Summer Fun

(Even if we have to stay close to home again)

We are in our second pandemic summer, and, just like last year, no one really knows which activities will be up and running and which ones will be cancelled at the last moment due to the ever-changing health regulations. There are many reasons to be hopeful; this year many British Columbians have received their first dose of a vaccine, and some have even received their second. But, just in case we are stuck close to home again, I have curated a list of books that will help us travel without leaving our own homes and ones that will show us some different activities to try.

The first book in this list is Ocean Speaks: Marie Tharp and the Map that Moved the Earth by Jess Keating and illustrated by Katie Hickey (Tundra, 2020). Marie Tharp always wanted to be a scientist, but as a woman in the mid-1900s, she was advised to find a more “appropriate” job. But Tharp wouldn’t be dissuaded and she eventually got a job as an ocean researcher, albeit, behind a desk working with data that her male colleagues sent back. From here, she created a map that changed the way we understand the earth.

The images in this book are rich and evocative and will draw you into the world as Tharp saw it, a world of lines and waves, of underwater mountains and valleys, a world that was always moving. The back of the book describes the tools used to create the map. Who knows, maybe your child will end up wanting to create their own map once they are done. For ages 4 to 7.

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The next book draws us out of the water to a beach where a dying penguin is lying on some rocks. The Old Man and the Penguin by Julie Abery and illustrated by Pierre Pratt (Kids Can Press, 2020) is a beautiful poem about João who finds this penguin and nurses the newly-named Dindim back to health. But, when the time comes for the penguin to go back home to the ocean, Dindim doesn’t want to leave João. This story, which is based on the true story of friendship between João and Dindim, highlights the importance of paying attention to our surroundings and taking care of the environment so we don’t hurt the creatures around us. For ages 4 to 7.

Natsumi’s Song of Summer by Robert Paul Weston and illustrated by Misa Saburi (Tundra, 2020) takes place in Japan. It is a story about friendship and listening to the music of the world around us. Natsumi loves cicadas, she likes finding them in trees, she likes the way they feel on her arms, and she loves the songs they sing. But when her American cousin comes to visit, Natsumi is worried that Jill won’t feel the same way she does and so she tries to ignore her favourite bugs. For ages 4 to 7.

If you are looking for some activities to try Birds by Pamela Hickman and illustrated by Carolyn Gavin (Kids Can Press, 2020) can help. This book is designed to help beginner bird-watchers get started. The beautifully painted images will help your child recognize different wing types, beak shapes, and bird homes. The book also contains directions on building bird-feeders for some easy bird-watching, and a list of the things your child will need to spot and record all of the birds they see. For ages 9 to 12.

Another book of activities for you and your child to try is Gardening with Emma: Grow and Have Fun by Emma Biggs with help from her father Steven Biggs and illustrated by Rob Hodgson (Storey Publishing, 2019). This vibrant book is “a kid-to-kid guide” about growing vegetables in a large garden or small pot.

Throughout the book, Emma gives helpful tips about how she gets her own garden to grow, how she gets rid of the bad bugs, and how to encourage the good bugs to live in your garden. She also lists a few different types of gardens, such as an alphabet garden, rainbow garden, giant garden, and sound garden. For ages 9 to 12.

No matter what the summer holds for you and your family, I hope these books help get your imaginations soaring with the birds and swimming in the depths of the ocean.

Christina Van Starkenberg
Christina Van Starkenberg
Christina Van Starkenburg lives in Victoria with her husband, children, and cat. She is the author of One Tiny Turtle: A Story You Can Colour and many articles. To read more of her work and learn about her upcoming books, check out her website at