Tuesday, September 26, 2017

And then comes summer by Tom Brenner, illustrated by Jaime Kim

I both like and dislike this book.

On the one hand, it's a joyful celebration of summer, featuring a diverse cast. The story begins with a peaceful scene of a suburb, complete with kids biking and adults watering lawns in the background, with splashy johnny-jump-ups blazoned across the page.

The story continues exulting in the sights, sounds, and smells of summer. Kids play outside, ride their bikes, sell lemonade, participate in a Fourth of July parade, visit the ice cream truck, and finally head to the lake with their parents and go camping. The illustrations are colorful, splashy scenes of a family with two exuberant children, possibly biracial, exulting in the heat and fun of summer.

But....this isn't a summer I've ever seen. The small town parade, okay yes. But I live and work in several small towns and there are very rarely kids out biking, running lemonade stands, or just playing outside. They're all enrolled in swimming lessons, summer school, or at camp. The kids who are wandering loose around town certainly can't afford camping trips and don't have a cohesive, traditional family to go with anyways. I'm always suspicious of these carefully diverse suburban settings and this one seems like an idealistic vision of 1950s summer vacation with a more modern view of diversity.

But this is me looking at the book as an adult. Will kids recognize the dichotomy? Will they be interested in a view of summer that they've never personally experienced? Or is this just nostalgia for adults? It's hard to say. I know that a lot of adults will love this book, harkening back to what they remember as a more relaxed time in their lives and a more independent summer for kids. Some kids may enjoy it, recognizing the smells and feelings of summer, if not the specific activities. The illustrations are certainly attractive and convey a view of summer that I think a lot of small town and suburban Americans have in their minds.

Verdict: I don't know. Seasonal books are usually popular and I like the illustrations but I'm just doubtful about the appeal.

ISBN: 9780763660710; Published 2017 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

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