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Voyages, animals, beauty for the youngest readers

Six lovely picture books exemplify the joys of summer reading.

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'Woodrow at Sea' is by Wallace Edwards.

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Seashore, barnyard, outer space – what’s the best setting for the picture books that your favorite young reader will be enjoying this summer?

The answer is all of the above.

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Award-winning author-illustrator Wallace Edwards wonderfully captures the adventure of a sea voyage in his wordless story Woodrow at Sea. Woodrow is a T-shirt-wearing elephant who sets out on a lonely voyage, only to pick up an unexpected passenger – a mouse with a compass slung around his neck. In vibrant watercolor-and-ink drawings, Edwards tells a delightful story of friendship, peril, teamwork, and song.

Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall continues the nautical theme with Hello Lighthouse, a book that imagines the life of a lighthouse keeper and his small family over the course of several years. Blackall’s detailed watercolor-and-ink drawings evoke the beauty, drama, isolation, and tenderness that first the lighthouse keeper, then his wife, and then their child all experience on their tiny island.

A barnyard may not offer the drama of the sea, but for a pair of baby animals – a newly hatched chick and a beagle puppy – making a new friend and learning how to play is adventure enough. Eugene Yelchin’s pencil-and-pastel drawings bring warmth to the story of Pip & Pup, a wordless tale of discovery and joy. A rainstorm solidifies the budding friendship between the two animals, and the final page suggests a bright future.

In their fourth book of animal haiku, author Michael J. Rosen and illustrator Stan Fellows range from the field to the barn to the saddle in The Horse’s Haiku. Rosen’s verse pairs with Fellows’s watercolors to vividly describe the experiences of horses and their caretakers. Word lovers and animal lovers will both find much to enjoy here.

Polar bears, igloos, frozen seas, and tepees combine to create a dreamy, almost surreal trance in Song on the Wind, by Caroline Everson and illustrator Anne Marie Bourgeois. In 14 verses, Everson and Bourgeois bring to life a traditional lullaby, sung to children separated by space and time but with the same result – sweet dreams – for all.

For really adventurous readers, British illustrator Markus Motum tells the ultimate (and true) adventure story of a trip to outer space in Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover. Although the details of the rover’s voyage will be best suited to older readers, even younger space enthusiasts will thrill to Motum’s cool retro drawings of the Red Planet, the solar system, astronauts, scientists, and their equipment, all working together in an appealing mix of drama, art, and science.