Inside: Picture book suggestion for every day in July. Updated for 2021. Don’t miss unforgettable stories, creative plots, and imaginative illustrations.
You knew it was going to come. The day when you look at the calendar and realize that the summer is winding down. There is no stopping time, but there is something you can do to minimize the regrets when the cold weather swoops in — complete your summer bucket list.
Don’t have a summer bucket list? You can get a powerful boost of inspiration from our August selections. Walk in the meadow barefoot, sip ice-cold lemonade, jump into a cool pool, explore bugs, picnic in the park, and catch fireflies during long summer nights. There’s so much to do before the time runs out!
August is named after the first Roman emperor Augustus Caesar because it appeared to be the month most fortunate for the emperor. The problem was that July, named after Julius Cesar, had 31 days while August only had 30. Augustus couldn’t appear to be less important than Julius. To fix that they took a day from February and added it to August. So August became equal in size to July and February ended up with 28 days. History is fascinating!
In August we can
– eat fresh corn, watermelons, and juicy tomatoes from the garden
– celebrate International Pirate Month, National Aviation Day, Book Lovers Day, and International Cat Day
– and say Happy Birthday to Neil Armstrong, Virginia Lee Burton, and Julia Child.
Are you ready for August?
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Books for August
August 1 – Letting Swift River Go, Jane Yolen (Letting Go)
This is such a lovely true story about loss and letting go that it had me in tears. Written almost thirty years ago by a multi-award-winning author Jane Yolen and illustrated by twice Caldecott Medalist Barbara Cooney, it narrates in first-person dramatic historical events that took place in western Massachusetts between 1927 and 1946.
It starts, “When I was six years old, the world seemed a very safe place.” Kids walked to school alone, fished in the river, caught fireflies, and slept under the stars. Then, the government purchased the land on which the city stood and flooded it to make a reservoir for nearby Boston. This book is a great example of wonderful children’s literature. What’s more, you can turn it into an amazing conversation about accepting what we can’t change and moving on.
FYI: Today is also the birthday of the amazing Maria Mitchell, America’s first professional female astronomer. Celebrate by reading What Miss Mitchell Saw by Hayley Barrett.
FYI: Today’s is also National Sisters Day. If you are in the mood for some poetry, grab a copy of Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems by Kristine O’Connell George to add to your storytime today.
August 2 – Petunia, Roger Duvoisin (Reading)
This book follows the adventures of a silly goose by the name of Petunia, who overheard her farmer say, “he who owns books and loves them is wise.” So when Petunia finds a book in a meadow, she decides to love it. Now that she owns AND loves a book, she is convinced of her wisdom. Unfortunately for the farm animals, Petunia’s attempts to act wisely bring about disastrous (but humorous) consequences. The story ends with Petunia’s decision to learn how to read.
Swiss-born author and illustrator Roger Duvoisin is a Caldecott medalist and a master of expressive artwork. This is easily one of our favorite books. We love the creative plot, hilarious illustrations, and the lesson that wisdom doesn’t come from objects but the mind.
August 3 – The Watermelon Seed,Greg Pizzoli (National Watermelon Day)
This is a delightfully silly story about a baby crocodile who accidentally swallows a watermelon seed. His imagination goes wild, picturing a watermelon growing in his tummy. In his mind’s eye, he can already see vines growing out of his ears and his skin turning pink until … a good burp shoots out the seed.
We love everything by Greg Pizzoli. His humorous illustrations are simple but dramatic. And it’s amazing that he can achieve so much by using only three colors— red, green, and black. Don’t forget to eat some watermelon today. It’s National Watermelon Day!
August 4 – Heroes of the Surf, Elisa Carbone (U.S. Coast Guard Day)
A gripping true story full of sentiment and bravery, about how the United States Coast Guard came into existence. This is one that you will want to share over and over again.
The year is 1882, and a large steamship carrying passengers to New York during a storm hits a shoal near New Jersey shore. The rescue operation in the dark with the waves crashing wildly all around is edge-of-the-seat exciting. The illustrations are spectacular, and when my oldest son read the library copy, he begged me to buy it.
