Summertime is full of nature’s surprises. I’ve compiled some great picture books about bugs, small critters, gardens, farm animals and the beautiful summer weather. As with most picture books, all ages can enjoy and benefit from the uplifting messages they portray.
Ubiquitous:  Celebrating Nature’s Survivors
, by the Caldecott award duo, Joyce Sidman, and illustrated by Beckie Prange, is a poetic enlightenment on insects, animals, plants and even bacteria. Most often these brilliant poems, that reflect the lyrical core and score of these subjects, are on one side of the page with more information on the opposite page. The visual aspect is majestically drawn to bring all aspects of poem and fact together making this a tremendous feast for mind and eye. There’s even a chronological order to the placement of each survivor throughout the book. Some include beetles, geckos and dandelions. Don’t forget to check out the endpapers which brilliantly tie in the timelines of each species that are poetically and intellectually discussed. There’s also a glossary found at the back of the book. Everything about this book was edifying and stimulating, even the author and illustrator’s notes which are also found at the back.
A Cray Day at the Critter Cafe, by Barbara Odanaka, and brightly illustrated by Lee White, is a humorous take on some mischievous animals. When an animals’ bus breaks down in front of a restaurant, the variety of hooligans with unmannerly conduct come inside. But it goes from bad to worse when the waiter is bumped by a colliding cow and a rolling domino effect ensues. Cottage cheese falls on the chimpanzees and root beer floats plop on pigs and goats. As you can see, the tale is told in rhyme and fun and would be a terrific read-aloud.
The Ensy Weensy Spider Freaks Out!, by Troy Cummings, is truly a story of how poor little spider overcame her defeat while attempting to climb that famous water spout. She hid inside her garden tree when the news came out on the “Spider Insider” that she didn’t achieve her goal but her life is about to change with a little encouragement from her friend. This cute story, painted with a retro-graphic feel, demonstrates the importance of friends and taking tiny steps towards achieving a goal.
Yucky Worms, by Vivian French, and wonderfully illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg, is an introspective look at the importance of worms as Grandma explains them to her young grandson while working in the garden. The story takes you through her garden along with pertinent information about how useful these earthworms are to plants and earth alike. The illustrations, done in pencil and gouache with lots of hues of brown, go perfectly with the text. You’ll find useful information at the back about how to become a Wormologist. Check out the endpapers too.
Big Rig Bugs, by Kurt Cyrus, is a simple yet powerful correlation between bugs and construction trucks. The bugs, moving the earth or litter, are in the foreground and the truck it imitates is far away in the background doing a similar job. The text is short, concise and in rhyme. Young and old will enjoy digging this one up.
My Garden, by Kevin Henkes, will surely bring a smile to your garden! Mr. Henkes works his usual magic by rendering his artistic ability in both picture and story.  A young girl, while helping in her mother’s garden, explores the possibilities of what she’d have in her own garden. And here the magic begins while her imagination is portrayed on paper. She would plant flowers that would keep blooming, never have weeds and include not just regular bunnies but perhaps, chocolate ones. The symbolism conveyed in both watercolor and text is rich and ends with the possibilities her garden holds!
Noah’s Garden:  When Someone You Love Is In the Hospital, by Ho Johnson, and beautifully illustrated in watercolor by Annabelle Josse, is a nice blend for youngsters who are dealing with family members being hospitalized. Noah dreams of a garden filled with the most imaginative items living and growing there. But, along side these dreams are parts of the hospital which correlates dreams, hopes and reality of a sick loved one. This could be a very helpful and therapeutic book for those in these circumstances.
Aunt Mary’s Rose, by Douglas Wood, and wonderfully illustrated in soft hues of watercolor by LeUyen Pham, is a unique technique of looking into the past and celebrating families.

Aunt Mary imparts on her nephew the length of time her beautiful rose bush has been in the family. She tells him that it was growing even before she was born. As she relates experiences of life while taking care of her roses, the little boy begins to get an understanding of his genealogy. The sepia colors used to illustrate give the appearance of old photographs.
Farm, by Elisha Cooper, will take the reader through a year working on a farm. The text is not lengthy, making it a good read and developing a greater appreciation of what takes place on the farm. The watercolors used throughout are a nice blend making this a good read-aloud. There’s even a glossary found in the front to help navigate through farm equipment and its usage.
Our Farm:  By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary, by Maya Gottfried, and illustrated with a blend of watercolor and ink by Robert Rahway Zakanitch, is filled with poems about animals who have been rescued due to cruelty. However, the poems are filled with the beauty and life of each type of animal and gloriously portrayed in picture-form.
Waiting Out the Storm, by Joann Early Macken, and beautifully painted with acrylic by Susan Gaber, showcases the upcoming summer storm as birds and animals seek shelter. A mother and her daughter, while collecting flowers, see the signs of the changing weather and hurry home. This is a nice blend of nature and nurture as observers notice changes in the weather.
A Place Where Hurricanes Happen
, by Renee Watson, and painted with watercolors by Shadra Strickland, conveys the difficulties and realities of hurricanes, especially in New Orleans where this story takes place. It’s told through the eyes of a child in poetic form and includes experiences of having to evacuate. The pictures portray the before and after scenes and the devastation that takes place. But it’s told with dignity and is not too harsh for younger children. This is, after all, the beginning of hurricane season.