A few warm, sunny days is about all we need around our house to start pulling the summertime books down from the shelf for bedtime reading. A bit premature, perhaps, but when it's 75 degrees outside and still light at 7:00 p.m. I'm not sure how a person can help themselves.
A particularly good book for looking forward towards lazy summer days is Pictures From Our Vacation by Lynne Rae Perkins. A travel journal told from a child's perspective, this book reminds me quite a bit of another favorite of ours, Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe. Like Three Days, Pictures From Our Vacation assembles colorful maps, drawings and diagrams to tell the story of a special family trip and the smaller moments that made it memorable.
In fact, Pictures From Our Vacation is all about the little moments. It is the story of a family vacation that by all first impressions is ordinary at best, especially when it begins with lengthy car time, bad weather and a funeral. The vacation does improve after its unfortunate start, and in the end a good time is had by all; even if the very best moments aren't what anyone expected them to be.
One of the things that I really enjoy about this book is the way that the illustrations are based on the idea of sharing the story's events from the perspective of the children it is about. The children at the center of this story are given cameras to document their family trip with by their mother, and their illustrated "photographs" are what much of the book's visual story is built around. These pictures also lend themselves to the sweet message within the book; pictures can help us to remember times and places, but the most precious memories live only in our heads and hearts. Throughout the story the children take pictures of what they see and do during their trip, but when they look back over their pictures later, our narrator finds that "it's hard to take a picture of a story someone tells, or what it feels like when you're rolling down a hill or falling asleep in a house full of cousins and uncles and aunts."
It is probably a bit optimistic to be delving into the summertime reading in early April in Vermont. However, a picture book as vivid and well written as this one makes summer feel so close that it is hard to resist.