Open Sesame: 4 New Books to Welcome Summer

Open Sesame: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

Four New Books to Welcome Summer

Welcome Summer! Welcome glorious season of long days and warm nights, perfect for swimming and ice cream and going to the circus and gazing at a sky of shimmery stars. Here are four new books – three picture books and a middle grade novel – that revel in these summer delights.

Pool by JiHyeon Lee is a beautiful example of wordless storytelling at its finest. The book opens at a public pool, where a boy waits beside the water. By the time he jumps in, the pool is full of other swimmers. He dives below the crowded surface to the depths where he meets a girl. The black, white, and gray line drawings of the surface juxtapose a world below, where colors shift and change and become brighter in colored pencils and pastels. The new friends share an aquatic adventure as they encounter fish and other interesting creatures in an imaginative, watery landscape. When they swim to the surface, all of the swimmers (drawn in black and white) leave the pool, and only the friends remain, in color. The book’s large format allows readers to dive into the wondrous illustrations and experience the feeling of being underwater and the pure joy of friendship.

  • Pool by JiHyeon Lee. Published by Chronicle Books, 2015. 56 pgs.  ISBN: 978-1452142944

Ice Cream Summer by Peter Sis is an ode to icy delights. The story opens with a letter and a boy writing about his summer. The boy assures his grandpa that he is keeping up with his reading and math, and even learning world history. The pictures, however, tell another side of the story. The boy is reading flavors of ice cream, adding and subtracting ice cream cones, and learning about the history of his favorite frozen treat. Ice cream cones show up in every aspect of his life, from the toys on his bedroom shelves to the sandcastles on the beach.  Colorful pictures in sorbet tones and short, simple sentences will engage early readers. More information in smaller print, like ice cream history, is incorporated into the illustrations for more advanced readers. Grandpa’s special surprise at the end may have ice cream lovers asking for a trip to the local creamery. A sweet and lighthearted picture book, just right for summer.

  • Ice Cream Summer by Peter Sis. Published by Scholastic Press, 2015. 40 pgs.  ISBN: 978-0545731614

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley is a middle grade novel embedded with magic.  Micah, age 10, shares a special relationship with his Grandpa Ephraim, with whom he lives. But Grandpa is dying, and grouchy Great-Aunt Gertrudis has come to take care of him and Micah. One of Micah’s favorite pastimes is listening to the story of the Circus Mirandus, a magical circus his grandpa went to when he was a boy, and where he was granted a miracle from the greatest magician of all times, the Man Who Bends Light. Grandpa is ready to claim his miracle, and Micah and his friend, Jenny, set out to find the Lightbender in hopes the miracle will save Grandpa’s life. A fantastical adventure ensues, filled with compelling circus characters, intricate plot lines, and thematic explorations of love and loss. Readers will be drawn into the story’s mystery and magic, and the fast paced action will keep them gripped in suspense, until the unexpected and riveting ending. They may also find themselves looking for that invisible tiger who guards the circus gates long after they’ve read the last page.

  • Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley. Published by Dial Books, 2015. 304 pgs.  ISBN: 978-0525428435

The Night World by Mordecai Gerstein is a picture book that leads readers gently into the dark beauty of night. A young boy follows his cat, Sylvie, through quiet shadows and into the night world. Pen, ink, and acrylic on gray paper convey a true nighttime experience. Though objects are dark, the shape of the garden and walkway, trees and house, are recognizable. The stars are bright against the night sky as animals gather in anticipation. “It’s coming,” is a refrain they echo. Subtle changes in the landscape herald the dawn, and slowly everything is transformed by morning light. Color spreads and the world is restored. A lovely bedtime story for a summer night.

  • The Night World by Mordecai Gerstein. Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2015. 40 pgs.  ISBN: 978-0316188227


Cheli Mennella

Cheli has been involved with creative arts and education for most of her life, and has taught many subjects from art and books to yoga and zoology. But she has a special fondness for kid’s books, and has worked in the field for more than 20 years. She is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Valley Kids and teaches a course for adults in “Writing for Children.” She writes from Colrain, where she lives with her musician-husband, three children, and shelves full of kid’s books.

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