With summer in full swing and many parents wanting (or needing) a few quiet moments to themselves, I thought I would share a few of my favourite picture books that are sure to captivate little and big people alike.
In creating this list, I found myself reflecting a lot on my own childhood summers and the feeling of freedom they evoked – the freedom to play, to daydream, to explore, to just be. These richly told and beautifully illustrated picture books capture the essence of childhood summers as I remember them.
by Julie Morstad
Award-winning Vancouver illustrator, Julie Morstad, is the author and illustrator of this outstanding picture book. How To is another example of how her stunning illustrations pick up where words leave off, revealing something that cannot be conveyed with words or pictures alone. In this whimsical book featuring minimal text, Morstad portrays ‘how to be brave’, ‘how to be faraway’, ‘how to be…happy’, embodying the magical, imaginative way that children see the world.
If You Want to See a Whale
by Julie Fogliano and Erin E. Stead
Told from the perspective of a little boy, If you Want to See a Whale, artfully draws our attention to the power of imagination and the small (and not so small) wonders all around us. Beautifully illustrated and poetically told, this picture book calls to mind the long, lazy days of childhood summers.
When I Was Small
by Sara O’Leary and Julie Morstad
In this whimsical story, acclaimed writer/illustrator duo, O’Leary and Morstad, invite us to step into a fairy-like world with a mother recounting when she was small…literally. “When I was small, says his mother, I played jump rope with a piece of yarn…I went swimming in the birdbath…I could wear a daisy for a sun hat.” Subtly reminding us of just how small a child can feel, When I Was Small, offers us an imaginative take on being little in a big world.
I Wrote You a Note
by Lizi Boyd
The striking artwork alone makes this a deserving book on any summer reading list. I Wrote You a Note opens simply with its own title followed by the question, Did you find it? The story takes us along the note’s playful journey until it reaches its rightful recipient, another child ready to play. This delightful, light-hearted exploration of nature and its creatures quietly speaks to the value of unstructured outdoor play.
by Suzy Lee
This lovely, wordless picture book depicts the playful exchange between a little girl and a wave, and the power of imagination. Told through charcoal and acrylic artwork, this simple but beautiful story awakens the senses to the smell of salt-water, the caress of the ocean breeze on sun-kissed skin, the squelching of sand between little toes. In this subtle way, Wave poetically portrays the deep connection between childhood and nature.
This is Sadie
by Sara O’Leary and Julie Morstad
The heroine of this superbly illustrated story is Sadie, a little girl with a big imagination who exemplifies the very essence of childhood. Sadie’s days are never long enough for all there is to make, do and be.
"Sadie likes to make boats of boxes and castle out of cushions. But more than anything she likes stories because you can make them from nothing at all."
This is Sadie is a potent reminder that we get to write our own stories… stories limited only by our imagination.
An ode to the significance of childhood, these endearing picture books serve as a gentle nudge for us adults to move a little slower, dream a little deeper and play a little freer, reminding us once again that childhood is but a frame of mind.
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