August 5 – When Neil Armstrong Built a Wind Tunnel, Mark Andrew Weakland (Neil Armstrong’s Birthday)
Full of captivating personal anecdotes from the childhood of a man who walked on the moon, this picture book biography is superb. It encourages kids to use their imaginations, build something, study hard, work with dedication, and always follow their dreams. And if they build something that knocks their own mother over and breaks a window? Oh well, errors in judgment happen to the best of us. The secret of life is to learn from our mistakes. We love Luciano Loano’s colorful and playful illustrations.
August 6 – Wave, Suzy Lee (Beach)
Wave always makes us very happy. It’s a wordless story about an energetic little girl who gets splashed by a big wave and finds seashells. It’s an ordinary, carefree day at the beach, but Suzy Lee’s double-page spreads with a minimalist mix of charcoal and just two acrylics (blue and white) make it remarkable. There is something about the little girl’s and the seagull’s body language and facial expressions that is humorous and touching. I have “read” this book to all of my kids multiple times, and we never get tired of it.
Wordless picture books let the imagination run wild, develop creative thinking and language, and sharpen observational skills and focus. I like to ask my kids to describe each page. Their stories change with each retelling, and I’m surprised by their imaginative thinking and unexpected vocabulary. The other day my six-year-old said that the story is “ironic.” I said, “when did you learn this word?” And looking pleased, he said, “I like cute words.” Ha-ha-ha!
August 7 – Hello, Lighthouse, Sophie Blackall (National Lighthouse Day)
We are in love with Hello, Lighthouse. My ten-year-old carried this book around with him for days, showing it to everyone who visited us with the words “Have you read it?! It’s the best!” It skillfully weaves one family’s story into a timeless classic about the passage of time, change of seasons, and technological advancement.
The author’s gorgeous artwork is done in Chinese ink and watercolor on hot-press paper. And I’m happy to say it won the 2019 Caldecott Medal for its illustrations. My kids’ favorite page depicts a wild tumble of giant waves crashing against the lighthouse during a big storm. Definitely check out this book!
August 8 – This is Not a Cat!, David Larochelle (International Cat Day)
There are a great many fantastic picture books about cats, but when I told my kids that I was looking for a book recommendation for International Cat Day, they said, “This is Not a Cat, of course, Mom!” Among stories about tricking the trickster, this one stands out for its humor and the surprise element.
Written with fewer than ten words, the story might seem childish, but the absence of a lot of text doesn’t limit the story. All my kids love it, even my oldest (who is into mystery paperbacks) thinks it’s extremely hilarious.
Adorable cartoon illustrations are expressive, perfectly match the story, and will make you laugh. What’s more, this book might become the first book your beginner reader will read on his or her own because it’s the same ten words popping up over and over again on each page.
August 9 – The Library, Sarah Stewart (Book Lovers Day)
Do you love reading and buying books? So did Mary Elizabeth Brown, the person behind this delightful historical fiction. She read everywhere, any time she got a minute, and bought books at an alarming rate until she accumulated so many books that her shelves began to fall apart and her front door was blocked by stacks of books.
I love the meter and pace of the story and have happily reread it thousands of times.
“She read about Greek goddesses while vacuuming the floor.
Attending only to her book, she’d walk into a door.”
David Small’s soft, pastel-hued images are works of art. Each page is beautifully composed with humor and charm. I was very happy to learn that The Library got a Caldecott Honor Award.
August 10 – Lucille Camps In, Kathryn Lasky (National S’mores Day)
Camping is a classic summer activity, but depending on where you live, how many kids you have, and how young your youngest kids are, it might not happen for your family this summer. Don’t worry, though. Camping-in might be fun too. Lucille Camps In will give you some clever ideas for camping without leaving your home.
When Lucille’s older siblings go camping without her, she is in tears, but soon she fills a pillowcase with her favorite things, grabs a bedspread (aka tent), and a box of marshmallows. She has so much fun that when her dad says she will be old enough to go camping next year, she is not sure it will be as much fun as camping-in.
FIY: Today is also National Lion Day. Check out How to Be a Lion from August 17th below. It’s one of our favorite books about lions.
