Two picks to keep kids reading in the summer

Two picks to keep kids reading in the summer

As the summer rolls on, are you yearning for school to begin again? To give you and your children an opportunity for a bit of learning, here are two new picture books that present information in such a way that learning, even in the heart of summer, will be fun.

For the youngest students, there's "1 2 3 versus A B C" (2013, Harper, written and illustrated by Mike Boldt, ages 2-5). As you open the book to the title spread, on the left side, a cartoonish No. 1 introduces himself, saying he's glad you've come to read this book about numbers. On the right side, a jovial looking letter A enters, saying how happy he is that you're reading this book about letters.

"WHAT?!!" they both shout as you turn the page. Each is sure there's been a mistake. The argument builds until they are interrupted by a humble-looking alligator who tells them he's been asked to be in the book. No. 1 ushers him in, saying, "That settles it then. Since there is 1 alligator, this is a book about Numbers.

"Did you hear what you said?" responds A. "Alligator. That starts with the letter A."

The discussion continues as two bears show up in three cars. On it goes, with each addition adding to the chaos in the text and digital illustrations. Some of those joining in include 13 Monkeys wearing 14 Neckties juggling 15 Oranges, and 25 balls of Yarn, which will be used to knit sweaters for you guessed it 26 Zebras. In the end, it appears that our main characters have worked things out, agreeing that this was a book about both numbers and letters.

There's a surprise, though. On the last page, a new character enters, saying "Ummhello? I'm supposed to be in a book about colors." Go ahead — look back through the book. You'll see that the colors were there all along as well.

The older crowd, older elementary-aged students that is, will enjoy "President Taft is Stuck in the Bath" (2014, Candlewick Press, written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen, ages 5-10), though this one will also provide a chuckle for adults.

After a one-page introduction of President Taft, the 27th president of the United States, the book gets down to its real business. "But today President Taft is stuck in his bathtub," we are told. "Blast!" said Taft. "This could be bad." Over the next spreads, Van Dusen's comical illustrations show the cartoon-like Taft attempting to heave, squeeze and shimmy out of the tub. "I hope," said Taft, "that nobody notices I am missing."

With a knock, however, his wife enters. "We need action," Taft says. "A plan!" They call in the vice president, who announces that he's ready to be sworn in as president. "Blast that!" Taft bellows. Next, the secretary of state suggests a diet, the secretary of agriculture suggests butter and the secretary of war suggests TNT. "Blast blasting!" Taft says. "That's dangerous, man!" Other secretaries' suggestions are rejected as well, (including the secretary of the treasury's idea to throw money at the problem), until finally Taft concludes that he must resign.

"Wait!" the first lady pipes up. She suggests using their arms instead of their brains. The group gives her plan a try, tug on Taft from all sides, and out he flies. After an amusing finish, an author's note shares some of the factual accounts upon which this fictional book is based. Along with the laughs, this is a great discussion starter about history and government.

Alice B. McGinty (http://www.alicebmcginty.com), is the co-regional adviser of the Illinois Chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and the award-winning author of over 40 books for children. She directs a summer writing camp, Words on Fire, for teens, and tutors school-aged children in writing.

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