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15+ Summer Books for Children

by Cindy Anderson

I recently had the opportunity to spend a few days at the beach. There is nothing quite like being close to the ocean to take away the stresses of life. I went for long walks, collected shells and rocks, watched the sunrise, and enjoyed the cool waves. 

Since returning home, I have been rereading my worn, dog-eared copy of Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. It has been an excellent reminder of why we all need time outdoors to reconnect with nature. Louv writes that “time in nature is not leisure time; it’s an essential investment in our children’s health (and also, by the way, in our own).” Louv furthers this point in his second book, The Nature Principle, Reconnecting with Nature in a Digital Age, when he wonders, “What would our lives be like if our days and nights were as immersed in nature as they are in technology.” 

Since it is the season of summer holidays, this book list points us toward outdoor adventures, specifically chosen for the warm days of summer. This time of year often brings us the gift of a slower pace, more unscheduled time, and more connection to the outdoors. These beautiful books cover various topics: hikes through meandering trails, trips to the lake or pond, walks through our neighborhoods, and simple times spent in nature with family and friends.

The Hike by Alison Farrell

This book is full of lovely art, creative ideas, and discoveries in nature. Three young sisters prepare for a hike in the woods. They bring sketchbooks, a poetry book, binoculars, feathers, a flag, their dog, and everything needed for an adventure in their local woods. Every page labels the animals, flora, and fauna they encounter on the way, and the back of the book shows their final sketches, complete with labels and fun and engaging information. 

(Recommended for ages 3-7.)

The Night Walk by Marie Dorleans

The depiction of this family’s nighttime adventure is awash in deep blues and dark shadows, with just the right illumination, bringing a sense of calm and wonder. The family creates a magical memory together, and the story expresses an awe of nature and respect for the nighttime landscape. 

(Recommended for ages 3-7.)

Dark on Light by Dianne White 

This book is another on exploring nature at night. Three siblings go search for their lost dog. With flashlights in hand, they discover nature in all its nighttime beauty. The words are rhythmic, and the illustrations are enchanting. 

(Recommended for ages 3-7.)

Blackout by John Rocco

One hot summer evening, the power goes out in the city. A family has to make their fun without technology. They end up going to their rooftop to watch the stars, and then go to the street to see neighbors creating their own fun. What will happen when the lights come back on? 

(Recommended for ages 3-8.)

And Then Comes Summer by Tom Brenner

This book had me with its introduction to summer on its first page, “When the days stretch out like a slow yawn, and leaves and grasses sparkle with dew, and the cheerful faces of Johnny-jump-ups jump up…” This book celebrates the simple joys of summer: bike rides, camping, popsicles, parades, and late bedtimes. 

(Recommended for ages 3-7.)

Everything You Need for a Treehouse has the power to fuel reader’s imaginations as it connects them more deeply to what is possible in the natural world. Each page introduces a new creative type of treehouse. The illustrations are the best part of the book, filled with children playing, climbing, imagining, and enjoying time outside. 

(Recommended for ages 3-8.)

The Little Blue Cottage by Kelly Jordan

The little girl visits the little blue cottage every summer. They keep each other company and the cottage looks forward to her arrival every year. One year she doesn’t show up, and then another, and the cottage has to wait and wait. I won’t ruin the lovely conclusion of the story, but it is worth reading.

(Recommended ages 4-9.)

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant 

I am a huge fan of Cynthia Rylant. Her books are always gentle and heartwarming. In this story, relatives drive up from Virginia to spend the summer with their aunts, uncles, and cousins. It is filled with the joys of meals together, outdoor games, working on projects, and family members simply enjoying time together. 

(Recommended ages 3-8.)

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall 

This is a sweet and engaging story about a summer day at the pool. Jambari has passed his swim test and is ready to jump off the high dive. Or is he? With the help of his encouraging father, he finds the bravery he needs. 

(Recommended ages 2-5.)

The Raft by Jim LaMarche 

Nicky is not excited about spending his summer at his grandmother’s house in the woods of Wisconsin. One day, however, he discovers a raft and decides to spend his summer exploring the river. Nicky’s connection to the outdoors helps him see the world in a completely different light. The book has beautiful illustrations and would be an excellent read-aloud for older children. 

(Recommended for ages 4-10.)

River by Elisha Cooper

This book takes its reader on a woman’s solo journey traveling the Hudson River on her canoe. The text describes the adventure in detail, showing the beauty of nature and the hardships she endures. The watercolor drawings enhance the story, showing the natural world in thoughtful detail. 

(Recommended for ages 4-10.)

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey 

Blueberries for Sal is a classic story, first published in 1948. Sal and her mother go out to collect blueberries for winter. Sal wanders off and meets a mama bear, and Sal’s mother meets a baby bear.

(Recommended for ages 2-6.)

Gerald and Piggie are best friends. They have big plans to play outside, but will the weather cooperate? All the books in the Elephant and Piggie series are fun to read, have lovely illustrations, are full of adventure, and paint a beautiful picture of friendship. 

(Recommended for ages 2-6.)

Flashlight by Liza Boyd

Wordless picture books are great for pre-readers who can make up their own creative stories by observing the details in the illustrations. In this book, a young boy takes us on his nighttime camping trip. He uses his trusted flashlight to illuminate the animals, plants, and trees hiding in the darkness.

(Recommended for ages 2-4.)


The Rabbit Room has recently added some beautiful collections and editions of classic stories to their online book store. I wanted to mention a few that would be perfect for reading aloud as a family this summer. Although the stories do not take place solely in the summer months, they are all based on spending daily time outdoors for play and work. 

This collection of stories about the mice of Brambly Hedge is an absolute treasure. This volume includes a story for each season and four other stories. Readers will pause at the pages to enjoy the beautiful illustrations filled with beautiful, mouse-sized details. This larger edition is perfect for reading aloud and makes a great gift. 

(Recommended for ages 3-7.)

James Herriot’s Treasury for Children by Ruth Brown and Peter Barrett

This lovely collection brings the stories of Yorkshire veterinarian James Herriot to children. It introduces them to wonderful animals and shows how Herriot cared for each of them. The stories are charming and endearing, and the illustrations bring the characters to life. Children will return to these stories over and over again. 

(Recommended for ages 4-10.)

The Penderwicks Series by Jeanne Birdsall

I mentioned the first book in this series on my last booklist, but each book in this collection is special in its own right. These books are charming, humorous, and are full of adventure. 

(Recommended for ages 8-14.)

This classic was first published in 1908. This edition is decorated with Robert Ingpen’s illustrations. The descriptions of the natural world and the friendship between Toad, Mole, Badger, and Rat are timeless and touching. 

(Recommended for ages 8-14.)

*Note: I have included approximate age ranges for the book recommendations on this list. However, I want to mention my firm belief that a well-written picture book is for all ages, whether one or a hundred.


Cindy has been an educator for over 30 years, including work in environmental and nature education. She consistently uses stories and books, including picture books, with all of her students from elementary to high school. Most recently, she taught high school humanities, as well as creative writing and science classes for middle school. On any given Saturday, you can find her in her garden, the local farmers market, and her local library. 

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