Summer reading for babies and toddlers

When you’ve only seen it once or twice, 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.

We're very into Mrs. Peanuckle's Fruit Alphabet (Amazon | Indiebound) and Vegetable Alphabet (Amazon | Indiebound) at the moment. This series has drop-dead gorgeous typography and graphic design, plus a fresh, adult-friendly take on the eternal Series of 26 Objects Plus Facts structure. I definitely thought they were a bit gimmicky when I first saw them., but if it is a gimmick, it's one my kids and I continue to enjoy. Birds and Bugs are in the mail. 

Jamberry (Amazon | Indiebound) takes a small white boy and a behatted bear on a trippy romp through a celebration of berries, including elephants skating on jam and berry firecrackers. The text is rhyming and singsongy in a way that will immediately stick in your head. 

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.

Swim! (Amazon | Indiebound) is a very simple story of two kids at the pool having a great time. I don't love the illustrations, but if you like the style it's a nice low-word-count narrative of a commonplace activity. 

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

Twinkle, Twinkle, Small Hoku (Amazon | Indiebound) features gorgeous turquoise-and-purple waves, Polynesian catamarans and a starlight ocean voyage to accompany the slightly altered words of the classic rhyme.

Jamberry (Amazon | Indiebound) is a trippy romp through a celebration of berries, including elephants skating on jam and berry firecrackers. The text is rhyming and singsongy in a way that will immediately stick in your head. 

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.

Some Bugs (Amazon | Indiebound) has detailed but stylish illustrations of dozens of insects and a quick, verb-heavy rhyming verse that actually scans. My three-year-old has been totally delighted by looking up video and audio of the featured bugs on the Internet and this is why we know about the creepy coolness of the Eyed Click Beetle

Backyard Bugs (Amazon | Indiebound), which incorporates did-you-know facts for preschoolers, is not as much fun for me but the kids like it. 

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.