From Storms to Fireflies, Midsummer Picture Books to Read Right Now

Boom! Boom! Boom! By Jamie A. Swenson, pictures by David Walker. Farrar Straus Giroux, New York, NY, 2013.  Boom Boom Boom

When this book came out, I knew I had to have it. No, not for my grandchild, although I’m sure I will read it to her in the future. This one is for me. You see, I really am afraid of storms.  If it even looks like a tornado could form, I’m down in my basement.  The story is told that when I was very young, I was standing next to our barn when lightening struck its lightening rod. All I remember is my mother’s scream. I was completely unharmed, but that clinched it. I do not like storms.

The small boy in Boom! Boom! Boom! settles into bed with his stuffed bear, Fred.  When thunder starts crashing around outside they are joined by the dog.  Pretty soon the cat joins them, then guinea pig, frog, parrot, snake and finally, “Sis jumped in with elbows flying. The bed groaned, and creaked and then stopped trying.”

In the end, the small boy figures out a solution to the destruction in his room and finally gets some sleep.

The cadence of the rhyme makes this one of those books that is just as much fun to read for the adult as well as the child. David Walker’s eye-catching illustrations will appeal to the youngest child.  But beware!  They may want to bring all their toys and pets to bed with them.  But then, parents of frightened children will undoubtedly have experienced a similar bedroom menagerie at some point already.

Grandma’s Beach by Rosalind Beardshaw. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, New York, NY, 2001.  Grandma's Beach

Every child of a working parent has had a day like this.  Mom promises to take Emily to the beach.  Just as they finish packing the car, Mom’s phone rings.  She has to go to the office and Emily has to go to Grandma’s. But Grandma doesn’t live near a beach.  When Emily arrives at Grandma’s with a long face, Grandma tells her to get all her beach things out of the car.  So, while Emily changes clothes, Grandma gets busy recreating a beach in her own yard.

Every grandma, and every child lucky enough to be cared for by one, will delight in this simple story and kid friendly illustrations. The portrayal of how a loving adult tries—and succeeds—at turning a disappointing day into a day at the beach will appeal to any caregiver who’s been confronted with a disgruntled pre-schooler.  With the help of a kiddie pool, a sand pile and, of course, a hose, Emily’s day turns into such fun that when Mom picks her up and suggests they go to the beach tomorrow, Emily replies, “That’s ok, Mom. I like Grandma’s beach best.”

And why not?  Spending time with a caring adult, especially a grandma this creative, beats a crowded beach any day.

The Very Lonely Firefly by Eric Carle. Philomel Books, New York, NY, 1995.

The Very Lonely Firefly

Considering this book came out in 1995 I’m surprised I wasn’t aware of it until now.  The popularity of Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar has probably overshadowed this one. But while I was sitting in my living room the other night, looking out the window and seeing the first flickering of fireflies in my yard, I got to wondering: there must be a firefly book out there. And so I discovered The Very Lonely Firefly. So far, in my yard at least, I’m guessing the fireflies are indeed lonely as I’ve seen only a very few.  But perhaps more will appear soon.

This book is really two stories. The story of the title in which this little firefly searches for others like him but keeps seeing lights that turn out to be everything from a light bulb to…well, I don’t want to spoil the ending.  The other story involves the humans the firefly follows as they are the ones with the artificial lights.  And they are involved in a mystery.  “Hear that noise?” the man says to the woman, light bulb dangling overhead.  “What’s going on?” the woman asks as she lights a candle.  “Quiet out there!” the man yells as he begins to search for the cause of the noise outside.  Soon two children are searching with lanterns in a quest to find out what that noise is all about.

I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice it to say the little firefly does indeed find more creatures like itself.

Eric Carle is known for his boldly colorful collage illustrations.  I encourage anyone interested in art to visit his website here, click on the photo and video gallery, then on “How I create my pictures.” Folks like me, who can barely draw a stick figure, will be amazed at how he created his famous caterpillar.  Tissue paper collage looks extremely tedious to me but he makes it look so simple.  An older child who dreams of being an artist someday will be fascinated by this mini tutorial into the technique of this famous writer and illustrator of children’s books.




About stephanielowden

I am the author of two middle grade novels: Time of the Eagle, published by Blue Horse Books, and Jingo Fever, published by Crickhollow Books. Time of the Eagle is a survival story and takes place during the fur trade era in the Lake Superior region. Jingo Fever takes place during WWI and deals with bullying amidst an anti-immigrant atmosphere.
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