Summer Reads to Inspire Outdoor Adventure

Be it camp or camping, beaches or sandboxes, one thing is for sure: you want your kids to be outside this time of year. The way they experience the great outdoors is another story and depends on their personality. Does your little one like to lie down and look up at the clouds passing by? Or do they prefer to catch frogs and fireflies? Perhaps a bigger project like building a tree fort or going on a nature walk is more your family’s speed. We’ve rounded up 5 books to inspire many an outdoor adventure—just make sure to read them without a roof blocking the view.

Sea Change by Frank Viva
Frank Viva’s art may look familiar: he’s behind a number of books for younger children (including Young Charlotte, Filmmaker and Young Frank, Architect) and also a regular cover artist for The New Yorker. In Sea Change, he tries his hand at an illustrated book for older kids (the 9+ crowd)—with great success. When the main character, Eliot, finishes school for the year and his family heads to a fishing town on the east coast of Canada, he is none too impressed. Everyone down to the stewardess on his flight tells Eliot how much he’s going to love the place, but he’s sure he won’t. Perhaps predictably, that all changes as Eliot gets to know the town and its inhabitants. It’s the unconventional format, neither picture book nor graphic novel, along with Viva’s attention to detail that set this beautiful book apart.

Camp Rolling Hills by Stacy Davidowitz
The first book in a series, Camp Rolling Hills centers around a pair of 12-year-old kids, nicknamed Smelly and Slimey. One is new to camp while the other a veteran. One is reluctant; the other is excited. They obviously develop an awkward crush on each other. But the boys and girls are competing to out-prank each other, and Smelly and Slimy are caught in the middle. Davidowitz likely put in her own camp time, as she captures the essence of it spectacularly well. Charming and funny, this one will be a delight for camp-goers as well as kids who prefer to stay local.

The Cloudspotter by Tom McLaughlin
There is a boy named Franklin and he’s usually alone. He is dubbed “The Cloudspotter” because of the time he spends staring at the clouds. “The Cloudspotter didn’t only see clouds, he saw a storybook in the sky,” the book explains, and the stories in the sky make him less lonely. Used to being alone and settled in his (literal) head-in-the-clouds ways, The Cloudspotter is alarmed when a dog comes to play. He is territorial and frustrated, so pushes him away. In the end, there’s a little lesson in letting friends in—in addition to inspiration on how to find magic simply by looking up.

Pinny in Summer by Joanne Schwartz, art by Isabelle Malenfant
An unintentional ode to free-range parenting, Pinny in Summer is ideal for new readers. Sectioned into four mini-chapters, the book follows a little girl through an unstructured day. She finds various things to do: picking blueberries, rock collecting, befriending a seagull, baking a cake. She and her friends, all adult-less in the book, have an accidental, unplanned, perfect summer day. This is a gentle read, a “taking-joy-in-the-little-things” kind of book. As such, it could easily be one of the small pleasures in a kid’s summer day.

Secret Tree Fort by Brianne Farley
A favorite summer read, this book begins with a mother telling her daughters to go outside and enjoy the beautiful weather. When the eldest is content with reading but the younger sibling wants a playmate, a declaration is made: “I HAVE A SECRET TREE FORT AND YOU’RE NOT INVITED,” she announces, loudly. The bulk of the rest of the book is the little sister elaborating on the perks of her fort: trap doors, rope ladders, snack baskets and flags, a s’mores kit, treasures, an underwater viewing area—and of course, the whole thing is made of candy. Is it enough to pry her older sister from the pages of her book? With no disrespect to reading, let’s hope so…