I’m a huge fan of kids lit!
I know, no surprise there if you’ve read even a few of my posts which include more than 70 themed Book Lists for Kids.
But even more than kids stories, I’m a big lover of vintage & classic children’s books — the really great stories that we all heard as kids or may have even been read by our parents & grandparents in their childhood.
It’s these amazing books that should still be read with kids today!
So many of these classics for kids were written with a message or moral, the illustrations are gorgeous and the text is poetic.
And not only with your kids will adore them but you’ll enjoy reminiscing back to your own childhood as you share these stories!
In order to help parents & teachers sift though the millions of kids books to find gems that will be treasured, we’ve created a set of seasonal lists of classic kids literature that’s sure to please!
15 Classic Books about Summer
I love to share many of my childhood favorites with our kids.
And since we change the books on our shelves with the seasons, this list focuses on the vintage faves for summertime — stories that include oceans, islands, play and relaxing summer days.
We’re including affiliate links for each of our selections along with details about when the book was first published (in order to ‘make the cut’ for our lists, a book has to be at least 40 years old!)
If you enjoy vintage reads, be sure to see our other seasonal book lists too:
I hope you find a few that bring back fond memories of summer adventure!
Summer Picture Books
Time of Wonder
Time of Wonder is a wonderful read at this time of year. This classic story shares the adventures of a family, especially the two girls, who spend some summer days in Maine. Lobsters, sea gulls, sail boats and summer storms are all a part of this delightful book that will bring you back to nature and what it’s like to be a child. (One item of note — you should mention that life jackets are important when you ride in a boat — the story is old enough that they weren’t used when it was first in print.) Published in 1957.
Another wonderful summer read by Robert McCloskey is Blueberries for Sal.
Fans of Dr. Seuss will recall the wondrous tale of McElligot’s Pool.
What will you catch when you go fishing in a pond where others throw their junk? Well, if you an optimistic sort of fellow, you can never tell what might live below the surface. Readers will love to imagine along with the young fisherman and also learn that having a positive outlook on life can make it much more enjoyable! Published in 1947.
Harry by the Sea
Who doesn’t love Harry (the Dirty Dog!) – such a classic for kids! And now he’s off to the beach with the family in Harry by the Sea .
Follow along on his adventures as he gets lost in a crowd, covered with seaweed and is mistaken for a sea serpent! What will happy to Harry and will he find his way back to his family?! Published in 1976.
Anatole is a special mouse with an amazing palate.
In order to earn a living, he sneaks into the Duvall Cheese Factory in Paris and leaves tips on how to improve them! And who better to taste cheese than a mouse 🙂 Kids will love the illustrations that go along with this story (most are done in black and white with some blue and red added in) as they follow Anatole through the city of Paris. Published in 1956.
Kermit the Hermit
Another favorite author from my childhood was Bill Peet! I loved his illustrations and art work, and would read the books over and over before returning them to the library.
Kermit the Hermit was a fun summer read as it’s about a hermit crab in Monteray Bay and has those beautiful pictures of ocean and beach life. Kermit is not a very nice crab — in all honesty, he’s got a very ‘crabby’ personality. But when a young boy does him a favor one day and saves his life, Kermit is determined to repay the boys kindness. It’s a longer story but with rhyming text, flows very nicely as a read aloud for kids. Published in 1965.
The Little House
Another fondly remember classic for kids of many generations is by the author of Goodnight Moon, a new classic in it’s own right.
The story of The Little House focuses on an adorable small cottage that loves where it lives. But then the city begins to grow and expand around it; the little house becomes lost in the hustle and bustle of all the happens.
The ending is very happy for the house but what really comes to life in this book are the messages about how cities develop over time and that there will always be someone who appreciates you. I’ve always imagined a summer would be wonderful at The Little House. Published in 1942.
Classic Easy/Early Readers for Kids
The Digging-est Dog
I will be the first to admit that some of the messages in this book may be mixed (I’m not happy that the boy who adopts the dog in ‘disappointed’ that he can’t dig) but there’s something about the story that draws you in for more. Maybe it’s the fast pace, the crazy digging or the fact that there’s a lesson to be learned — plus, a cute pup!
Kids will love to follow The Digging-est Dog as he tears up the down and then patches things up in the end. Published in 1967.
Bears in the Night
I wasn’t sure whether to include this on our vintage summer or fall list – but I opted for summer as the illustrations reminded me of those cool summer evenings when kids love to stay up late and explore the outdoors.
With very few words in the book, Bears in the Night is one that kids can begin to read on their own as they experience the adventures of the bears who sneak out their window one night. Such a classic story by the well-known authors Stan & Jan Berenstain! Published in 1971.
If you’d like to see which titles make our Fall list, check out 16 Vintage Kids Books for Autumn!
Chapter Books & Read Aloud Stories
The Enormous Egg
What happens when your hen lays an egg that hatches a dinosaur?!
That’s what Nate Twitchell discovers in The Enormous Egg when it happens to him one summer. Once the science community gets wind of this amazing discovery, they flock to Freedom, New Hampshire to meet Nate and his new triceratops. After befriending a kind scientist who only wants what’s best for Nate’s pet (Uncle Beazley), Nate is headed to the nation’s capital and finds himself involved in the whirlwind of politics. A great read for older kids! Published in 1956.
Homer Price is an average kid growing up in a small American town — he loves to tinker with items, help out at his Uncle’s donut shop and solve mysteries.
This book is actually six shorter stories about Homer’s escapades in Centerberg. Kids will love Homer’s independence and his ability to get into (and out of) some sticky situations. Written by Robert McCloskey, it’s another example of a time when life was more relaxed and adventure could be found in your own backyard. Published in 1943.
Part summer adventure and part mystery, Gone-Away Lake shares the experiences of two siblings when they head to visit their cousins one summer.
One of the things I adore about this classic for kids is that it takes place back when tweens could head out for the day and explore unsupervised by parents or adults! As the cousins explore the woods near the house, they come upon a small town that has been lost to the world! The town is uninhabited with the exception of a darling old couple who befriend the children. A wondrous tale of summer adventure! Published in 1957.
And author Elizabeth Enright also wrote many other great stories, Thimble Summer being another that would make a nice summer read too. Published in 1938.
The Boxcar Children
If you’ve never read the Boxcar Children, you may want to start with the first book to learn how four siblings came to live in a boxcar and find their grandfather. These are wonderful mysteries for the younger set with just enough suspense to keep them wanting more without all the ‘scary’ that you find in newer books.
Surprise Island (The Boxcar Children) is actually Book 2 in the series and the kids head to a private island for summer vacation. Lots of adventure for the Aldens in this story! Published in 1949.
And of course, who doesn’t remember the classic tale of a young girl who adopts a runt pig to raise one summer.
Kids of all ages will still delight in Charlotte’s Web, a wonderful tale of friendship and courage. Published in 1952.
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