Our June books are all about adventure, outdoors, running barefoot, dancing in the rain, digging in a garden, swimming, butterflies, mud, and s’mores. Updated: 2021.
Swimming, picnics in the park, digging in the garden, backyard barbecues, napping in a hammock: the long, sun-filled, flower-scented days of summer are made for enjoyment. I don’t know many people who don’t consider summer the best time of the year. Do you?
What are your favorite activities this time of year? I love everything about summer, but my #1 favorite thing to do is watch my children run through the sprinklers shouting with glee (sometimes I join in :). And my #2 favorite thing is to read in a hammock, breathing in the scent of all the flowers in our garden (we plant a lot! I buy this 25-pack of flower seeds, and we plant them all.)
The name June comes from Latin Junius mensis—Month of Juno. The Roman goddess Juno is the goddess of marriage, and it’s considered good luck to get married this month. (I got married in June, even though I didn’t know about it being lucky at the time).
June is also a national camping month, effective communication month (I’m a huge fan of Rosenberg approach. It changed my life!), great outdoors’ month, and fresh fruits’ and vegetables’ month.
In June we celebrate the birthdays of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak, French explorer Jacques Cousteau, monk Dalai Lama, and deaf-blind activist Helen Keller.
International Women in Engineering Day is also in June, as well as International Picnic Day, World Environment Day, International Day of Yoga, and the Summer Solstice.
Our June books are all about adventure, outdoors, running barefoot, dancing in the rain, digging in a garden, swimming, butterflies, mud, and s’mores. See what catches your attention and share in the comment below.
Books for June
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1 – Unplugged, Steve Antony (Go Barefoot Day)
When I was a kid, summer meant my adults had to come up with an incentive to make me return home. Otherwise, they would not see me all summer. My friends and I were little bees, flying on the wings of summer breezes, from a trip to the river to a hike in a forest (all unsupervised, of course). Most modern parents have the opposite problem: they wonder how can they get their kids to play more outside.
In this sense, Unplugged is destined to become a classic. The story is about Blip, who likes being plugged in until a blackout forces him to go outside. That’s how Blip discovers that the real world is more colorful, diverse, and satisfying than any video game he ever played. I love how from black-and-white Blip’s world turns beautifully colorful when he goes outside. This book is suitable for a wide range of ages, and it’s perfect for a Barefoot Day today.
Today is also International Children’s Day and Dinosaur Day.
2 – How Old MacDonald Got His Farm, Judy Sierra (Farm)
You already know that Old MacDonald had a farm, E.I.E.I.O., but do you know how he got it? It turns out it happened by chance. This humorous account will help you learn about organic farming, composting, and what E.I.E.I.O. really stands for—”Enjoy it. Everything is organic.” The pictures are bright, energetic, and sure to bring smiles to your faces. This book might prove to be influential in getting your kids to eat more veggies.
3 – Jabari Jumps, Gaia Cornwall (Swimming)
As a kid, I loved books about courage. Somehow, they made me feel braver. In Jabari Jumps, we meet a young boy who passed his swim test and is ready for the next hard thing—jumping from a diving board into a swimming pool. But the ladder is very long, and he’s not sure he is up to it today.
My favorite moment in the book is when Jabari’s dad tells his son that taking a deep breath and saying “I’m ready” helps him to work up the courage to do something scary. I’ve since used this advice when I felt scared, and it totally works. Gaia Cornwell’s specialty is making patterns for surface designs, and her creative illustrations reflect her passion.
Related: 12 Children’s Books About Swimming
4 – 17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore, Jenny Offill (Effective Communication Month)
Let’s celebrate Effective Communication Month with Jenny Offill’s priceless 17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore. Parents so often give children contradictory messages. They say they want kids to be creative, inventive, and unique, but so often they discourage the behavior they say they want when they see it (just remember what you said the last time your kid was creatively arranging peas on the dinner plate instead of eating them 🙂
In this story, a girl is full of brilliant ideas that always get her in trouble. No matter how many times we read this book, it makes us laugh out loud. The illustrations by Nancy Carpenter are an integral part of the story.