August 11 – Beach, Elisha Cooper
When I was reading this book for the first time and came across the page with a gorgeous watercolor lighthouse, I thought, ‘Wait a minute. Isn’t it the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse?’ I started researching and discovered that Elisha Cooper did indeed live in Chicago at the time of writing this book, and Lake Michigan was the inspiration for the story (even though the story is about the ocean).
Oh, the glorious, hot and sandy day at the beach. If you live near water, a beach trip is an essential part of your summer. And if you can’t join us at the beach, you can reach for Cooper’s Beach and read it with your kids to hear the whoosh of the waves, feel the refreshing coolness of the water, and see all the activities that take place on a regular summer day.
August 12 – Too Noisy! Malachy Doyle (Middle Child Day)
Sam, the middle child, storms out of the house in a huff. Today his siblings are particularly noisy, and he’s had enough. The problem is that after walking for a long time without looking where he’s going, he gets lost and it’s beginning to get frightfully dark. But what’s that familiar noise? Can it be his loud family screaming his name? Sam learns that a loud family might be a good thing when you’re lost in the woods.
August 13 – A Walk in the Forest, Maria Dek
Making forest hikes a regular part of your children’s life gets harder as they get older and more involved in their own lives. However, reading books about the forest during our family story-time goes a long way in igniting my children’s curiosity and sparking their imaginations.
This simple picture book full of beautiful watercolors explores why the forest is the best playground. Running wild, shouting as loud as you want, finding treasures are just some of the things kids can do in the forest. Read this story and then go for a nice, long hike together.
August 14 – Tasty Baby Belly Buttons, Judy Sierra (Japanese Fairytale)
From the multi-award-winning author Judy Sierra comes a modern retelling of one of the best-known Japanese fairy tales about a gang of monsters with an insatiable appetite for belly buttons. When a childless couple was gifted with a melon daughter, little did they know that at the age of five, she would set out to rid the world of monsters. It’s clear that the story is about bravery, strength, and courage, but even more than that, it teaches about sharing and making friends. It also demonstrates that with love and devotion, small can conquer big.
We love the unfamiliar phrases and sounds: tsunbara, tsunbara floats a melon down the river; boro, boro cries a baby; tontoko, tontoko marches the girl and her dog along the path. The unusual swirly watercolor drawings are humorous and energetic.
August 15 – Minette’s Feast, Susanna Reich (Julia Child’s Birthday)
I believe teaching kids how to cook is as important as teaching them how to read. Not only does it put them on the lifetime path of a happier and healthier lifestyle, but it also boosts their self-confidence and widens their creativity. Minette’s Feast is a great demonstration that cooking is a skill, and like any other skill, the more you practice, the better you get at it.
When Julia Child moved to Paris with her husband, she was determined to improve her cooking. She listened to advice from the vegetable stand lady (better ingredients = better meal), supply store owner (good knives are important), and even signed up for classes at a famous cooking school. She practiced, experimented, and, one day, she became a world-renowned chef.
One thing that makes this book so appealing to kids is that the story is told through the eyes of Julia Child’s naughty cat. Another thing is the marvelous watercolor and gouache illustrations by Amy Bates.
August 16 – The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont, Victoria Griffith (National Airborne Day)
I know this book is a bit long for a typical picture book audience, but I think the true aviation enthusiasts will stick with you. Alberto Santos-Dumont might not be a household name, but this inventor is fun to learn about. Do you know that when he wanted to run a simple errand or go shopping in Paris where he lived in the early 1900s, he did it in a controllable balloon of his own design? Why walk or drive when you can fly! When he reached his destination, he would tie his flying machine to a post with a rope and leave a doorman to watch it.
If you read The Glorious Flight with us back in July, you’ll be delighted to learn more about a respectful but heated competition between two aviation pioneers. Beautifully illustrated with impressionistic pastels, chalk, and oil paintings, this book is not only educational but inspiring and intriguing too. (You will also learn all about the secret of wristwatch invention. Spoiler alert: We have Alberto Santos-Dumont to thank for that, too!).
August 17 – How to Be a Lion, Ed Vere
How to Be a Lion is a beautiful story about a lion with a poetic flair, who chooses to become friends with a duck instead of eating it. This doesn’t go well with the other lions because that’s not what lions are supposed to do. The book explores the ideas of courage to be true to oneself, the strength of spirit, self-awareness, friendship, creativity, thinking for yourself, and so much more.
