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Summer Fun

Summer means fun with its longer days, vacation time, weekend getaways, and just general relaxation. For places with four seasons, having the increased sunshine and warmer weather is really important for rejuvenation. In general reading selections follow the trend to lighter, upbeat, optimistic selections. That is what is meant by a "beach read" or "hammock read". Here are a few books that fit this category.

Children's Books: I can recite from memory the first lines of Stan and Jan Berenstain's book, The Bears' Vacation: "Hooray! Hooray! We're on our way! Our summer vacation starts today!" It was one of my childhood favorites. What is more fun, upbeat and optimistic than a good children's book? Summer was definitely made with children in mind. Here are two more recently read children's books that perfectly capture the vibe.

As a kid, I only knew Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as a Walt Disney movie starring Dick Van Dyck. However, not long ago (time is relative, right?), my book club decided to anticipate summer and chose this as our May selection. I had never realized it was written by superspy 007's creator, Ian Fleming. For his son, it is the only children's book he ever wrote. The story follows an unconventional family, the father of which is an inventor. He rescues a former race car (based on an actual car), and the family discovers it can do more than just travel down roads. While it may not be strictly politically correct today, the adventure of rescuing a French chocolatier and discovery of what breakfast is like in France is just fun.

A more recently published (again, time is relative), children's book is Edward Fudwupper Fibbed Big "Explained by Fannie Fudwupper with Berkeley Breathed helping slightly." I have been accused of being a sucker for a catchy title with some books not living up to their names. However, this one definitely does. The alliteration gives way to great rhythm and rhyme that is best read aloud. In the story, Edward Fudwupper tries to cover up the accidental breaking of his mother's favorite pig figurine with a big lie, only to have it get so out of hand an alien gets involved. The situation is only resolved when Edward's little sister, Fannie, covers for him. I particularly like this book, because I have a big brother (not known for fibbing), and he is definitely loved by his sister.

Nonfiction: The Fun Habit: How the Pursuit of Joy and Wonder Can Change Your Life by Mike Rucker, PhD, is not a book I would normally pick off the shelf, but since self-help is one of the genres identified for the Adult Summer Reading Program at my public library, I chose this recently published book. I thought it would be interesting to compare it to The Little Book of Lykke, a book about happiness which I featured in a previous blog. Chock full of both research and anecdotal evidence, Rucker explains the very real need for fun in our lives not just as children, but as adults, too. He explains that as we age, fun is seen as a frivolous waste of time, and adults forget how to play, yet studies show that for our emotional, mental and even physical well-being, a minimum of four to five hours of fun per day is necessary. Rucker places all activities into four categories and identifies strategies for incorporating more fun into our daily lives, while stressing that the individual is responsible for defining what he or she finds pleasurable. I am definitely glad I picked up this book and hope to capitalize on some of his suggestions.

Fiction: Usually my idea of a light, summer read is something along the lines of P. G. Wodehouse. I want to laugh out loud at silly characters such as Bertie Wooster and his man, Jeeves. I haven't been reading a lot of that lately, and to be honest some of my recent escapist books don't merit a whole mention here. As a result, I am reaching back a little further to a book I and my book club enjoyed: Second Hand Curses by Drew Hayes. Self-published, this book can be a bit difficult to get your hands on, but worth it if you like action and adventure mixed with fantasy and sly humor. Hayes has taken the best-known fairy tales and turned "happily ever after" on its head. Jack, from Jack and the Beanstalk, along with Marie (Little Red Riding Hood) and Frank, better known as Frankenstein, go around dealing with the negative results of getting wishes fulfilled. While there are many retold versions of fairy tales and reinterpretations of the "good" and "bad" characters, this one is especially well done. There are nods to current social issues in each segment of the adventures, but its tongue-in-cheek tone keeps the story as a rollicking good time. Do take the time to read the author's self-written bio. It's just fun.

Tea: Light, fun reading should be coupled with light, fun tea. Two teas in this vein come to mind: Chili Chili Bang Bang (I know you will get the connection) and Butterfly Pea Flower. Chili Chili Bang Bang from Tea Maineia is a green tea with tropical flavors, most prominent being coconut, combined with the unexpected kick of chili. And the chili does provide heat even when the tea is iced. To be honest, the tea has gotten mixed reviews from friends; you either love it or hate it. I love it.

Butterfly Pea Flower's claim to fame is it's beautiful purple color. Rarely seen by itself, butterfly pea flower is usually combined with other flavors, one of the most common being lemon. However, recently I tasted The Republic of Tea's Blueberry Lavender blend. The label identifies the tea as "daily beauty" with the ingredients useful for skin care. That may be, but it is has a lovely flavor with hibiscus, rosehips, blackberry leaves and something called a schizandra berry, which I will need to look up, as well as the blueberry, lavender, and butterfly pea flower.


Artwork credited to Aurora Draws - contact for more details

All photographs by the author

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