5 – The Curious Garden, Peter Brown (World Environment Day)
In a world where gardens, trees, and greenery of all kinds have disappeared, Liam finds a curious thing—a patch of wildflowers and plants on the abandoned railway tracks. Liam is not a gardener, but he is willing to try many things to find what works until something incredible happens, and the world becomes green again.
We love the plot, the beautiful illustrations, and the idea that small things can make a huge difference. This tale of a greener world is a perfect read for World Environment Day (and it’s great for multiple rereadings, too).
6 – Be Kind, Pat Zietlow Miller (Dalai Lama’s Birthday)
Today is the birthday of the Dalai Lama, a Tibetan monk. If you want to tell your kids one thing about Dalai Lama today, share his famous quote, “Be kind whenever possible. It’s always possible.” (I try to use it as my daily mantra).
Be Kind is a fabulous new book that explores what kindness is. Is it giving? Is it helping? Does kindness mean paying attention to people and remembering their names? The book champions the idea that “small things [you do] might join small things other people do. And, together, they could grow into something big.”
Related: Today is also Russian Language Day. Here are Engaging Children’s Books about Russia
Cake Day. Here are 20+ Amazing Children’s Books About Cake.
7 – Strictly No Elephants, Lisa Mantchev (Pet Appreciation Week)
This book is one of our favorites. A little boy discovers that he is not welcome because his pet doesn’t fit in. The drawing of a boy and his pet elephant taking a lonely stroll in the pouring rain will surely pull on your heartstrings. When he meets another person who was turned out of the Pet Club because of an unusual pet, they decide to start their own club where everyone is welcomed. I love the message of inclusivity and loyalty. Mostly full-page, expressive, and colorful illustrations are extremely fun to look at.
8 – Young Frank Architect, Frank Viva (Frank Lloyd Wright birthday) + Best Friends, Steven Kellogg (Best Friends Day)
Today is the birthday of a famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright AND The Best Friends Day. I tried to choose between the two, but just couldn’t do it, so here are two amazing books for you to read today.
In Young Frank Architect, a little boy, by the name of Frank, enjoys building, and his creativity knows no bounds. However, his grandpa, a professional architect rejects his ideas as impractical. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. That can’t work. And so on.
When the pair go to a museum, they look at the works of Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as other famous architects and designers, and together discover that creativity means taking risks, stepping off the beaten path, and building in novel ways. I love the artwork because it makes me want to reach for our junk bucket and art supplies and lose myself in creative engineering.
Best Friends, Steven Kellogg
It can be tough when your best friend is having the best summer vacation ever while you sit at home, bored and lonely. But things get much worse when that same friend returns and ends up taking the only puppy in the litter, the puppy that was meant for you. Can these two friends find a way to become best friends again, and is it even possible? The amazing, bright, and expressive drawings by the author add drama and enhance the story.
9 – And Then Comes Summer, Tom Brenner (Summer)
“When the days stretch out like a slow yawn…
When bumblebees bumble around in flowers, …
When daylight pushes back bedtimes, …”
Then it’s time for bikes and lemonade stands, ice-cream trucks and picnic blankets, sidewalks and playgrounds, sprinkles and swimming, family visits and camping, …
I love the poetic language, energetic rhymes, and bright artwork in this tribute to summer.
10 – Outside Over There, Maurice Sendak (Maurice Sendak’s Birthday)
What is that outside over there? Is it a goblin? If you are reading a Maurice Sendak tale, then the most horrible thing that your kids can imagine is probably the right guess. In Outside Over There, a gang of goblins kidnaps Ida’s little sister and leaves a changeling in her place. Being a dutiful older sister, Ida bravely tumbles into the world outside over there to outsmart the goblins and bring her sister back home.
Do you think this National Book Award winner and Caldecott Honor book is a bit too intense for kids? No more than the original Brother Grimm’s tales. Your kids already imagine a lot of scary things. Let them see that scary scenarios can lead to happy endings. Plus, they will enjoy the beautiful artwork.