The dramatic, predominantly three-colored drawings are a pleasure to look at. The plot is thick, and the message is what we all need to hear: “Let nobody say just one way is true. There are so many ways that you can be you.”
August 18 – The Wall in the Middle of the Book, Jon Agee (Mindset)
This book is ridiculously awesome, and it’s not just for kids. As soon as we are old enough to understand heartache, we start building walls around ourselves because this is how we protect our hearts. We start excluding people who are different, avoid activities that might show us in a bad light, and stop readily taking chances.
And maybe self-imposed walls do keep us safer, but they also stop us from seeing that there is a whole world on the other side of the wall. So climb over your wall and meet people and wonderful things that you locked out in the name of security.
The book offers lots of terrific discussion points, and Agee’s double-page spreads are masterfully expressive. It’s a wonderful addition to any library.
August 19 – How to Eat an Airplane, Peter Pearson (National Aviation Day)
I have two eager airplane enthusiasts, and I’m used to reading aviation books that frankly put me to sleep. After thirteen years of reading with my kids, there isn’t much about fuselage and ailerons that can excite me. However, this book was a very pleasant surprise!
In a wild combination of absurd and informative, we learn things, such as “airplane wheels are vulcanized, so cook them well before serving. You don’t want them to be too rubbery.” And “fuselage rhymes with “blue garage.” You can make it a game to separate facts from absurdity.
Cartoonish illustrations are funny. The book ends with four pages of additional airplane facts. This is one book I don’t mind rereading because I always find something new to chuckle about.
August 20 – Froggy’s Lemonade Stand, Jonathan London (Lemonade Day)
A lemonade stand is a good, old-fashioned, outdoor summer activity for kids, but it’s not as easy to do as it seems. Froggy, however, can teach you a few things about creating a lemonade stand “the right way.” Your kids will giggle and cheer Froggy on. Of course, all the books in London’s famous series are humorous and educational, and this one is no exception.
August 21 – Look Back! ,Trish Cooke (National Senior Citizens Day)
Possibly every grandma in the world has a few mesmerizing stories rooted in the folklore tradition of her birthplace. In this particular story, with its African/Caribbean connection, Ti Bolom appears to be a scary looking creature who follows children at night. “Pattaps Pattaps… Huh huh huh.”
When she was a little girl, this grandma often had to walk through the forest at night to visit an old lady who lived far away. As you can see, there is plenty of potential for horror here. It reminds me of similar stories that my grandma told me. Now that I’m an adult I understand that those stories were invented to keep children indoors after night. Did it work? Not really. But I still remember fondly the scary folktales told by my grandma.
August 22 – Good Night, Firefly, Gabriel Alborozo (Fireflies)
This wonderful story with an unexpected ending is perfect for a read-aloud. The main character is a little girl who discovers that when you treat others with kindness, something amazing can happen. We love the dramatic illustrations full of contrast and humor. Against the striking black background are white patches of action and tiny sparks of yellow and red. There are no other colors. Gabriel Alborozo’s work reflects his cartoonist beginnings and is thought-provoking and hugely enjoyable.
August 23 – Blackout, John Rocco (Family Fun Month)
“It started out as a normal summer night,” but then the city lights went out. And in place of the usual hamster wheel race, this family of four and all their neighbors went outside to spend the blackout together. And when the lights came back on, they turned them off and played a board game by candlelight.
I remember when Chicago had a blackout fourteen years ago. My husband and pregnant I sat in the dark holding hands and talking. We always have places to go, things to do, and everything is super important, so this opportunity to just sit quietly together and talk was precious. This book reminds us to sort out what’s really important (family, time together, good conversation) and do it.
August 24 – Summer Days and Nights, Wong Herbert Yee (Summer)
A rhyming tale of action and summer fun. With this story about a young girl who enjoys summer days and nights to the fullest, you will have no shortage of ideas of what to do this summer. I’m always on the lookout for good seasonal read-aloud books to get the kids in the spirit of the season, and this one is great.
I love the small format (perfect for reading under the shade of a backyard tree) and the inviting soft-colored illustrations.
