Tuesday 29 May 2012

10 of the best books for summer reading

The sun is out, the sky is blue, there's no air, and your neighbours are happily filling your house with the stink of their barbecue so what better time is there to escape somewhere quiet and countrified to read your child a fantastic summery book! Slap on the sun cream, throw together a picnic, take something nice and cool to sip at while reading one of the following:

1) Harry by the Sea by Margaret Bloy Graham and Gene Zion

Harry, the mischievous black and white scamp, decamps with his family to the seaside but can't find a jot of shade. So what does he do? What any good dog would do, take a dip in the sea!

I've lost count of the amount of times we've read this book and enjoyed it. I remember the Harry books from when I was a wee whippersnapper in shorts, long before the days of Factor 50 sunscreen and sensible sun hats, and the seaside setting and hilarious story makes this a real summer treat. It's such a shame that Red Fox never got to reprint the rest of the Harry books (you can get this, No Roses for Harry, Harry the Dirty Dog and Harry and the Lady Next Door but there were so many more!) as they're absolute classics.

2) Knick Knack Paddywhack by Paul O. Zelinsky

Paul O. Zelinsky's paper-craft pop up books are absolutely amazing. Beautifully engineered and extremely difficult to keep in good condition (our copy of this is extremely dog-eared but it's still a wonderful treat to go through it). It has a summery vibe and re-tells the classic nursery rhyme with intricate detail and humour. Bright colours and absolute genius paper mechanics really make this book (literally) stand out. Read it, play with it, enjoy the actions and counting, it really is a beautifully constructed book and if you're lucky enough to spot a copy, grab it as it's becoming extremely rare now.

3) The Queen's Knickers by Nicholas Allan

A slightly irreverent but nonetheless humour-packed look in the Queen's bottom drawer. The Queen's Knickers has been re-released and given a new cover to coincide with this weekend's Jubilee celebrations. Even if you're a curmudgeonly anti-royal lapsed punk, you'll still get a kick out of reading this to your children. Who knew that the Queen has an extra-special pair of inflatable knickers for taking on foreign holidays!

4) Chicky Chicky Chook Chook by Cathy MacLennan

Sunny sunny warm shine indeed! A lovely summery sing-along rhyming book which goes perfectly with our changeable weather. One minute we're grumbling about the excessive rain, the next minute we're grumpy because of the excessive heat. It's impossible to stay grumpy and grumbly while reading this busy little book, and children of all ages will love the cute and colourful animals and birds in this one. The board book edition has a lovely fuzzy feel to it in places, perfect for children who love tactile books.

5) Pants and More Pants by Giles Andrea and Nick Sharratt

Bouncy, fun, sunny and brilliantly illustrated, the "Pants" books are legendary and quite rightly so too. This was one of the first books we bought Charlotte back when she was a tiddler. Now she's about to start school and still absolutely loves this. Some editions come with a CD which is perfect for a bit of dancing round the paddling pool to. "Have you done a farty pants? No, not me!"

6) Winnie in Winter by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul

OK I haven't lost the plot, it does clearly say "Winnie in Winter" on this book, and this is a summer book recommendation - but you'll see why I've recommended this as a sunny summer read when you see what happens when Winnie the Witch gets fed up with the snow and the ice, waves her magic wand, says 'Abracadabra' and kick-starts summer earlier than normal. Invaded by annoying neighbours, ice cream vans and people splashing in her pond, I can wholly identify with Winnie's plight! Excellent at any time of year but perfect for days when your only respite from the heat is diving into the freezer for those rocket lollies you've got stashed away.

7) Smile! (Starring Sunny McCloud) by Leigh Hodgkinson

When the hero of your book is called Sunny McCloud, you can pretty much expect a good fit for a warm summer's day and this book delivers. Sunny McCloud is a bright happy little girl who seeks adventure and excitement amongst the ordinary everyday world. It's such an effervescent book full of energy that it's perfect for hot lazy afternoons. Let Sunny McCloud do all the rushing around while you take it easy, reading this one to your children. Perfecto!

8) Shark in the Park by Nick Sharratt

Hopefully you won't encounter any piscine terrors when you go for a dip in the pond at your local park. Nick Sharratt's "Shark (doo, doo) in the Park (doo, doo)" is a firm favourite at home (er, the Doo - doo bits? That would take a long time to explain but bear with!). Summery and fun with Sharratt's trademark artwork, what could be better? (Shark in the Dark, probably - which is also great!)

9) A Dose of Doctor Dog by Babette Cole

Babette Cole's irreverent (and sometimes quite gross) books are, of course, a massive hit with Charlotte. From the inner workings of your bowels, to the best cure for insect bites, Doctor Dog's plans for a quiet holiday relaxing in tropical climes don't quite pan out when his rotten family, The Gumboyles, gatecrash his summer retreat.

As usual, it's up to Doctor Dog to save the day, along with his new friend Professor Dash Hund.

The Doctor Dog books are brilliant, and though there's a tenuous summery link here, we won't stop recommending them because they're hilarious (and downright squishy) fun!

10) The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

We haven't reviewed this one yet but it's on the list of books to read to Charlotte when she's a bit older and progresses past the picture book stage. So why is it on the list of summer books? Surely everyone (young or old) fantasises about finding that secret quiet little nook away from the madding crowd. Somewhere to nestle into the corner of, tucked away from the noise and hubbub like the girl in this story. Let's hope the robins (which we still see pecking at our bird feeders) one day lead us to our own secret garden, that'd be smashing.

Hope you enjoyed the recommendations and if you've got any more, drop a comment below please!