Picture books that capture summer magic
These new reads remind youngsters of the joys of the Fourth of July, the teeming wildlife of ponds and the refreshing feeling of an outdoor nap.
‘Blue Sky White Stars’ by Sarvinder Naberhaus; illustrated by Kadir Nelson; Dial Books/Penguin; 32 pages; $17.99.
Painted with detailed love by Kadir Nelson, this ode to America’s majesty and diversity is exactly what’s needed right now. The creators smartly depict period-specific flags, from a Civil War-era flag to Betsy Ross’s wonder. Sarvinder Naberhaus clearly loves her adopted country. Simple phrases such as “Sea waves” and “See waves” and “All-American” are written in sparse large red, white and blue letters to show a baseball game. Also showed is a photo-like illustration of an African-American veteran eating Cracker Jack popcorn on a porch with a young boy.
This glorious parallel between America and its flag is subtle but moving and beautiful. We must all remember that our flag is a shining symbol to uphold “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Nelson’s timeless paintings are museum-worthy.
‘On Duck Pond’ by Jane Yolen; pictures by Bob Marstall; The Cornell Lab Publishing Group; 32 pages; $15.95.
Jane Yolen has long been a prolific poet for children, especially about nature and all its creatures. This lovely picture book takes place on old Duck Pond in New England. A boy strolling nearby with his dog observes the pond, watching the frogs, fish, tadpoles, herons and turtles react when a noisy raft of ducks drops in, and how the tranquility is replaced by a temporary fervor that breathes new life into the moment.
Yolen beautifully writes: “Tadpoles troubled by the splash/ Now marked new water roads to dash. The frog swam back to his old pad/ Forgotten was the scare he’d had.” The words describe Bob Marstall’s refreshingly peaceful and meditative pictures — except for the splash!
‘The Perfect Siesta’ by Pato Mena; NubeOcho Publishing; 38 pages; $15.95.
With the up-close face of a sleepy sloth staring out of the cover, Pato Mena’s uber-fun tale invites readers happily from the start. “It was the middle of the day in the jungle and the jaguar was very hot,” the story goes. When he feels a cool breeze, he thinks it’s the perfect time to take a siesta, but he has something important to do and only wants to nap briefly. He asks a big-eyed coati to wake him up in 10 minutes, but then, the coati feels the breeze and gets sleepy, and asks a cockatiel to wake up in 10. This pattern continues, with each animal getting sleepy until our orange sloth battles his urge to sleep. But he can’t stay awake and falls asleep anyway. Fortunately, right then, his loud snore wakes them all up “right on the tenth minute!”
With a summery palate of pale greens and blues, and coral oranges, and a bevy of hugeeyed hilarious cartoon creatures, Mena’s ode to napping is a must for summertime bedtimes.