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2019 Picture Book Summer Reading List: Books For Kids

Summer is here, and we can’t be more happy about it because of our Summer Reading List! Filled with 100 well-reviewed picture books, our picks are sure to engage and entertain readers of all ages. We chose to include a variety of titles and types of books, including both hidden gems and favorites (new and old).

With our list of 100 amazing books, you’ll be able to pick up a bunch from your local library and place some on hold for later in the summer. Or you could just purchase them all…we won’t judge! The books on our list are sure to become new favorites or help you resurface old ones.

Here’s to the best summer yet, filled with only the very best books!

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The Pink Refrigerator
Written & illustrated by Tim Egan
picture book
Recommend Ages: 7-10
“Try to do as little as possible.” This was Dodsworth’s motto. One morning, on his daily trip to the junkyard, he discovers a pink refrigerator. There’s not much to say about a pink refrigerator, except this one had a note on it. The note said, “Paint pictures.” And so Dodsworth did. The next day, a new note appeared on the pink refrigerator. And the day after that, and the day after that. Dodsworth liked doing as little as possible. But the pink refrigerator had big plans for him . . .
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Waiting
Written & illustrated by Kevin Henkes
Thoughts from Readerly Mom
Beautiful, simple, inventive, sweet. The illustrations are simultaneously minimalistic and impressively nuanced, and the premise is unique in a way that makes me want to look at the world more creatively. I treasure this book and the moments I've spent reading it to my daughters.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
What are you waiting for? An owl, a puppy, a bear, a rabbit, and a pig—all toys arranged on a child’s windowsill—wait for marvelous things to happen in this irresistible picture book by the New York Times–bestselling and Caldecott Medalist Kevin Henkes. Five friends sit happily on a windowsill, waiting for something amazing to happen. The owl is waiting for the moon. The pig is waiting for the rain. The bear is waiting for the wind. The puppy is waiting for the snow. And the rabbit is just looking out the window because he likes to wait! What will happen? Will patience win in the end? Or someday will the friends stop waiting and do something unexpected? Waiting is a big part of childhood—waiting in line, waiting to grow up, waiting for something special to happen—but in this book, a child sets the stage and pulls the strings. Timeless, beautiful, and deeply heartfelt, this picture book about imaginative play, the seasons, friendship, and surprises marks a new pinnacle in Caldecott Medalist Kevin Henkes’s extraordinary career.
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Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt
Written by Kate Messner & illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm
This story shows a beautiful, unique look at a garden, as it shows what's happening above and below the ground and pairs it with sweet sentiments of gardening with family and creating something beautiful together. This book shows the efforts of diligent work, and it also shows the beauty in nature around us, both in plants and animals.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8
In this exuberant and lyrical follow-up to the award-winning Over and Under the Snow, discover the wonders that lie hidden between stalks, under the shade of leaves . . . and down in the dirt. Explore the hidden world and many lives of a garden through the course of a year! Up in the garden, the world is full of green—leaves and sprouts, growing vegetables, ripening fruit. But down in the dirt exists a busy world—earthworms dig, snakes hunt, skunks burrow—populated by all the animals that make a garden their home.
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Orion and the Dark
Written & illustrated by Emma Yarlett
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom
This is just an amazing book all around: the illustrations are gorgeous and unique and the story is fantastic as well, with a great message! Orion is afraid of so many things, but especially the dark until The Dark comes to visit him. The cheerful personification of the dark looks absolutely huggable and I love how together they conquer Orion's fear by discovering the truth of each aspect of the dark that terrifies him—knowledge is power.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7
Orion is very scared of the dark—until Dark decides to pay him a visit! Orion is scared of a lot of things, but most of all he’s scared of the dark. So one night the Dark decides to take Orion on an adventure. Emma Yarlett’s second picture book combines her incredible storytelling and artwork with die-cut pages that bring the Dark to life.
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Alphabet Kingdom
Written & illustrated by Starla Michelle Halfmann
Thoughts from Lemony Snickers
Alphabet Kingdom is full of beautiful, kaleidoscopic illustrations. Each page is vibrant with color and life, and Staria Michelle Halfmann has a beautiful style. For a child who appreciates beautiful art, this would be a great choice. On the other hand, if children are interested in variety and words, this might not be the perfect fit. This book will catch the attention of most adults, but I'm less confident that it will interest most children. Still a favorite when it comes illustration-only, or at least, illustration-focused children's books.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 0-4
In this large-format alphabet book, the letters of the English language come alive through the artwork of Austin-based fine artist Starla Michelle Halfmann. Children will learn and marvel as their ABCs become members of the animal kingdom, and adults will appreciate the beauty of this gorgeously rendered wordless picture book.
The Storybook Knight book
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Heal the Earth book
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Harry and Horsie book
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Violet the Pilot book
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  • The Storybook Knight - The Book Snob Mom -

