The “dog days” of summer are upon us, making this the perfect time to enjoy reading picture books with young family members.  All of these books are good for ages four through eight, unless otherwise noted.

Prairie Days, by Patricia MacLachlan, and richly illustrated using collage with acrylics, inks and textured papers by Micha Archer, celebrates where the author was born and raised in eastern Wyoming and of life in the hot days of summer.  She uses her famous trademark of sparse lyrical words to express summer life in the 1940’s.  In the heat of the summer we swam in the farm pond, floating, spitting streams of water high into the blue sky.  Every double page spread gloriously showcases Ms. Archer’s usage of origami, tissue paper and homemade stamps in every vibrant picture.

The Sea Knows, by Alice B. McGinty and Alan B. Havis, and digitally painted by Stephanie Laberis, is a brightly illustrated book that simply teaches the magnificence of the sea.  The rhyming text allures even the youngest into the wonderment of all that lives beneath the waves.  The sea knows depths as black as ink. (The page shows effervescent life forms living in this realm.)  The sea knows sink. (This page shows a ship with an anchor lying deep on the ocean floor.  There is more to learn and discuss about the sea found at the back of the book.

The Ocean: Exploring Our Blue Planet, by Miranda Krestovnikoff, and wonderfully painted by Jill Calder, is full of information about the deep blue sea making this a perfect read for ages six through adult.  The over-sized picture book is sectioned into 6 parts which includes a few of the headings under each: Coastlines (Tide Pools & Estuaries), Shallow Seas (Coral Reefs & Shipwrecks), The Open Ocean (Whales and Dolphins), The Polar Seas (Polar Bears & Arctic Creatures), The Deep Ocean (Hydrothermal Vents & Deep Ocean Monsters) and The Plastic Ocean. The artwork labeling of tiny oceanic creatures alone is informative – as is the entire book!

Swim Swim Sink, by Jenn Harney, is a hilarious rhyming tale featuring three small ducklings and their mother as they steer into the water.  However, the last of the three suddenly sinks and humorously states after the second attempt: this sinking is ruining the rhyme.   The young duck tries again and again, with giant water wings, stilts and even a jet ski.  But he finally figures out a most creative solution and youngsters will giggle throughout.  I’m betting this book will become a favorite read-out-loud.  Be sure to check out the clever end-pages.  The mostly open-page bright illustrations were made digitally.

Jules vs. The Ocean, by Jessie Sima, pays homage to the ocean and sand as young Jules attempts to build a sandcastle in order to impress her older sister.  As her sister runs off to use a boogie board and ride the waves, Jules decides to build a fabulous castle so her sister will desire to play in the sand.  But time and time again waves crash her creations.  When a wave ends up taking her bucket out to sea, she feels hopeless.  How can she build a castle without her bucket?  Her sister comes to her aid and together they build a fantastic castle.  But can you guess what happens to that castle?  Mom states “that happens to everyone”.  The ending will bring a smile and a discussion to all who read this charming and brightly Illustrated book completed in Photoshop!

This is Frog, by Harriet Evans, and vividly illustrated by Jacqui Lee, is a very inventive book that allows youngsters to interact as you read it aloud to them.  It begins with the statement of the title and then proceeds to explain what kind of frog.  Frog is a Tree Frog who lives in the rain forest.  The text poses a question: Shall we help Frog jump by shaking the book up and down?  Upon turning the page, you see Frog practically jumping off the top of the page.  The text asks for you to use your fingers to run up the page to stop him.  Every page invites the reader to help Frog in many different situations.  This fun book will be re-read again and again as it states on the last page: un-frog-gettable.

Beehive, by Joey Hurley, simply explains the process of the cycle of bees making honey.  The wonderful illustrations have just one word on each open page describing the event taking place.  The open page filled with blossoms and flowers features bees fluttering and searching.  The single word you read is explore. Anotherpage states build featuring a tree trunk with a large hole and bees fluttering and beginning a process that youcan see.  The single word to read is build.  The bees are beginning their beehive.  There is information found at the back of the book about this complete process.  All ages will enjoy learning about the miracle of this important insect, but it would also be good for new readers.  The illustrations were completed with Photoshop.

Hello, Little One: A Monarch Butterfly Story, by Zeena M. Pliska, and gorgeously illustrated in traditional and digital mixed media by Fiona Halliday, begins on an open-page in a display of green as a small caterpillar crawls and suddenly sees a giant display of orange on the following open-page.  Orange becomes the name of a beautiful monarch butterfly as both learn about the world of each.  The lyrical text, and beautiful pictures, introduce the science of this magnificent transformation.  Much more information is found at the back of the book.

Roy Digs Dirt, by David Shannon, has to be one of the big ramifications of summer and kids and pets: dirt. This celebrated author brings this theme to the forefront with a terrier named Roy who loves everything having to do with dirt.  He loves to play with dirt; roll in dirt; even talk to dirt.  But when he encounters a skunk, his dirty body needs be bathed which he totally dislikes!  Shannon’s delightful drawings and expressions of Roy are a delight. You may just look at dirt in a whole new way!