top of page

24 Fun and Exciting Kids Books to Embrace the Spirit of Summer

This post includes a collection of our favorite summertime reads - books that capture that summer state of mind - long, sunny days outside, melty popsicles, and the freedom to dream and explore with friends and family. 

Summer is the perfect time to discover new books at your local library or at a visit with our Big Red Reading Bus. Click here for our summer programming schedule and here for more information about the Madison Public Library summer reading program. 

We’re excited to share 24 of our favorite summertime stories broken into categories: board books, picture books, middle grade and graphic novels. You can also read our post of 20 of our favorite diverse picture books about summer and view all our recommendations at our summer Bookshop page. 

For a complete list of our favorite summertime reads, visit our Bookshop page.

Board Books

My Hair is Like the Sun 

Author: St. Clair Detrick-Jules | Illustrator: Tabitha Brown | Publisher: Chronicle Books

The board book, My Hair is Like the Sun, is a beautiful and affirming story that celebrates all types of Black hair. Babies will love the bright, bold colors in the illustrations and the photographs of real kids.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Nature Walk

Author/Illustrator: Eric Carle | Publisher: World of Eric Carle

Join the Very Hungry Caterpillar on a search-and-find adventure in nature! Our youngest readers will be tasked with finding certain things on each page. This interactive story is great for facilitating conversations and vocabulary building. 

Little Wonders Weather 

Author: Rose Nestling | Illustrator: Daniela Sosa | Publisher: Cottage Door Press

The Little Wonders series includes topics like weather, space, and bugs. Each book is brightly colored with touch and turn and push and pull features that are perfect for tiny hands. We love the rich vocabulary and fun and accessible built-in learning! 

Just Like You 

Author: Anne Wynter | Illustrator: Leticia Moreno | Publisher: little bee books 

Just Like You and No More Sleeping In are Anne Wynter’s latest board books that are great for toddlers! They’re full of her usual humor and joy, and so relatable for anyone who is a toddler or who spends a lot of time with one. ;) Just Like You tells the story of a family getting ready for a picnic, and the determined toddler who wants to help! 

How We Play 

Author: Dolisha Mitchell | Publisher: Little Feminist Press 

How We Play is the sixth book in the inclusive board book series from Little Feminist Press. We absolutely love these books and how representative they are of the world we live in. Babies and toddlers love looking at pictures of real kids, and these books are a slam dunk when it comes to affirming and reflecting the diversity of all readers! This is a great way to facilitate conversations about play this summer. 

How to Say Hello 

Author/Illustrator: Sophie Beer | Publisher: Caterpillar Books

Sophie Beer is the creator of so many of our favorite board books for kids. In this latest one, kids learn that there are many ways to greet someone. We love how it shows kids that it’s okay to wait until they’re comfortable, and give a high five instead of a hug, when saying hello. It’s an important book that begins the conversation about listening to your body and doing what feels right. Oftentimes, kids engage with even more people than usual during summertime - read this book to help them understand the many ways to say hello!

Picture Books 

When Summer Comes: Exploring Nature in Our Warmest Season 

Author: Aimee M. Bissonette | Illustrator: Erin Hourigan | Publisher: Little Bigfoot 

This beautiful and poetic book joins When Winter Comes, and When Fall Comes, and is a celebration of being outdoors. When some families head to ball games and outdoor markets, the family in this story heads to the wilderness. It’s a story about embracing the beauty of nature and wildlife, and fostering connection with those you love most. 

Summer is Here

Author: Renee Watson | Illustrator: Bea Jackson | Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Summer is Here puts the joy of a childhood summer on full display! From sunrise to sundown, we follow one kid as she experiences all the best things about summer - fresh and tangy fruit, swimming pools, ice cream trucks, family cookouts and so much more. We especially love that it highlights how special the simplest things can be. 

Our Pool

Author/Illustrator: Lucy Ruth Cummins | Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

For anyone who frequents a community pool, this book is pure magic! Follow along as a kid and their mom get ready for and enjoy a pool day in the city! It’s a hot day, and everyone is welcome here! We love the inclusive illustrations and language, and how fun and relatable the story is to kids and families. Don’t miss this gem! 

Let’s Go!

Author/Illustrator: Julie Flett | Publisher: Greystone Kids 

Let’s Go! is about a child who receives his mom’s old skateboard and discovers how learning to ride it helps him connect with his community and become more confident.  Julie Flett is a beloved Indigenous author who drew inspiration from her own background of skateboarding and community. It also includes Cree language and a glossary of Cree words in the back. 

Beach Hair

Author: Ashley Woodfolk | Illustrator: Nina Mata | Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers  

From two bestselling creators comes a lyrical and heartfelt picture book about a multiracial family’s trip to the beach that’s an ode to family, community, diversity, and—most importantly—fabulous beach hair! This is a wonderful book to add to your summer reading list! 

