Splash into summer reading

With school letting out, check out children’s picture books


Cars and dump trucks and such. That’s what one Atlanta mom says her 3-year-old son requires in a storybook — “nothing else.” Another reports that her 5-year-old boy mostly digs dinosaurs, lizards, frogs and toads — “any critters that are green.”

This roundup of terrific new 2017 spring-into-summer titles includes such evergreen subjects, but more, too. Hopefully, you’ll spot a storybook just right for the child who sits in your lap.

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‘On Duck Pond’ by Jane Yolen, pictures by Bob Marstall

Yolen, who’s been called the Hans Christian Andersen of today, is a multi-award-winning poet and author (Caldecott Medal for “Owl Moon,” 1988). Her gentle story follows a boy and a dog on a morning visit to Old Duck Pond. The boy values the utter peace and also delights in the wildlife noises that come and go.

“Down they splashed. The water spattered. Then they chittered, whistled, chattered.” Marstall’s nature scenes are breathtaking. A fine way to nudge young children toward their own nature treks. (Ages 3-5, Cornell Lab Publishing Group, $15.95)

‘Mama’s Kisses’ by Kate McMullan, illustrated by Tao Nyeu

From monkeys to leopards, animals in the rainforest are rounding up their babes for bedtime. But it takes these typical “kids” a while to settle down. As they do, this morphs seamlessly into a soothing sleepy-time tale.

Nyeu’s color scheme is inspired, truly distinct: all dark and light blues, dashed with orange and yellow. (Ages 3-5, Dial, $16.99)

‘Bulldozer Helps Out’ by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann

At a busy construction site, Crane Truck does the lifting, Cement Mixer is stirring, Digger Truck is scooping. Little Bulldozer just wants a chance to do something, to prove his worth.

Packed with personality, here’s the bright and lovable follow-up to “Bulldozer’s Big Day.” (Ages 4-7, Atheneum, $17.99)

‘Jabari Jumps’ by Gaia Cornwall

Nothing quite says “summer” like a young child tilting forward on the edge of a high diving board, gathering courage to leap off for the first time. That child probably wasn’t ready last year; a new summer marks a turning point, a milestone.

When his dad squeezes his hand, Jabari squeezes back, a sign that this is new and scary, but also that Jabari can do it. Cornwall delivers a dandy, splash-happy story; her digitally colored scenes in pencil, watercolor and collage are just right. (Ages 4-8, Candlewick Press, $15.99)

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‘Rolling Thunder’ by Kate Messner, illustrated by Greg Ruth

In honor of our armed forces, veterans and supporters gather annually on Memorial Day weekend in Washington, D.C., for the Rolling Thunder Ride for Freedom.

“Lines of bikes are miles long, shining, half a million strong. Rumbling, grumbling, engines roar. Peace signs. High fives. Spirits soar.” This book goes zoom, thanks to Ruth’s energetic art. But it’s also a mighty tribute to heroes past and present. (Ages 4-8, Scholastic Press, $17.99)

‘Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures,’ photographs by Joel Sartore, words by Kwame Alexander

From fierce predators to the “shyest sea creatures,” Sartore has spent 20-plus years traveling the globe to get up close with creatures great and small. His mission as founder of the National Geographic Photo Ark: to photograph all of the world’s captive animals. He’s photographed some 6,000 species to date; about 100 images are in this vibrant volume that can fascinate all ages.

With hand up to its mouth, the Western African mandrill seems to be keeping a secret. The fluorescent-orange Guianan cock-of-the-rock of northern South America has “mohawk plume … sharp, stinging beauty.”

Alexander’s haiku poems dance across the dazzling pages, lightening things up. (Ages 4-8, National Geographic, $15.99)

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‘My Kicks: A Sneaker Story’ by Susan Verde, illustrated by Katie Kath

It can be hard to give up a favorite pair of old shoes, no matter how stinky.

North Carolina artist Kath, a graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design, has created wonderfully detailed ink-and-watercolor scenes that smack of nostalgia and brought to mind Peter Spier, the great Dutch-American illustrator who died last month.

A fun, relatable story about growing up, accepting change, and soaring off in a new pair of “kicks.” Bonus: A handy shoe-tying guide printed right on the front cover, hidden under the jacket. (Ages 5-7, Abrams, $16.95)

‘Dad and the Dinosaur’ by Gennifer Choldenko, illustrated by Dan Santat

Exciting, dramatic artwork seems to pop out of these big pages. Nicholas wants to be as brave as his dad, but he’s afraid of the dark and of “bushes where the giant bugs lived, and the undersides of manhole covers.”

To conquer fears and excel, he needs his small toy dinosaur in his pocket (or tucked into his soccer sock, or tied to his swim trunks). Dad, who gets it, comes off as the real hero. A super choice for Father’s Day. (Ages 5-8, Putnam, $17.99)

‘The Secret Life of the Red Fox’ by Laurence Pringle, illustrated by Kate Garchinsky

Follow one year in the life of a fox named Vixen, and learn lots about the wild predator that weighs only 8 to 12 pounds and makes sounds ranging from whines and woofs to chirps and barks. The superior painted scenes, rendered in pastels and aqua crayons on sanded paper, fill every page. (Ages 6-9, Boyds Mills Press, $16.95)

‘Flowers for Sarajevo’ by John McCutcheon, illustrations by Kristy Caldwell

In the face of suffering, unrest and flying mortar, there are still moments of beauty, and the power of music can be immense. Singer-songwriter and folklorist McCutcheon, of Smoke Rise, Ga., adapts his 2001 song, “Streets of Sarajevo.”

Included: a CD that offers McCutcheon’s recording of “Streets” and his narration of this story. Caldwell’s expressive artwork (ink, charcoal and graphite pencil in subdued tones) is the perfect complement. A thoughtful, enlightening effort for kids old enough to grasp the concept of war. (Ages 7-10, Peachtree Publishers, $19.95)

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