Summer reading for babies, toddlers, and reading program cheaters

When you’re only a year or two old, the change of a season is a big deal. And as an adult, watching a child discover the feeling of a splash of cool water or the taste of ripe summer fruit, crouch over a roly-poly, or terrorize a bright patch of flowers in bloom is a joy in itself. Here are some board books that can help you and your little explorer bask in summer’s glory as long as you like. 

(This is a running list. Amazon links are affiliate links.)

 Naturally, Behowl the Moon: An Ageless Story from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Amazon | Here!) is perfect for summer reading, with its fairies and animas cavorting through a wild landscape under a sky full of stars. 

The tastes of summer make for great read-alongs. Jamberry (Amazon | Indiebound) spills a psychedelic riot of berries and rhymes over the pages.

The Watermelon Seed (Amazon | Indiebound), meanwhile, is a silly cautionary tale told by a crocodile in white, black, green, and watermelon pink, sure to get a cackle from a toddler if you ham it up.

Beach Baby (Amazon | Indiebound) , one of the Indestructible series printed on waterproof flexible Tyvek, is a favorite among kids learning to talk, since it offers plenty of items to point at and name.

Chu’s Day at the Beach (Amazon | Indiebound), the latest Neil Gaiman book about the little panda with the big sneeze, on our list for the next batch of new books. 

Swim! (Amazon | Indiebound) is a very simple story of two kids at the pool having a great time.

Blue Boat (Amazon | Indiebound) is a “rough, tough tugboat” with a woman captain who saves a family of sailors from a storm.

If you live with a small Moana fan, Twinkle, Twinkle, Small Hoku (Amazon | Indiebound)  might be a nice addition to the shelf, with its Polynesian catamarans and starlight ocean voyage.

Birds (Amazon | Indiebound) by Kevin Henkes is a wonderful book for a window watcher especially, with accurate depictions of North American songbirds and a story about a girl who can’t fly—but can sing.

I still have an intemperate love for Some Bugs (Amazon | Indiebound), which has detailed but stylish illustrations of dozens of insects and a quick, verb-heavy rhyming verse that actually scans.

Backyard Bugs (Amazon | Indiebound), which incorporates did-you-know facts for preschoolers, is another household favorite this summer.

Fish books! Fish are great but I haven't found any I truly love as board books.

Pout Pout Fish (Amazon | Indiebound) is a huge bestseller and it has some fun rhymes and sound effects, although I do not love the “kiss everyone in sight without asking them first” resolution.

The Rainbow Fish (Amazon | Indiebound) has pretty shinies, but the text isn't really appropriate for small kids and the story has been abridged from the original. 

Little Fish (Amazon | Indiebound), a finger puppet book, isn’t much by way of literature but can be fun with the sub-one-year crowd.

Splash! (Amazon | Indiebound) is another of the baby faces series with a water/bathtime theme—if you don’t have one of these and would like one, it’s topical!

Little Owl’s Day (Amazon | Indiebound) has a boreal summertime vibe, in my opinion—reminds me of visiting Banff. 

Planting a Rainbow (Amazon | Indiebound) is a JUST BUY IT book as far as I’m concerned, the simple story of how a child plants a garden can become as specific or as general as the listener desires, with the illustrations of particular bulbs and particular sprouts, leaves, buds, and blooms. 

Eric Carle’s The Tiny Seed (Amazon | Indiebound) handles the plant life cycle from an anthropomorphized seed’s perspective.