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Ice Cream Summer by Peter Sís

I am embarrassed to admit that this is the first Peter Sís book I have reviewed here in the seven years since I started this blog. Peter Sís is a picture book author who's work ranges from playful to serious, always with a unique sensibility, an out of the ordinary perspective and a magical vibe. Above all else, imagination and seeing something no one else does are themes that appear over and over in Sís's books. This often means that Sís is telling more than one story at a time, with words and pictures, and subtleties abound. Sís's new book, Ice Cream Summer, is a perfect example of this.  

The story begins with Joe standing in his bedroom holding a letter from his Grandpa. The text of Ice Cream Summer is Joe's response to Grandpa, telling him about all the things he is learning as the summer unfolds. The first two page spread in Ice Cream Summer is a clue to readers to look for ice cream everywhere in the illustrations to come. Joe's bedroom abounds with hidden ice cream cones, from a bookcase and a lamp shaped like ice cream cones to toys like a race car, an airplane, a stuffed bird and strange fish in a bowl. A poster of a hot air balloon even calls to mind this cold, sweet treat.

Joe tells Grandpa that it has been a delicious, busy summer and he is reading every day. Joe says he is "conquering big words like tornado and explosion!" As the illustration below shows, Joe is practicing reading at the ice cream stand.

Joe is writing and illustrating his own book and practicing math by adding and subtracting scoops on a cone and coming up with word problems like, "If each scoop costs 50¢ and I have $2.00 in my pocket, how many scoops can I get?" Joe also goes to camp where he learns cartography ("That means how to make a map,") and creates a very delicious map of his camp. In my favorite part of Ice Cream Summer, Joe tells Grandpa that he is "diving into world history" and traveling to Ancient China and studying the European Continent, American history and great inventors. These pages trace ice cream back 2,000 years, where it travels the Silk Road with Marco Polo, stopping in Italy and France. Even Thomas Jefferson is a fan of ice cream, using an 18-step recipe he found while in France. The World's Fair in 1904 is the birthplace of the ice cream cone - and a great story - and we see the creation of the first ice cream bar in Ohio, 1920.

And where do Joe and Grandpa go for their special trip? Ice Cream Peak, of course! If you haven't read any of Peter Sís's books then Ice Cream Summer is a great place to start. It's the perfect blend of Sís's playfulness and love of history that kids are sure to love. And if you like Ice Cream Summer, be sure to check out one of my favorites, Komodo!

More books byPeter Sís, from the playful to the biographical and historical:


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