Summer Beat, like David A. Johnson's Snow Sounds, is an onomatopoeic story. But Summer Beat focuses on the sounds of summer. In addition to the onomatopoeic words, it has a text written in rhyme that tells the tale of two young friends as they pass one fun-filled summer day together.
About Summer Beat: Em, a young girl, skateboards over to Joe's house and the two friends spend the day immersed in a myriad of typical childhood summertime activities: running through a sprinkler, swinging on a hammock, eating barbecued hamburgers outdoors, spitting watermelon seeds, playing with water balloons, waving sparklers in the air, competing in a three-legged race, having a parade with friends, and watching fireworks. Betsy Franco lets readers experience the sounds the children hear as they go through the day: the clackity clack of a skateboard rolling along on the sidewalk; the swish swoosh of a swaying hammock; the bizzle-bzzz of a bumblebee; the pat a tat tat of a soft summer rain; the fwit, fwit of watermelon seeds being spit out; the pop! spltt! of a water balloon as it smacks the ground, the Zeeeeeeeeeeeee bam bam and Fooooooooosh boom of fireworks exploding in the sky.
Written by Betsy Franco
Illustrated by Charlotte Middleton
Margaret K. McElderry, 2007
While Charlotte Middleton's uncluttered mixed media illustrations may not evoke the feeling of summer weather the way David A. Johnson's do a snowy winter's day--they definitely capture the youthful exuberance of young children taking part in and enjoying different activities on a carefree summer day. Many of the illustrations are set against a plain background and provide plenty of space for Franco's onomatopoeic words--printed in different sizes and font styles--to take center stage as they swerve, curve, slant, and bounce across and up and down on the pages.
I can honestly say that once I got into the swing of the text that the book brought back fond memories of my childhood summers...times I spent playing outdoors and not inside in front of a television or at a computer. Summer Beat comes to a close as Em and Joe climb the ladder to a tree house and fall asleep...with Rusty, Joe's dog snuggled close by his side. We see/hear the snuffle, snort, snuffle, snort of their snoring inside their lofty bedroom as the last fireworks Boom and pop outside in the distance. The final sound of this day is the Treet-treet of two katydids strumming their music in a tree. The narrative text ends with the sentence: Summer sounds never stop.
A good pre-reading activity for Summer Beat would be to ask a group of children what sounds they associate with the summer season and make a list of all the ones they name. After the book is read aloud, children could add other sounds that Em and Joe heard that aren't already mentioned on their list. (Some summer sounds that come to my mind: the buzzing of mosquitoes, the tinkly music of an ice cream truck, the high-pitched droning sound of cicadas in the heat, the loud whining of lawnmowers.)
Read another review of Summer Beat at Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Review.