    Told in perfect rhyme and gorgeously illustrated, this is a fantastic book about a young knight who draws on street smarts, common courtesy, books and a little kindness to brave the monsters he encounters, rather than fighting. I really like that he goes about what his parents ask him to do (even though it's not to his taste!) with his own unique style and that his parents, in turn, are able to embrace his preferences as he demonstrates their true value. Books and reading can indeed be a powerful weapon and tool!

  • Heal the Earth - B is for Bookworm -

    This interactive book takes you on an adventure to heal the earth! By pressing buttons and tilting the book, you get to help make the changes. This book is all about being environmentally friendly to help our earth, and it has the most beautiful illustrations!

  • Harry and Horsie - Lemony Snickers -

    Harry and Horsie is a great book. After noticing that it features a special note from Dave Letterman, I learned that the author, Katie Van Camp, was actually a nanny for David Letterman's son, Harry, and Katie wrote the book as a gift to the Lettermans. The illustrations are adorable, and readers will enjoy venturing into space with Harry as they search for his stuffed friend Horsie. Harry is surprised to find his racecars speeding along Saturn's rings and his cat enjoying the tasty milk on the Milky Way. The book is whimsical and fun, and I really think other readers will love it.

  • Violet the Pilot - Mr. Staccato -

    A powerful story about a girl who likes to build things. Ever since she's been little, she's been tinkering with household electronics and gadgets; fixing them and learning how they work. Soon she begins building airplanes and learning to fly. Her unusual hobbies, though, make her quite unpopular with the kids at school.