August 25 – Don’t Fidget a Feather, Erica Silverman (Friendships)
Do you have two kids who always fight over who can jump higher or run faster? Then you will love this book. Duck and Gander are just like that until the day they start a freeze-in-place contest. A bee, a horde of naughty bunnies, and even a bunch of pesky crows can’t make the contestants move. But along comes Fox, hungry-hungry Fox, and continuing the contest seems unwise, yet neither bird wants to lose.
Would you lose on purpose to save your friend? It’s funny, suspenseful, and creatively illustrated with colored pencil over grooved-out drawings (I’ve never heard of this technique either!).
August 26 – Piper, Emma Chichester Clark (National Dog Day)
Piper was a huge hit in my house. It especially thrills my 6-year old who wants to read it over and over again. Piper is a dog with a kind heart and some strong beliefs about what’s right and wrong. So when his new owner orders him to be vicious, he refuses, even if it means punishment. The story has a sweet ending.
After looking at the spread where Piper is in the woods, my eight-year-said, “I want to go in there.” The beautiful illustrations by the author intensify the story. It’s a memorable book about injustice and standing up to your beliefs.
August 27 – Zuzu’s Wishing Cake, Linda Michelin (Creativity)
We almost didn’t take this book home with us because of unattractive, angular characters on the cover. We’re so glad we did, though. This book about a little girl with a “can do” attitude is hugely inspirational. Whether she makes a car out of a cardboard box or a telescope from a paper towel roll, she maintains a positive attitude towards learning and facing challenges. I like the way the author presents the creative spirit as a way to handle difficulties. This book will inspire your kids to use their craft supplies and motivate them to get started right away.
August 28 – The Storm Book, Charlotte Zolotow (Storm)
One of my favorite inspirational quotes is ‘Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” In this gorgeous Caldecott Honor Book, a little boy sees his first lightning storm and seems not to be sure what to make of it.
There is a lot of text per page, but it’s nice for introducing new vocabulary. Great stories never grow old, and this 1950’s classic definitely has stood the test of time.
August 29 – You Belong Here, M. H. Clark (Love)
It’s my birthday and today I choose a book about love. You Belong Here is a great candidate for a family library because it’s the kind of book you would want to reread many times. “The stars belong in the deep night sky // and the moon belongs there too, // and the winds belong in each place they blow by // and I belong here with you.”
This book will remind you how lucky you are to be the one raising your children. And the side effect of reading this book is misty eyes and an uncontrollable desire to hug your kids like there is no tomorrow. Your kids will love this book because it’s like a gentle, reassuring lullaby full of dreamlike repetition, soft calming scenes, and beautiful imagery.
Every other page is written in cursive, so it’s a great cursive practice for your kids, too. Like me, you might even be lucky enough to talk them into copying the cursive pages for practice.
August 30 – Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton, Sherri Duskey Rinker (Virginia Lee Burton’s Birthday)
Who are the two boys who inspired Virginia (Jinnee) Lee Burton to create Mary Ann and Katy? What was Jinnee’s inspiration for her Caldecott Medal book The Little House? Bright, beautiful, informative, and easy to read, Big Machines takes a tour through the life of a beloved children’s book author and illustrator.
My kids were super excited to see their favorite characters from Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel, Katy and the Big Snow, and The Little House come to life one sketch at a time. Sherri Duskey Rinker did a great job of showing us snapshots of a creative process at the same time as sharing lots of interesting facts about the author.
August 31 – The Mud Pony, Caron Lee Cohen (Legends)
Kids will walk away from this story with three lessons—love nature, love your family, and we are never alone. Every time I read this ancient story from the Skidi band of the Pawnee Indians of the American Plains, I get goosebumps. When a poor Indian boy made a pony out of mud, he wished for a real pony and magically it came to life. After many adventures, close calls, and a fierce battle with another tribe, the boy on a mud pony is made a chief, and the pony returns to mud with the message, “I am here, your Mother Earth. You are not alone!”
The gorgeous paintings by Native American artist Shonto Begay are a piece of art. Reflecting the mystical spirituality of a legend, dreamy, evocative, soft images fill us with wonder about the striking possibility of greater power than ourselves to guide us in life.