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11 Books I’m Bringing to the Beach (And Why)

Summer Beach Book

Next week I’m heading to the golden shores of Lake Michigan with my family.

There’s a fine science to the books you bring on vacation.

Here are the books we’re taking along. It’s a mixed bag of picture books, middle grade, graphic novels, and books for grown-ups. I decided to talk about my reasons for bringing each one.

Summer 2015 Books


Bulldozer’s Big Day by Candace Fleming; illustrated by Eric Rohmann

While I’ve read this book, my daughter and son have not. We last saw this duo with the excellent Oh, No! This one also makes a great companion to Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site, which as we all know is loved by every kid everywhere (or at the very least by their grownups):

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 8.44.31 AM

Piper Green

Piper Green and the Fairy Tree by Ellen Potter; illustrated by Qin Leng

I talked about being excited to read this early chapter book back in my Summer Preview. Vacation seems like the right time to finally read a book where the main character rides a lobster boat to school. Lucky. I lived on an island once as a kid, I had to take a boring bridge to get into town.


Steve Jobs: Insanely Great by Jessie Hartland

I read this graphic novel a few weeks back in a place with cool wallpaper

Read this today. I really liked it (via @randomhousekids)

A photo posted by tjonks (@tjonks) on

(verdict: excellent book, excellent wallpaper) and am bringing it for my brother-in-law who continues to chip away at the whopping Walter Issacson Steve Jobs bio. You know, the one we all started and are about 11% finished with. After that I’ll be passing it on to the middle school in my district.


Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers: Portraits of 50 Famous Folks & All Their Weird Stuff by James Gulliver Hancock

I read this last summer and feel it will nicely fill the “Oh, hey, what’s this book?” role for the week. The “Oh, hey, what’s this book?” is an interesting book that isn’t for anyone in particular, it just sits around the cottage and people can pick it up and check it out. It’s important that the book be one where the reader can open to any page and start reading. Every cottage needs an “Oh, hey, what’s this book?” book.


In a Village by the Sea by Muon Van; illustrated by April Chu

Three reasons:

  1. It’s water-related.
  2. A Fuse #8 Production gave it a glowing review.
  3. I saw it on the “New Picture Books” shelf at my library.


Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

I’m doing it, people. Because every review I read (including the most recent, over at For Those About To Mock) says it lives up to the hype.


Feet, Go to Sleep by Barbara Botter; illustrated by Maggie Smith

Because it’s about a kid going to bed while on a beach vacation. We have kids we hope will go to bed while on a beach vacation. What? Too on the nose?


Displacement by Lucy Knisley

After Relish, I will read every single thing Ms. Knisley puts out. Chocolate chip cookies in my household will never be the same:


from Relish by Lucy Knisley

Displacement is a travelogue of the author going on a cruise with her grandparents. It turns out to be more of a challenge than she expected. Summer is a good time to read about people traveling, isn’t it? Related recommended reading: An Age of License, also by Lucy Knisley.


March: Book Two by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin; illustrated by Nate Powell

Okay, stick with me here. I strongly associate music with the season in which I first listen to it. Invitably, when a new season comes along, I get a hankering for a bunch of music that I fell in love during that time of year. You better believe every spring I’m pulling out The Only Place. Last summer I read March: Book One (a great book, as you know), and now that the weather is warm again, I think I was subconsciously drawn to this continuation of the true story.


Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm; illustrated by Matthew Holm

A summer story with a layer of family turmoil. I’m bringing it to push on others.


Beach House by Deanna Caswell; illustrated by Amy June Bates

This is obvious.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. I love your list. Please feel flattered when I steal your concept for my next blog post. Can’t wait to adopt some of your choices. Perhaps you would like to add my book to your list. President of the Whole Fifth Grade. On NY public library recommended summer reading list. I’d love to send you a copy of the follow up, Presidebt of the Whole Sixth Grade. Anyway, happy travels. Wear sunscreen.

  2. What a great list! I’m so flattered that you included Piper Green. Happy reading, Travis, and here’s to sunny weather for your trip!