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The Rag Coat
Written & illustrated by Lauren A. Mills
Thoughts from Grammy
This is a beautiful book. It tells a simple, truthful story hitting on the difficult topics of grief and poverty. The sensitive language and muted illustrations convey respect. I love the natural way this story teaches lessons on love and respect, generosity, community, and kindness.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9
With paintings that capture all the beauty of Appalachia in authentic detail, this tender story about a resourceful mountain girl's special coat will touchreaders with its affirming message of love and friendship.
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Here We Are
Written & illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
Thoughts from Readerly Mom
Here We Are is just a little bit quirky, just a little bit silly, and absolutely darling all the way through. The illustrations are cute, and they somehow get cuter the more you look at them. The message is wonderful: we're all here on earth, with lots of things to see and lots of people to help you when you need it. I love giving this as a new baby gift, and I love reading it to my own kids.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6
Oliver Jeffers, arguably the most influential creator of picture books today, offers a rare personal look inside his own hopes and wishes for his child—and in doing so gifts children and parents everywhere with a gently sweet and humorous missive about our world and those who call it home. Insightfully sweet, with a gentle humor and poignancy, here is Oliver Jeffers' user's guide to life on Earth. He created it specially for his son, yet with a universality that embraces all children and their parents. Be it a complex view of our planet's terrain (bumpy, sharp, wet), a deep look at our place in space (it’s big), or a guide to all of humanity (don’t be fooled, we are all people), Oliver's signature wit and humor combine with a value system of kindness and tolerance to create a must-have book for parents.
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Sometimes You Fly
Written by Katherine Applegate & illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm
I love the overall message of this book and the examples it gives of true success. The illustrations in this book are fabulous, and the before and after element of the text and illustrations is a fun part of the book.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7
This gorgeous gift book, equally perfect for preschool graduations or college commencements, baby showers or birthdays, is an inspirational tribute to the universal struggles and achievements of childhood. Beginning with a first birthday, the scenes travel through childhood triumphs and milestones, coming full circle to graduation. A magical blend of succinct text and beautiful watercolors renders each moment with tenderness and humor and encourages readers to “remember then, with every try, sometimes you fail . . . sometimes you fly.”
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Famously Phoebe
Written by Lori Alexander & illustrated by Aurelie Blard-Quintard
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm
The cutest book for new big siblings adjusting to their new baby sibling! This book is creative, fun, entertaining, and has an important lesson inside. The illustrations are really cute, too!
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7
Phoebe was the shining star of her family. Then someone came along to take her place. For as long as Phoebe can remember, she’s known the clickety click click of a photographer snapping her picture. Thanks to the camera-carrying “paparazzi” (aka Mom and Dad), she’s always been the star of the show . . . until the day a tiny newcomer arrives on set. Will Phoebe learn to share the spotlight and assume the role she was born to play: big sister? This sweet tale of sibling rivalry resolved is perfect for every older brother and sister.
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Xander's Panda Party
Written by Linda Sue Park & illustrated by Matt Phelan
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm
Panda wants to have a party, but the guest list gets a little confusing! He learns about mammals, reptiles, and more as he tries to prepare for the perfect party. I love the illustrations in this book, and I like that it has some educational value about the animals while being very fun!
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Xander's plan to host a panda party falls through, since he is the only panda at the zoo, but when he extends the invitation to all the bears, complications ensue. Includes an author's note about the international effort to save pandas from extinction. 40,000 first printing.
Hiding Heidi book
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Rocket Shoes book
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Tomorrow I'll Be Brave book
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Not Your Typical Dragon book
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  • Hiding Heidi - A beautiful and enchanting story by exciting new talent Fiona Woodcock, about a little girl with an amazing gift for concealing herself. Meet Heidi—if you can find her, that is! Heidi is the best at hiding: in school, at the playground, or in the park. Heidi’s friends know how much she loves hiding, so they always let her play and win. But Heidi learns the importance of sharing the limelight with other people when being too good at hiding makes her miss all the other fun her friends are having—and how much more fun it can be when you appreciate what your friends are good at too! She learns Freddie is great at bouncing on hippity-hops, Katie is sensational at roller-skating, and Lizzie is incredible at climbing. Heidi then realizes that she has fun doing the activities her friends like, even if she isn’t the best.

  • Rocket Shoes - The Book Snob Mom -

    I love the ethnic diversity of characters in this book, depicted both through story and illustrations in a way that's natural, just like it is in real life. the illustrations are bright and modern and the story is told in an engaging way (with some great rhyming!) that carries the messages of the book while still being a story rather than a moralizing parable. Lessons worth learning from this book? Kids can work hard for special toys they want rather than having the immediately purchased by parents, rules are important to follow, some situations trump rules, and the biggest people are able to admit when they're wrong and course correct, and compromise is key.

  • Tomorrow I'll Be Brave - Tomorrow I’ll be all the things I tried to be today- Adventurous, Strong, Smart, Curious, Creative, Confident, & Brave. And if I wasn’t one of them, I know that it’s OK. Adventure through a world filled with positive and beautifully hand-lettered words of widsom, inspiration, and motivation. As this book reminds readers, tomorrow is another day, full of endless opportunities—all you have to do is decide to make the day yours.

  • Not Your Typical Dragon - When Crispin Blaze turns 7 years old, he’s expected to breathe fire like all the other dragons, but instead of fire, he breathes a host of most unusual things. By the illustrator of Dream Big, Little Pig by Kristi Yamaguchi.

