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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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Hop Along Boo, Time for Bed
Written by Mark Sperring & illustrated by Mandy Sutcliffe
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom
This is an AMAZING book that I never get tired of reading and my toddler never gets tired of listening to. He'll ask for this book again and again and again and when we had a couple night stay in the hospital earlier this year, this is one of the three books we grabbed as we ran out the door. The illustrations are peaceful and dreamy (the parades of children in their pajamas are my favorite!) and the rhymes are calming and lullaby-esque.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Join Belle and her bunny, Boo, as they follow ballerinas, cowboys, pirates, and others through dreamy fantasies to a cozy bed of their own. Gentle rhymes and luminous illustrations will help little ones wind down and tuck in for a good night’s sleep. This lullaby journey is as captivating and soothing as any parent or child could want — by the end, there won’t be an open eye in the house!

Belle & Boo is a British lifestyle brand known for original, nostalgic ‘story book’ illustrations of children. Visit them at belleandboo.com.

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Heal the Earth
Written by Julian Lennon and Bart Davis & illustrated by Smiljana Coh
Thoughts from 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!
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

Take a journey to help the Earth in the second book of the New York Times bestselling trilogy by Julian Lennon! Jump aboard the White Feather Flier, a magical plane that can go wherever you want. This time, Lennon’s interactive book immerses children in a fun and unique journey where they can: Bring medicine to people in need! Dive below the ocean to bleached coral reefs! Visit the city to cultivate green spaces! Help the rain forest return and give its animals a home! Explore the planet, meet new people, and help make the world a better place! The Flier’s mission is to transport readers around the world, to engage them in helping to save the environment, and to teach one and all to love our planet. Just press a button printed on the page, and point the plane up in the air to fly, or down to land it! An inspiring, lyrical story, rooted in Lennon’s life and work, Heal the Earth is filled with beautiful illustrations that bring the faraway world closer to young children. The book includes words to a new, special poem written by Julian Lennon, specifically for Heal the Earth. A portion of the proceeds from book sales will go to support the environmental and humanitarian efforts of the White Feather Foundation, the global environmental and humanitarian organization that Lennon founded to promote education, health, conservation, and the protection of indigenous culture.

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  • Maps - 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.

  • Orion and the Dark - 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.

  • 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.

  • The Runaway Hug - B is for Bookworm -

    This is such a sweet bedtime book. I love the idea that there's just one hug left, so you have to give it back. :) I also love the final illustrations showing the whole family, all the kids in bed. Also, this didn't bother me at all, but one thing to note in case you'd like to know is that there are a few illustrations where both the mother and daughter are getting dressed and are just wearing underwear (though a full shirt on in both cases).

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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.

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Super Manny Stands Up!
Written by Kelly DiPucchio & illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
Thoughts from 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.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

New York Times bestselling author Kelly DiPucchio and illustrator Stephanie Graegin bring a lionhearted new hero to life in this tender, sparkling story about standing up for what’s right—and finding your inner superpowers. Every day after school, Manny saves the world from formidable foes. I AM FEARLESS! I AM STRONG! I AM BRAVE! I AM POWERFUL! I AM INVINCIBLE! Zombie bears, evil cloud monsters, and alien robots with laser beam eyes are no match for Super Manny. But when Manny encounters a real-life nemesis in the school cafeteria, will he be able to summon his superhero strength to save the day?

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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.

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Rocket Shoes
Written by Sharon Skinner & illustrated by Ward Jenkins
Thoughts from 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.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-9

Jose dreams of flying. So he buys some rocket shoes and jets into the atmosphere. But all those spins, kicks, and airborne tricks cause such a ruckus that the mayor bans the shoes. Then, during a terrible snowstorm, Jose hears a cry: his neighbor’s in danger–and he can only help her if he flies. Will Jose dare to break the rules and save the day?

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Ada's Violin - 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.

  • Lionheart - 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.

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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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Harry and Horsie
Written by Katie Van Camp & illustrated by Lincoln Agnew
Thoughts from 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.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

When a boy named Harry sneaks out of bed one night with his best friend, Horsie, to play with his Super Duper Bubble Blooper – an out-of-this-world adventure begins! Illustrated with retro-comic art, this is a charming story about the power of friendship and imagination from a talented new team.

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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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Stone Soup
Written & illustrated by Jon J Muth
Thoughts from 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!
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

An award-winning artist adds a Zen twist to a favorite tale. As three monks travel along a mountain road, they encounter villagers ravaged by harsh times, making them cold to strangers. When the monks entice them to make soup from stones, the villagers discover how much they have to give. Full color.

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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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  • Sometimes You Fly - 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.

  • Norton and Alpha - 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. :)

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