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Ice Cream Summer

Peter Sís (Scholastic Press)

With the jingle of ice-cream trucks signaling warm weather, the time is right to celebrate everyone's favorite frozen confection with Sís, whose story is structured as a boy's letter to his grandfather. In scenes colored in shades of strawberry, pistachio, and orange sherbet, the acclaimed author and artist revels in the boy's ice-cream-addled fantasies, giving readers a crash course in the dessert's history. Delicious.

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Interstellar Cinderella

Deborah Underwood, illus. by Meg Hunt (Chronicle)

There's no hearth in sight, but Cinderella isn't afraid to get her hands dirty in this galactic retelling—she's a skilled mechanic who can fix robots and spaceships alike with her trusty sonic socket wrench. With clever rhyming and retro-futuristic visuals, Underwood and Hunt are clearly having a blast with the premise, and readers will, too. Capable, kind, and mechanically inclined, their Cinderella is more than enough heroine for this or any other galaxy.

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The Night World

Mordicai Gerstein (Little, Brown)

Caldecott Medalist Gerstein celebrates the magical otherness of the world at night and the equally magical transformation that takes place when dawn breaks. Any child who has woken up in the middle of the night intrigued by, and perhaps even apprehensive about, the unfamiliarity of the darkened domestic landscape around them will identify with Gerstein's young hero. Guided by his pet cat, he winds his way through the house and out into the yard, where friendly animals gather with him to rejoice in the sun's arrival.

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The Princess and the Pony

Kate Beaton (Scholastic/Levine)

Summer isn't exactly sweater weather, but don't tell that to the Vikings, who learn in this picture book, that fierce warriors don't have to hide their cuddly sides (or their "cozy sweaters"). Princess Pinecone is initially upset when the "warrior's horse" she receives for her birthday turns out to be a dumpy, dopey, doe-eyed specimen not much bigger than the princess herself. Watching the princess discover the pony's real value (as well as her own) makes for funny, empowering reading.

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What This Story Needs Is a Pig in a Wig

Emma J. Virján (Harper)

Fictional characters unite! The pig of the title takes matters into her own hands (or hooves, rather) when an overzealous narrator drops her onto a boat in a moat with an ever-growing array of objects and animals that comes to include a house, "a mouse, and a panda in a blouse." It's an entertaining introduction to metafictional storytelling for families to share (perhaps while on a boat trip themselves), as well as a good choice for fledgling readers honing their skills over the summer.

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