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Ada's Violin
Written by Susan Hood & illustrated by Sally Wern Comport
Thoughts from The Fun Uncle
I love this book! It has something for everyone- invention, music, and more. It is a deep book that talks about poverty and the struggles of growing up in a lower-income area. However, Ada is an amazing example of someone who doesn't let life happen to her, but does what she needs to create the life she wants. I would read this story even without my little one, as it is just a story that reaches the heart and helps us all take a deeper look into our lives.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
A town built on a landfill. A community in need of hope. A girl with a dream. A man with a vision. An ingenious idea.
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Lionheart
Written & illustrated by Richard Collingridge
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom
The illustrations in this book are gorgeously rich and detailed and add reality to this story of imagination and conquering fears. Richard's lion (Lionheart) was reminiscent of Aslan (of The Chronicles of Narnia) to me in his protection and empowerment of the little boy in facing his own fears, which made the story even more powerful and meaningful to me personally.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5
Richard hears something in his room before bedtime. Is it a monster? He doesn't wait to find out and sets off running through the streets, over the hills, through the forest, and into the fields until he finds himself in a magical jungle. With the help of his stuffed lion Lionheart, Richard finds the courage he needs to face his fears.
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Norton and Alpha
Written & illustrated by Kristyna Litten
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm
Norton, the inventor, finds a flower and tries to figure out what it "does." Even though he doesn't quite succeed, he decides that having something that just makes you smile is important, too. :)
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-7
Battered wheels, rusty cogs, broken springs: Norton, an adorable robot, collects this junk and uses it to create amazing inventions. But one day he and his dog Alpha find something they ve never seen before: a flower! At first, they re baffled . . . but when a seed blossoms into a flowery field, the two discover the true magic of nature. Includes a big, stunning gatefold!"
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Blue Chameleon
Written & illustrated by Emily Gravett
Thoughts from Readerly Mom
Blue Chameleon is inventive, fun, and easy to laugh at. Like many of Emily Gravett's innovative books, it's also great for little ones who are just starting to read. The sparse text paired with clever illustrations creates a book that is quick to read, but requires the reader to do most of the work making connections--something I think is perfect for reading with little ones.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-6
Chameleon can turn himself into anything and appear to fit in anywhere, but it seems that neither the swirly snail, the green grasshopper nor the striped sock want to be friends. Will he ever find someone to talk to? Someone just like him? With a subtle and witty interplay between words and illustrations this introduction to colors and shapes (and chameleons!) is sure to delight kids of all ages.
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Maps
Written & illustrated by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski
Thoughts from Readerly Mom
This is not a book to sit down and read--it's a book to spend hours poring over and exploring. The illustrations are fun and informative, making it a great way to let even young children dive into world geography. My three-year-old daughter loves to look at the maps on her own and ask questions about them. We also love looking at them together--especially maps of places we have lived or visited. This is an ideal first atlas to have in your home.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 7-10
Provides an illustrated collection of maps covering the continents and major nations of the world, detailing cities, landmarks, and cultural icons for each.
Stone Soup book
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Super Manny Stands Up! book
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  • Stone Soup - Grammy -

    I have read other versions of the Stone Soup story, but this one by Jon Muth is my favorite! Traditionally a European tale, it transfers beautifully to China and is beautifully augmented by traditional eastern philosophy. I love the gentle way the traveling monks interact with each other and with the villagers. Upon entering the village, the monks find that all the doors in the village are closed to them and decide to brew some stone soup. While the small act of three travelers preparing a simple meal for themselves is a simple beginning, the way that they attract the attention and help of the whole village seems like a wondrous miracle. Muth's lustrous watercolor illustrations which alternate between full-page spreads and effective use of white space are brilliant--the villagers are individually imbued with so much personality! At our house, we are all about family meals, sharing those meals with friends and family, and the happiness and joy that results. Almost any book that celebrates the joy of a shared meal is a win for us!

  • Super Manny Stands Up! - The Book Snob Mom -

    "Manny stood up. And then he did the bravest, most courageous, kindest thing he ever could have done. He said: Stop It." Manny is a super hero after school every day, wearing a different color cape and conquering the fiercest monsters his imagination can devise, but it turns out his invisible cape he wears to school is the most powerful. The power and confidence practice and imagination can give you, and the reminder that once you stand up for someone, others will most likely follow and back you up is comforting, and who knows when you might make a new best friend. The illustrations in this book are modern and fun, and the message is spectacular.

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