Summer is a bright, sometimes raucous book about the rewards of cooperation. Under the hot sun, all the animals are desperate for relief, and when the jackal spots a tree, they are soon fighting over who gets to sit in the shade. Only after the elephant wins the fight do they realize that the tree is too bare to offer shade. Things change, however, when the animals see a father and son walking across the sunny plain with the father’s shadow completely shading the boy. One by one the animals offer to shade the creatures smaller than themselves. A series of cut pages show the edge of each shadow that appears on the next page, so that children can guess which animal will come next, all the way up to the elephant. But the animals still don’t really have shade until a cloud floats by, allowing all of the animals to rest under it together, now happy to share.
Brightly colored animals, fonts in different sizes and colors, and the split page illustrations make this a fun book to look at, and the variety of emotions the noisy animals express makes it fun for reading aloud. Children will enjoy guessing how the animals might react to each situation that arises. The lesson is that cooperation is better than fighting each other. The story could also introduce some discussion of how perceived scarcity leads to conflict, while sometimes creative solutions can expand resources until there really is enough for all. Young children will enjoy the story and be able to think about the issues it raises at an age-appropriate level. Unlike some picture books, however, I think this one will not be quite as effective with older children, who may be inclined to nitpick that the selection of animals would not really all live in the same habitat together, or that despite all the cooperation in the world, it’s just luck that a cloud eventually forms above them. For that reason, I recommend the book for ages three through eight, and not three and up.