journey home from grandma’s house in the rain has small moments of grace  for both the family in the car and the creatures around them. This picture book is a good choice for those who want POC characters without the story focused on race. [picture book, ages 4 and up]

Come, On Rain! by Karen Hesse, illustrated by Jon J. Muth

It’s a hot, hot day in the city. It’s been three weeks since the last rain and everything is wilting, especially Tessie and her mama. Tessie’s friend Jackie-Joyce comes over in her bathing suit in anticipation of rain and Tessie gets into hers as well.When the rain finally hits, it’s a celebration for all the kids in the neighborhood (and the adults as well!). [picture book, ages 4 and up]

Monsoon by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Jamel Akib

Monsoon season in Asia starts in June and goes through September. It’s marked by heavy rains which helps the crops grow but can also result in flooding. A family in India waits for the rain to wash the dust from the air, but it also brings a little worry. When the rain comes, it’s a celebration to mark a new beginning. [picture book, ages 4 and up]


Coming of Age Chapter Books Set During the Summer

Half Magic series by Edward Eager

We had been gifted not one but two copies of Half Magic but somehow never managed to crack the cover. Thank goodness I have three kids because my youngest is playing clean up. We were both delighted with this old-fashioned book about magic wishes that come mostly true — specifically, 50% of the wish is granted. Four siblings who think their summer is going to be boring because all their friends are away at vacation homes discover a magic coin that takes them on all kinds of crazy and wonderful adventures. [chapter book, ages 9 and up]

The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty G. Birney

This is the perfect summer novel about a young boy who thinks his farming home town, Sassafras Springs,  is as boring as can be.  His dad challenges him to find seven wonders in seven days in order to be able to take the first trip outside of his hometown in his life.  It turns out that Sassafras Springs isn’t as boring as he thought!  [chapter book, ages 8 and up]

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall

Every girl I polled who read this book LOVED this book.  Jeanne Birdsall’s first book nabbed the Newbery Award.  Need I say more?!!!  [chapter book, ages 8 and up]

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

This is my all time favorite book and every kid that I’ve polled who read it also gives a deep sigh of contentment when recalling this book.  A Newbery Winner and a book that is perfect for a summer read.  Perfect for dog lovers as Winn Dixie is a dog! [chapter book, ages 8 and up]

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Set during one of the most tumultuous years in recent American history, One Crazy Summer is the heartbreaking, funny tale of three girls who travel to Oakland, California, in 1968 in search of the mother who abandoned them. It’s an unforgettable story told by a distinguished author of books for children and teens, Rita Williams-Garcia. [chapter book, ages 9 and up]

The Civil Rights Movement is most often told as an event taking place in the South, so this chapter book’s setting of the Black Panther Movement in Northern California already interests me. And there are layers and layers of additional stories that make this chapter book one to read. And it’s won every award on the planet if you need further proof. But I’d read alongside my 9 year old just to help give context since it’s also a gritty, realistic story.

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

Even if you don’t have the luxury of time to explore Sharon Creech in an author study, she is an author to introduce to all 5th graders, if they haven’t read her already. The hard part is to decide which one to start with! Walk Two Moons weaves two stories of friends, each going through a family crisis though it’s not exactly evident as Creech reveals each story obliquely, bit by bit. It’s a perfect story to read aloud, taking the entire class on a journey along with thirteen-year-old Salamanca Tree Hiddle that is both a geographic and an emotional one. [chapter book, ages 9 and up]

A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck

Deborah Hopkinton picked this book as part of her Top 10 Best Historical Fiction Books for Kids:

This “novel in stories” about two children who visit their grandmother during the summer in rural Illinois won a Newbery honor in 1999. We lived in rural eastern Washington for a time while my two children were growing up, and I have a vivid memory of driving across Washington State with my son while listening to this humorous, heartfelt book. [chapter book, ages 9 and up]

Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles

A really wonderful, engaging and funny story about a little girl .  Ruby Lavender spends the summer dealing with the absence of her beloved grandmother, who is visiting family in Hawaii.  It obliquely deals with death, but in an uplifting way.  The book manages to be hilarious and poignant at the same time. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]

Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood

The Freedom Riders are gently introduced in this civil rights story set in Mississippi around the closure of a segregated public swimming pool in 1964. This coming-of-age story for a white girl helps to illustrate the different points of views of those in the South and I love how the local public library becomes the touchpoint for integration. [chapter book, ages 9 and up]

Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightening by Danette Haworth

This gem of a book inspired this list.  11-year-old Violet Raines spends the summer dealing with the transition from childhood to adolescence punctuated by a new girl who moves in and takes over her best friend next door, her now confusing friendship with Eddie, and her own ambivalence about growing up. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]

Making Friends with Billy Wong by Augusta Scattergood

Augusta Scattergood tackles a little known subject: that Asian Americans were also subject to Jim Crow laws in the South. In this chapter book, she gently weaves together a story of Azalea, a rising fifth grader sent to live her grandmother in Arkansas that she’s never met before. Grandma Clark is a woman with a towering presence; she encourages Azalea to make friends with Billy Wong who is also new to their small town. He’s living with his Great Uncle and Aunt so that he can attend a previously all white school and works in their small grocery store. There’s also the bully, Willis, and Scattergood shows us that things are not black and white; behind his prejudice are family responsibilities heavy for a young boy to bear. Grandma Clark’s plan for a more tolerant community is simple; she utilizes Garden Helpers to help out while she’s recuperating, thus forcing everyone to work together. Azalea discovers that she’s more similar to her grandmother than she realized, and their relationship, like hers with Billy Wong, strengthens from the adversity of facing racism around them. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]

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25 Wonderful Books for Kids Celebrating Summer (ages 2-12)

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. These sound so fun! Pinned.
    Mother of 3 recently posted…Weekly Wrap- Up: The Week We Were Bored EVERY day!My Profile

  2. What a wonderful list! I’ve put some on hold at my library 🙂

  3. Have not seen First Strawberries by Joseph Bruchac. Love his work. Would love to read the Monsoon story. My son is from India and he often talked about them.
    Patricia Tilton recently posted…The Green Umbrella by Jackie Azúa KramerMy Profile

  4. I read Jabari Jumps with my kindergarteners last week of school. Big hit!! Great Father’s Day/male role model book too.
    Karen recently posted…Broccoli Bilingual Kids Book SeriesMy Profile

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