Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, June 5, 2015

Seasonal Confection

Summer represents a host of memories and a time to conjure up more.  In our family it meant enjoying time in the gardens, softball games, fishing, boating, bike riding, grilling in the back yard, endless games of hide-and-seek at dusk, campfires and lots of ice cream.  Every single Sunday evening we would travel to a nearby town to get ice cream cones at the Dairy Queen across from the county fairgrounds.  On very special occasions we would make our own.

We had one of those old wooden hand crank makers.  We would put the ingredients inside the metal container, surround is with ice and salt and turn the handle until our arms felt like putty.  When it was finally set to a soft solid, we scooped it out and savored every single swallow.  To this day I've never tasted anything as scrumptious.

Even on chillier days, this season signals the time to try this tasty treat.  Ice Cream Summer (Scholastic Press, May 26, 2015) written and illustrated by Peter Sis is a boy's journey through learning and leisure.  It begins with a letter.

Dear Grandpa,
Thank you for your letter.
So far, it's been a delicious summer.

After receiving a letter from his grandpa promising a special trip, Joe begins to talk about his summer days.  He stays busy with visits to the beach with his family.  He's quick to mention it's not all fun in the sun.

He remembers to read daily.  New words are becoming part of his vocabulary.  His writing skills are growing.  In fact, he is making a book.

Addition, subtraction and story problems are practiced.  His day camp adventures include lessons in cartography and treks to new places.  The set of encyclopedias his grandpa gave him are put to use in exploring world and American history.

There is never a dull moment in this little guy's days.  He's excited about the new adventure he is sharing with his grandpa.  Where are they going you ask?  It's a surprise you'll have to discover for yourself.

With younger readers in mind, Peter Sis uses one or two conversational sentences per page.  Sometimes a sentence will work in tandem with a double-page illustration or will be spread over a page turn between two double-page illustrations.  The words are so carefully chosen you can almost hear the boy speaking to his grandpa.  What makes this title appeal to older readers is the additional explanatory text woven into the illustrations.  It's genuinely clever how the two work together to make a delightful whole.  Here is a sample.

Sometimes I trip over a simple equation.
But if I slow down, I always get it right.

Above in the illustration where the boy and his dog have tripped losing scoops of ice cream, we see


What draws the reader to this title is the spirited uplifting color palette used throughout.  It's like Sis has captured summer and spread it over the pages.  Joe and his ever-present pooch pal on the front of the dust jacket announce their passion for ice cream.  Multiple flavors are spinning about them as a hint of the events to come.  On the back, to the left, a portion of an interior illustration is shown.  Joe is reading one of the encyclopedias while sitting in a hammock strung between two giant ice cream cones.

Darker shades of the hue used for Cream on the jacket cover the book case like a sunset.  On the front Joe and his dog are carrying ice cream cones piled high with a variety of scoops.  The opening and closing endpapers are the blue used for Ice on the dust jacket.  Rows of ice cream treats cover both in an identical pattern.

The spinning cones from the jacket become a rainbow surrounding the boy and his buddy on the page opposite the title.  Some of the text forms a large ice cream cone.  Every single illustration which follows elevates the boy's sentences using ice cream cones for everything possible.  In the first two-page illustration, Joe's bedroom, cones can be seen in every element.

With a page turn the family is at the beach.  Their umbrella is shaped like an ice cream treat.  Joe is making a sand castle extravaganza with ice cream sundaes.  The legs on a crab are cones.  The stacks on a ship are cones.  An airplane shaped like a cone is pulling a sign reading ice cream.  The narrative says one thing, the images say even more.

At times Sis will give us a panoramic view of Joe's activities.  Other times we zoom in close to see him intently at work.  Peter Sis's eyes on his characters are remarkable.  His details will have readers pausing, determined not to miss a single item.

One of my favorite illustrations is of Joe standing in front of the ice cream stand.  The flavors are listed on a board above the circles representing the tubs of ice cream.  His back is to us as he is trying to decide.  His dog is sitting next to him as the ice cream woman wearing bright yellow sneakers waits. This picture goes with the sentence

I am conquering big words like
tornado and explosion! 

These are part of the flavor names.

Ice Cream Summer written and illustrated by Peter Sis is simply delectable.  It is a delightful example of illustrations enlarging the narrative.  I can see using this for pure fun, to introduce a unit on seasons or a how-to on research.  It provides endless possibilities.  I most certainly guarantee you will be craving ice cream within a few page turns.

To learn more about Peter Sis please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  


  1. How funny, I just finished reading a book illustrated by Peter Sis! His artwork was so beautiful and detailed that I will have to be sure to give this one a look too!

    1. I agree. His artwork is intricate and fascinating. His color palette for this title is different but makes the subject delightful. I'm confident you are going to love it.