Churro Stand 

Author: Karina N. Gonzalez | Illustrator: Krystal Quiles | Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers 

Follow along the streets of New York City with a mom and her children as they sell delicious churros! When it starts raining and everyone wants to duck and cover, this mom figures out how to make their day fun and magical anyway. Churro Stand is available in both English and Spanish. 

Middle Grade

Summer at Squee 

Author: Andrea Wang | Publisher: Kokila

From Newbery Honor–winning author Andrea Wang, a new middle grade novel about a Chinese American tween who attends a Boston-based Chinese cultural overnight camp—and the many ways it transforms her.

Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers 

Author: Celia C. Perez | Publisher: Kokila 

Strange Birds is about four very different young girls, who unite to put an end to an endangered-species-unfriendly tradition carried out by a local scouts group. It's both entertaining and instructional - and we know any rebellious youngster will love these characters! 

Continental Drifter 
Author: Kathy MacLeod | Publisher: First Second 

With a Thai mother and an American father, Kathy lives in two different worlds. She spends most of the year in Bangkok, where she’s secretly counting the days till summer vacation. That’s when her family travels for twenty-four hours straight to finally arrive in a tiny seaside town in Maine.

Kathy loves Maine’s idyllic beauty and all the exotic delicacies she can’t get back home, like clam chowder and blueberry pie. But no matter how hard she tries, she struggles to fit in. She doesn’t look like the other kids in this

rural New England town. Kathy just wants to find a place where she truly belongs, but she’s not sure if it’s in America, Thailand . . . or anywhere.

Magnolia Wu Unfolds it All

Author: Chanel Miller | Publisher: Philomel Books

Award-winning author and artist Chanel Miller tells a fun, funny, and poignant story of friendship and community starring Magnolia Wu, a ten-year-old sock detective bent on returning all the lonely only socks left behind in her parents' NYC laundromat.

The Last Last-Day-of-Summer

Author: Lamar Giles | Illustrator: Dapo Adeola | Publisher: Versify

In the first Legendary Alston Boys mystery from Edgar Award nominee Lamar Giles—now in paperback—two adventurous cousins accidentally freeze time on the last day of summer, and the secrets hidden between the seconds, minutes, and hours aren't quite the endless fun they expected!

The First Magnificent Summer 

Author: R.L Toalson | Publisher: Aladdin

Judy Blume meets Barbara Dee in this tender and empowering middle grade novel told in journal entries and poetry about a young writer on the verge of becoming a woman whose summer with her estranged father doesn’t turn out the way she’d hoped.

Graphic Novels 


Author/Illustrator: Robin Easter | Publisher: Little, Brown Ink 

In a summer of goodbyes and new beginnings, shy Ashton Price hopes to confess to their theater camp crush in this heartfelt middle-grade graphic novel. Perfect for fans of The Tryout and The Girl from the Sea.

Summer Vamp

Author/Illustrator: Violet Chan Karim | Publisher: Random House Graphic

What happens when a very human kid ends up at the wrong summer camp—FOR VAMPIRES?! This quirky and heart warming graphic novel about making friends and getting in trouble is perfect for fans of Witches of Brooklyn


Author: Megan Wagner Lloyd | Illustrator: Michelle Mee Nutter | Publisher: Graphix 

From the Eisner-nominated duo behind the instant bestseller Allergic comes a fun new graphic novel about finding your own space… especially when you're in a family of nine!

Sink or Swim

Author: Veronica Agarwal | Illustrator: Lee Durfey-Lavoie | Publisher: Random House Graphic

Summer is here! School’s out, the pool is open, and new adventures with friends await! But what happens when twelve year old Ty’s anxiety has other plans? From the world of Just Roll With It comes a boy-centric graphic novel about accepting yourself even when it’s a little scary.

Saving Sunshine 

Author: Saadia Faruqi | Illustrator: Shazleen Khan | Publisher: First Second 

From Saadia Faruqi and Shazleen Khan comes a relatable, funny, and heart-wrenchingly honest graphic novel about Muslim American siblings who must learn how to stop fighting and support each other in a world that is often unkind.


Author: Pablo Cartaya | Illustrator: Miguel Diaz Rivas | Publisher: First Second 

Roller Girl meets Cardboard Kingdom in this original, contemporary graphic novel from award-winning author Pablo Cartaya and New York Times best-selling illustrator Miguel Díaz Rivas.

Baseball is Elena Rueda’s entire life: She may be the only girl on her team, but she’s the best player and everyone knows it. Except . . . Elena has stopped having fun, and it’s time to leave the sport behind.

The problem is, Elena has no idea who she is without a bat in her hand. Can a summer spent with her brother's quirky friends in an empty sandlot that offers a world of possibility show Elena who she is—and teach her to love to play again?

(*Note: Many of the MG and graphic novel summaries were sourced from publishers.)


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page