11 – Manfish: The Story of Jacques Cousteau, Jennifer Berne (Jacques Cousteau’s Birthday)
Jacques Cousteau was a curious little boy who grew up to become the world’s most famous oceanographer, explorer, and environmentalist. I remember watching one of his documentaries when I was a kid, and what stayed with me the most was Cousteau’s can-do attitude. He didn’t say, “Oh, nobody had done it before, so it can’t be done. I might as well forget about the whole thing.” It’s people like Cousteau that show us all that the impossible is possible when we keep our passion, energy, and perseverance going.
This book by one of our favorite writers Jennifer Berne is very well researched and written. The water and underwater scenes are pure perfection. It’s a great book to inspire young minds to wonder, explore, and experiment. Every bookshelf should have it.
Related: Look Up With Me, Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Life among the Stars, Jennifer Berne (Review)
12 – S is for S’mores: A Camping Alphabet, Helen Foster James (Camping)
This is a great choice for National Camping Month, even if you’re not planning a camping trip any time soon. A is for Adventure, B is for Beach Camp, C is for Canyons. … There are two levels of narration. One is a brief poem on a camping topic suitable for all ages, like “S is for Stories and Songs to share when the day is done. // We enjoy our campfire’s warmth and make yummy s’mores for some fun.” And then there is a longer and more detailed explanation only suitable for older kids. For the S page, there is an instruction on how to build a campfire, fire safety, and a S’mores Recipe.
With this book, you can also learn some facts about constellations, Scout Groups, North American National Parks, Rangers’ job description, bird watching, animal tracks, camping gear, famous trails, and so much more. The illustrations are so bright and beautiful that you can almost smell the fire and feel the heat on your face.
13 – Imogene’s Antlers, David Small (Children’s Day)
This is one of those books that each time you open it, you just can’t help smiling. Imogene is an adorable young girl that wakes up with a pair of antlers on her head. Imogene doesn’t mind in the least, but her mom is determined to make them go away to hilarious effect.
I love David Small’s heartwarming writing and expressive artwork (read his autobiography Stitches). And I also love how he uses humor as a way to open a conversation about accepting things we can’t control and accepting people who are different from us. Funny and touching, this book is a gem and will prompt many rereadings in your house.
14 – Dear Mr. Washington, Lynn Cullen (Flag Day)
Today (June 14th) is Flag Day, a day when people all over America celebrate “The Stars and Stripes.” Flags are national symbols. Do you know why people started using flags? Why the American flag has stars and stripes? And why Neil Armstrong erected a flag on the moon? It’s a good day to learn about this and more. I wish I could recommend a great book about flags, but I don’t know of any. Can you recommend something that doesn’t put children to sleep? So instead I’m going to tell you about this funny historical read about the first president of America.
When a modern president wants to have his visage preserved for posterity, all he has to do is call in photographers who will snap his picture in an efficient and organized manner. When George Washington needed his picture, he had to visit an artist and pose for days! The talented painter in this story has lots of loud, energetic children (your children will totally recognize themselves in the pages of this story), and each sitting escalates in unbelievable chaos.
This thrilling, hilarious, and lovable true story behind George Washington’s famous portrait by one of America’s most famous portraitists, Gilbert Stuart, is truly amazing. The artwork by the incredible Nancy Carpenter is superb. I can’t recommend this book enough!
15 – The Better Tree Fort, Jessica Scott Kerrin (Tree House)
Treehouses are against the law in the city of Chicago, but it doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy reading about them, especially treehouse stories as well-written and illustrated as this one. Russell thinks his treehouse is perfect until he sees a better treehouse three houses over. But when he visits the boy with a better treehouse, he discovers that he’s not that happy about it, instead the boy’s head is filled with thoughts about a tree fort (with a kitchen sink!).
It’s a cute and funny story that reminds us that there will always be someone with bigger and better things. What we should do is enjoy and appreciate what we have. I’m absolutely in love with Qin Leng’s artwork. I think I already mentioned somewhere that we have all the books she ever illustrated. She uses ink, pencils, and watercolors to a truly delightful effect.
