Picture books offer an array of topics for summer readers

Published: Tuesday, July 15 2014 5:15 p.m. MDT

Recent picture books explore everything from adventures in the backyard to biographies and even craft projects. There are great picture books for reading aloud and some for answering questions about the world. Others are thoughtful, “quiet time” stories.

Common in all the picture books mentioned here are outstanding illustrations that demonstrate a variety of mediums and techniques. Time spent sharing a picture book on a hot summer day, in a cool alcove or on a vacation can be time remembered forever.

BENEATH THE SUN,” by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Constance R. Bergum, Peachtree Press, $16.95 (ages 4-8)

When the days are hot and shade or cool water is sought for comfort, what do animals do beneath the sun to help them survive? Melissa Stewart’s text and Constance R. Bergum’s paneled watercolor illustrations portray 15 animals and insects as they help themselves. “The spittlebug squirts milky white goo into a bubbly froth.” Inside, the bug is safe from enemies and heat.

A horned lizard lies in the shade of a shrub while “a male osprey soaks his belly feathers in water to cool off … returns to his nest where thirsty chicks suck his feathers dry.”

The story of animals’ adaptation to the sun will be fascinating to children as they watch, swim and dig this summer.

SHADOW CHASERS,” by Elly MacKay, Running Press Kids, $16.95 (ages 3 and up)

“Shadow Chasers” is a hide-and-seek book about chasing shadows until the dark makes them disappear. Using special paint and photography techniques in vivid nature tones, Elly MacKay captures the setting sun, the garden path and spaces in between trees as children try to catch the shadows that “flit and flutter away.”

As the warm house welcomes the children, the “good night” assures that in the morning they will chase the shadows again.

HELLO, MOON!” by Francesca Simon, illustrated by Ben Cort, Scholastic, $16.99 (ages 3-6)

This book also offers a summer evening adventure. Here, a small child seeks out the moon: “Can we talk? I get lonely down on earth sometimes. What I want to know is ….” followed by questions (“Can you see the highest, highest mountain?”) that ramble as the voice of an inquisitive — and maybe lonely — child would do. “Do you have lots of friends, Moon? A billion, trillion, gazillion? But they are all so far away.”

Finally, both boy and moon fall asleep assured that they’re always ready when they need to talk.

“Hello, Moon!" would be a peaceful bedtime story for a sleep-resistant child.

RULES OF SUMMER,” by Shaun Tan, Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $18.99 (all ages)

As an older brother dictates a series of rules in a make-believe world, the smaller boy ignores the restrictions and appears undisturbed by Shaun Tan’s trademark one-eyed creatures (“Never leave a red sock on a clothes-line”), mechanical robots (“Never ruin a perfect plan”) and evil birdlike characters (“Never eat the last olive at a party”).

The conclusion of their rule-driven adventure (“Never miss the last day of summer”) finds the boys comfortable and safe even with evidence of the “rules” on display throughout the house.

Tan, author of “The Arrival” and “Tales from Outer Suburbia,” leaves much to the imagination and personal interpretation in “Rules of Summer,” but that’s the fun of the whole experience.

VERY SHORT TALL TALES TO READ TOGETHER,” by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Michael Emberley, Little, Brown, $17 (read aloud for ages 4-8)

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