Because our feature story this month highlights ways to prevent the “summer slide”—where children lose some of the previous year’s learning during a prolonged school break—our book recommendations balance a well-earned celebration of the season’s pleasures with some subtle reinforcement of fundamental academic skills.
by Barbara Kanninen, art by Serge Bloch (Phaidon $16.95) Ages 2-5
For toddlers just beginning to understand colors and shapes, this humorous and fast-moving story sneaks a refresher lesson into an utterly captivating rhyme escapade: the story of friendly shapes with human-like personalities appeals even to kindergarteners who may no longer need the geometry primer.
Drawn with deceptive simplicity by multi-award-winning illustrator Bloch, the characters—blue circle, fuchsia diamond, red octagon, etc.—cavort in a comic chain reaction, accompanied by stick-figure people trying to contain the havoc that ensues. The text is similarly simple, with an economy of words that suits the pace: “Circle rolls, rectangle stands, triangle points without any hands…”
by Bridget Heos, illustrated by T.L. McBeth (Holt $17.99) Ages 3-6
Starting with a silly pun and cleverly showcasing some aspirational vocabulary words like “salutations”, “gargantuan” and “formidable”, this story will please lovers of language in addition to toddlers who love dinosaurs (i.e. all toddlers).
A bouncy red bowtie isn’t the only thing that sets our prehistoric hero apart from his Stegosaurus brothers; while they speak in Jurassic monosyllables, he’s a Stegothesaurus, employing florid synonyms for just about everything in their world.
This distinction can get a little lonely, until one day he befriends a similarly verbose Allothesaurus who seems to “get” him—but does she really? Or will he discover he actually has a stronger bond with his laconic brothers than he originally thought…
by Sally Lloyd-Jones, pictures by Leo Espinosa (Schwartz & Wade $17.99) Ages 3-7
Recently published just in time for summer! This utterly charming (and, according to the author, “completely true, made-up story”) traces three children, confined to their Manhattan apartment with Grandpa and their three goldfish, equally bored with their vacation prospects.—Until, one day, a sign goes-up at the old fountain across the street, inviting “all goldfish looking for a summer home.”
Soon, the fountain is tidied and filled with water and lily pads, and all the neighbors bring their fish to frolic in the pond. Each day the local children play together while visiting their aquatic pets, even Grandpa sits nearby to share stories of his boyhood—when the fountain was new and provided a drinking trough for horses!
Themes include connecting with neighbors, the spirit of idle summer days, and appreciation of the past, all reinforced by the retro-cheerful illustrations. As for the “completely true” part of the story: Between 1992 and 2005, the circa-1890 Hamilton Fountain in New York City really was filled with lily pads and goldfish during the warm months!