Here comes summer and our top tens!

If you follow the Happydesigner blog you’ll know that as well as beavering away illustrating children’s books, we’re all about being in the great outdoors, and summer hols are the best time to be doing this.

Football may not have come home (unless you’re Italian, that is – in which case ben fatto), but summer certainly has. We’ve even seen a few hot days between the rainy ones, which is quintessentially British, even if winning football trophies isn’t!

So to celebrate what is one of our four favourite seasons (we love them all, to be truthful) here are some fun facts about summer.

Ten things you (probably) didn’t know about summer

  1. Did you know ‘summer’ has a scientific term? It’s called ‘estival’. And if you were wondering, here are the scientific nomenclatures for the other seasons: vernal for spring, autumnal for autumn, and hibernal for winter. Interesting eh? But we’ll stick with summer.
  2. Summer is used as a girl’s given name and has been in common use since the 1970s. In 2011 it reached the number 30 spot of the most popular names for newborn girls in England and Wales. There are probably a few famous ‘Summers’ but we can’t think of any unless you include Donna Summer? But she probably doesn’t count…
  3. The phrase ‘dog days of summer’, referring to the long, hot days, has its origins in the stars. The Roman’s ‘dies caniculares’ began towards the end of July when the star Sirius (known as the Dog Star) began to rise in the sky just before the sun. The Romans believed this bright star gave out heat which contributed to the warm days.
  4. The summer solstice – June 21 – is officially the longest day, when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. From then on, days begin to shorten until they reach the shortest day on December 21, which is the winter solstice.
  5. The warmest day ever recorded in the UK was July 25, 2019, when the mercury hit 38.7C in Cambridge, in a reading taken at Cambridge University Botanic Garden. The previous record was 38.5C, recorded near Faversham, in Kent, on August 10, 2003.
  6. Many sporting events take place in the summer (we promise not to mention the football again), including the Olympic Games. The first modern Olympic Games were held in the summer of 1896 in Athens, Greece.
  7. We love this fun fact: apparently, The Eiffel Tower in Paris expands in the heat of the summer, increasing its height by about 6 inches during the hot weather.
  8. The word picnic comes from the 17th Century French word, picque-nique. Its meaning was similar to today’s meaning: bring and share get-together.
  9. The five most common accidents in the summer are caused by heatstroke, food poisoning, boat accidents, water-related accidents and mowing the lawn!
  10. In America, July is National Ice Cream Month. Did you know, the biggest ever scoop of ice cream weighed more than 3,000lb?
childrens book illustrator

Ten great summer reads for children

We’ve selected some of these from that fantastic organisation, The Book Trust, which campaigns to encourage children to read and have access to books. We’ve also added a suggestion of our own:

  1. Four Children and It, by Jacqueline Wilson
  2. Tom’s Midnight Garden, by Philippa Pearce 
  3. The Hundred Mile an Hour Dog, by Jeremy Strong
  4. Finn Family Moomintroll, by Tove Janssen
  5. The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame
  6. The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips, by Michael Morpurgo
  7. Rules of Summer, by Shaun Tan
  8. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan
  9. Melrose and Croc Beside the Sea, by Emma Chichester Clark

…and our choice, because you can re-enact this during the summer holidays:

  1. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen.

Ten ways to keep busy this summer

Remember the summer holidays when we were children, which seemed to stretch out into the distance forever? Sadly, we’re now all grown up (lucky old Peter Pan!) so our leisure time is much shorter.

However, those who are parents among us will need to think of ways to occupy their little ones – who still think summer lasts forever – so here are a few ideas we have come up with.

  1. On a car journey think of some games to pass the time. I Spy is an old favourite, but how about a spotting game: spot the yellow car, spot the caravan, or spot the car with a roof box.
  2. On the beach, make sandcastles, count shells, or explore rock pools – nobody can possibly get bored on a beach, can they.
  3. When it’s raining and they’re stuck indoors, how about getting the children to make a scrapbook. All they need is paper, pens, a glue stick and some old magazines to cut up. Alternatively…
  4. They could put on a play or re-enactment of one of their favourite stories (see the note above about We’re Going on a Bear Hunt).
  5. Bug-hunting in the garden is always fun and a real eye-opener. It’s what inspired our illustrator Sarah-Leigh to draw her fantastic spiders.
  6. Have a picnic outside, that’s always great fun for children, even if it’s only in the garden.
  7. Go on a nature ramble or a bike ride. There’s often so much to see in our own neighbourhood that we miss, even though it’s right under our noses.
  8. Make a point of visiting the library as often as possible. We need our libraries, and more than 800 have closed since 2010. Let’s support them by using their services.
  9. Get painting and drawing, and if the children are looking for inspiration they could try drawing favourite book characters.
  10. Finally, have some downtime. We live in a frenetic world, so it’s good for everyone to just have some time out. As the poet WH Davies wrote:

What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare?

We hope this gives you and the family some inspiration, plus a few bits of trivia to keep up your sleeve for the next Zoom quiz.

In the meantime, we will be packing our buckets and spades for a staycation in due course, but until then we are working hard on our book illustrations. If you’d like to chat with us about what we do, please get in touch.

Written by Jo Smyth (

Some of our previous clients

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