15 – The Tweedles Go Electric, Monica Kulling (National Electricity Day)
Funny, witty, visually inviting, and surreptitiously educational, this is one of those books that you can’t wait to share with everyone the moment you finish reading it. It’s 1903, and the delightful family of four in the center of this story seems to be behind their times. While their neighbors get cars, the Tweedles still get around on bikes or by a horse-driven cart. But one day, The Tweedles decide to buy an electric car. I’m sure you’ve already guessed that a great story comes out of this monumental decision.
This historical fiction brilliantly conveys the idea of culture change, adaptation, stereotypes (“Like most girls, she is more interested in higher education” than in car racing), and even the green movement (is a gas or electric car better when it comes to the environment?).
You might want to ask your children to recall a time when they resisted something just because they assumed they wouldn’t like it. One of my sons remembered how, for years, every time I offered to watch a Star Wars movie, he said, “no way! It’s stupid!” But the moment he watched his first one (The New Hope), he became a Star Wars superfan.
16 – Karl, Get Out of the Garden, Anita Sanchez (Garden)
Karl spends too much time in the garden and his parents are determined to put an end to it. They want him to be a priest, and that’s final. Lucky for Karl, it didn’t happen. You and your kids would be surprised to learn that this very Karl grew up to be the great scientist responsible for dividing the world into two kingdoms: the plant kingdom and the animal kingdom. He also classified and gave names to tens of thousands of species of plants and animals that we still use today. This book will lead to great conversations about passion, purpose, and priorities. Watch out, you kids might get inspired to get their own magnifying glass and sit in the garden/park for hours.
17 – A Big Mooncake for Little, Grace Lin (Moon)
The stunning full-page spreads pack a powerful visual force, and the story is amazing. Since ancient times people looked at the full moon and came up with theories to explain it. This original modern myth tells a story of a mom who bakes a Mooncake once a month and her daughter who nibbles away on it every night. My kids love finding hidden meaning in natural events, and this story impressed them very much. My ten-year-old said, “That’s a nifty way to spin it.“
18 – The Bears’ Picnic, Stan Berenstain (International Picnic Day)
Today is International Picnic Day. This is the best picnic book I know of, and the fact that each of my kids wanted me to read it every day for years is a testament that kids think so, too. The bear family is having no luck finding a great picnic spot. Too noisy, too smelly, too risky, too … Aaaaa! The attack of giant mosquitoes! The family ends up returning home and eating in their own kitchen.
I hope you will have better luck with finding a perfect spot for your picnic this summer. If you are looking for picnic success tips, we have a post about it here.
19 – All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom, Angela Johnson
Last year (2020), my local Cook County Board (Cook County is the second-most-populous county in America) voted to recognize Juneteenth as an official paid holiday for government employees. Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day and Emancipation Day, is a holiday that celebrates both Black Americans’ freedom from slavery and their contribution to the nation.
All Different Now is a warm, evocative invitation to develop more compassion. A young slave girl at the center of the story is doing hard labor on a plantation down south and doesn’t know that President Lincoln has decreed the Emancipation Proclamation. She and her family could have been free for two and a half years, but they had no way of knowing it.
It was only when Major General Granger came to Texas on June 19, 1865, and made the announcement that the slaves learned that they were no longer slaves. Ask your kids to imagine what it would be like to discover that everything from this moment on is completely different for them. What did this girl feel? Happy? Scared? What would it be like to walk in her shoes as she walked with her family away from the house where they had lived all their lives? What dreams could she have been dreaming? What was she worried about at that moment?
There is no going back in time, but we can remember, reflect, and tap into more compassion. After reading this book, you might want to invite your children to close their eyes and think about one person in their life who could use a little compassion – a friend, a family member, a store manager. Can you look at the world through their eyes and think about what they might be struggling with right now?
20 – Pretend, Jennifer Plecas (Father’s Day)
This humorous tale is perfect for Father’s Day. It starts with the father being reluctantly dragged into his son’s pretend adventure. Before long, the father makes an excellent choice of wholeheartedly participating and encouraging his son’s imagination. It’s a great story for kids about the power of their imaginations. And it’s a great reminder for parents to put their smartphones down and play with kids.
Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey, Doug Kuntz and Amy Shrodes (World Refugee Day)
Today (June 20th) is also World Refugee Day. This book caught our attention at the library because of the “Best of the Best” sticker on the spine. “It’s a real tear-jerker,” commented a librarian when we were checking it out. Oh, now that I know to expect something sentimental, I’m sure I’m not going to cry, I thought to myself. Boy, was I wrong! I was crying like a baby with tears rolling down my face.
In this dramatic story, a terrified family of six (mom and five children) flee Iraq for their lives. But they can’t leave behind their beloved cat Kunkush. For days, the family marches through the mountains, taking turns lugging the cat carrier. Besides the cat, they only carry food and water. They make it safely to Turkey, and then to Greece, but on the island of Lesbos, the cat pushes his way out of a broken carrier and runs into the forest.
Kunkush’s following adventures, including his internet celebrity status, and the way people from all over the world came together to reunite the cat with the family (now living in Norway), was so heartwarming and optimistic. It might be hard to explain to young children the plight of the refugees and how it feels to leave everything you have behind (toys, books, friends, home), but this book makes it very real and digestible. It was soul-stirring and satisfying at the same time to learn that there is so much kindness in the world. Did I say it’s a true story?
21 – You Are a Lion, and Other Fun Yoga Poses, Taeeun Yoo (International Yoga Day)
Today on International Day of Yoga, find a cozy spot outside, kick off your shoes, and follow the movements suggested in this story. “When the golden sun rises, // Warm rays fill the garden / Children all gather / Namaste to the morning.” You are a lion. A butterfly. A snake.
As a kids’ yoga instructor (I got the training so I could teach yoga to my own kids) I think this book is a fun way to introduce yoga poses to children. Yoga is especially fun in the summertime when you can do it outside. I love doing yoga outside. In this photo, I’m in the Crow pose while doing yoga in the backyard with a fitness app.
Ketzel, the Cat Who Composed, Leslea Newman (World Music Day)
Today (June 21st) is also World Music Day, and we never miss an opportunity to celebrate music.
My kids play violin, piano, and cello, and we often read children’s books about music. One of our favorites right now is Ketzel, the Cat Who Composed Music. This is a true story about a cat who put her paws down on the keyboard and then crept across the keys. The owner of the cat wrote the music down exactly as he heard it and sent it to the Paris New Music Review Contest. And you know what? The cat won! This amazing story is super exciting for kids. Plus, the illustrations are fantastic.
You can listen to this music composition on YouTube. Just enter “Ketzel Cotel: a piece for paws.” And in case you’re wondering, the money earned in the competition was used to buy cat food.
Today is also International Smoothie Day. Try our favorite Brain-Boosting Smoothie.
22 – 11 Experiments that Failed, Jenny Offill (International Women in Engineering Day)
I love that this book shows failed experiments in such a positive light. Many kids think that failure is a sign that they are not good at something, while research shows that failure is a secret to success (read here).
In this story, a creative young girl sets out on a wild experimenting adventure. She wants to know if seedlings will grow better with her mom’s fancy perfume, if a piece of bologna will fly like a frisbee, and if a washing machine can wash dishes.
It’s a great introduction to the scientific process: what’s the difference between a scientific question and a hypothesis and how to record the results. This book is hilarious. The mixed-media illustrations are perfection. And I’ll bet this book will light up a science fire in your child’s mind.
23 – Out of the Woods, Rebecca Bond (Great Outdoors Month)
This factual story is a gem and wonderful to read during Great Outdoors Month. On a hot day during a very dry summer in a small town in Ontario, Canada, disaster strikes. A fire starts in the forest and spreads at a tremendous rate until there is only one place to go—the lake. What happens next is a miraculous detente between people and wild animals, who also come out of the woods to escape the fire.
The beautiful artwork conjures the distant time and place when the story happened to the author’s grandpa. All my kids can’t get enough of this amazing story. It’s a great book to introduce young readers to the idea of the interconnection of all living things.
24 – How to Find Flower Fairies, Cicely Mary Barker (International Fairy Day)
Every child should have a chance to study this stunning book. I guarantee that he/she will be looking at each detail for hours. Three-dimensional pop-up images, maps, pockets, flaps, peek-through windows, tiny books within the book, beautiful fonts, glitter, and gold: not only is this book a masterpiece of paper engineering, but it’s also beautiful. The trees, flowers, butterflies, and, of course, fairies appear 3D, magical, and almost real. My kids use this book as inspiration to look for fairies in our local forest preserve.
25 – Vampirina at the Beach, Anne Marie Page (Beach)
Many bright colors and delightful details make this monstrous guide to the beach a pure delight. Never turn your back to the sea, always stay with a buddy, and don’t forget the sunscreen. Who said ghouls, werewolves, mummies, and Cyclops are only for Halloween?
Your kids might be delighted to find out that besides Anne Marie Page’s four original Vampirina books, there are also dozens of Disney Junior spin-offs by different authors.
26 – Fly, Eagle, Fly, Christopher Gregorowski (Legends from Far Away Lands)
This African tale is wonderfully satisfying. When a farmer finds an eagle chick, blown from its nest by a storm, he decides to take care of it. The eagle grows up with the farmer’s chickens and never learns to fly. Or so we think!
It’s a great book to discuss the idea of limiting beliefs and living our best lives. Not only is the plot amazing, but the dynamic watercolors are a piece of art.
27 – Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller, Doreen Rappaport (Helen Keller’s Birthday)
This is a lovely book about a woman who didn’t give up despite unsurmountable struggles. My kids were impressed by her determination to learn and how she practiced spelling “from the moment she woke up to the moment she went to bed.” I liked the honest portrayal of her childhood tantrums, the screaming and hitting matches when she failed to make herself understood. Despite being deaf, mute, and blind, Helen Keller went on to earn a stellar education, marry, write multiple books, and found an organization. It’s a powerful story about a woman who inspirationally proclaimed, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”
Warning: one of my kids got extremely worried about illnesses that can come out of nowhere and strike a child deaf and blind. I handled it by using the advice of Dr. Lawrence Cohen from his book The Opposite of Worry: The Playful Parenting Approach to Childhood Anxieties.
28 – Butterfly Park, Elly MacKay (Butterflies, Community Garden)
My kids reach for this book time and time again. They keep studying the stunning artwork, trying to figure out how two-dimensional illustrations can appear so 3-D. This is one of the books that I highly recommend buying. You will want to keep getting lost in Elly MacKay’s stunning artwork.
29 – Mud Puddle, Robert Munsch (International Mud Day)
Do you know how some kids will find a puddle of mud anywhere, even in a desert on the hottest day of the year? That’s my kids! That’s why they can’t help but giggle when we read Munsch’s Mud Puddle.
In this story, a little girl with the very pretty name of Jule Ann (who was a real person in Munsch’s class when he was a teacher) is repeatedly attacked by a mud puddle. Yep, you read it right. Jule Ann’s saintly mom patiently scrubs her child clean, puts on a new outfit, and sends her to play outside only to find her back covered with mud again. Now, whenever my kids turn up covered with mud, they laugh that it couldn’t be helped because a mud puddle jumped on them.
Because we love mud so much, we have a fantastic list of Great Books About Mud. But that’s not all. Check out:
30 – The Word Collector, Peter H. Reynolds
I have many notebooks filled with words I have collected over a few decades. Yes, I’m a word collector just like the boy in the story. Do you know that the word school originally meant “leisure”? It comes from Latin schola, meaning “intermission of work.” In the old days, going to school meant a break from real labor. Fun!
If you think a book about words can’t be a page-turner, you don’t know enough about Peter Reynolds. He weaves together dynamic stories, and his artwork is amazing. I love that the story teaches kids to look for words everywhere. The boy in the narrative writes down words he has heard, seen, and read.
One of my favorite pages is when the words become jumbled and form unusual pairs: “dream cloud,” “blue harmony,” and “silent orchestra” Another page I like is when the boy realizes that the simplest words are the most powerful: “I understand.” “I’m sorry.” “You matter.” Words are so much fun, and this book is a great way to get kids excited about all the wonderful words out there.
Do you have a favorite picture book to read this month that I didn’t include? Share the title in the comments, and we can keep this list growing.