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 (

A few of my previous clients

happydesigner clients

  • “When we first contacted Sarah, Dainty Dizzy was a concept;  an idea to be shaped into a brand.  Sarah took this idea and illustrated it perfectly….and our brand look and feel was born.” – Dainty Dizzy

  • Sarah has a great insight into how to best produce a children’s book and is really helpful in getting you there! I really cannot recommend Sarah enough – brilliant designer, friendly and professional. The experience has been a great one!“ – Jodie Jackson
  • "The logos are absolutely fantastic, they are spot on brief and are even better than we imagined!Paolo Pini, Step Up To Languages

  • "Sarah is amazing - very fast at understanding the requirements, great pictures and never too much trouble. I recommend her wholeheartedly" - Fernando Caldeira-Saraiva
  • "Sarah understood what I was looking for and produced a fantastic logo for me.  She is very approachable and friendly – I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend her” Katie Jarvis, Fancy Prints

  • "Sarah quickly understood what I wanted to achieve and the look I was after. Sarah kept me informed and brought me into the whole process” – Darron Jon Love

  • “Books arrived safely today- I am absolutely delighted with how they look – I can’t thank you enough – you’ve made my dream come true :)” – Jane Collins

  • "WOW! Love it! I'm so happy with what you've produced- and with so little input from me. FANTASTIC!!! THANK YOU” - Darren Pascoe: 'Red Rabbit Book'

  • “Thank you, Sarah, for the amazing work you did on the illustrations for my book. Working with you has been so easy thanks to your enthusiasm, flexibility, support, professionalism and, of course, the amazing quality of your work." – Stuart Neath

  • "Thank you both so much for your hard work and dedication. Sarah is a fantastic illustrator! It is nice to know I have worked with someone who is so professional at her job, and will certainly remember her for the future if I need another book illustrating."
  • “Sarah’s re-branding of my business has given it a much needed fresh and quirky feel. She provided us with an extremely friendly courteous and efficient service and injected an energy into the project, that only Sarah could.” – Discovery Leisure

  • "These posters and flyers are perfect”
    - Julia G, Manager at the Truro branch of Pets at Home

  • “I was so nervous ringing you as i've never done anything like this before, but you were so friendly and put me completely at ease.” - Donna Purvis

  • "I am absolutely thrilled with the colours and love the look and overall feel of the book, its so different and unique, thank you so much"
  • Sarah is professional, friendly and very knowledgeable, she delivered 100% with a new logo that was spot on! We can't recommend her enough!” - Lucy @ Get Active

  • “Sarah was lovely to work with and keen to make sure that the illustrations were a perfect match for the story. It’s obvious that she really cares about her work and wants you, the author, to be happy with the final results.” – Marion Adams

  • "I hope my recommendation will persuade you to use Sarah! I cannot fault her, for her professionalism, enthusiasm and talent." - Michelle Hawkins, Director: The Flying DoDo

  • “Sarah’s advice has been invaluable, she could have just illustrated my first attempt but knew there was more to be had from the story and pointed me towards the right help." – Darron Jon Love

  • "I can’t speak highly enough of Sarah! She has brought Roopert Snoopert to life in a way I could never have imagined.
    The illustrations are fantastic! Sarah keeps you update with progress from the draft stage right through to sign off." - Paul Micklewright
  • "Sarah loves her work, her friendly ‘can do’ approach is reassuring whether you’re on your first or tenth book."  – Darron Jon Love
  • "Outstanding illustrator with exceptional talent. You couldn’t wish for a better artist, as it would be impossible to find. Such a spectacular gifted designer who is always happy!" - Rachel Lake

  • “I am so happy that I found Sarah to bring my book to life. Sarah took the time to listen and really made the effort to make sure that I was happy and her brilliant designs translated the words of my book into a beautiful visual story." - Jodie Jackson

  • Sarah really understood the brief right from the beginning and has been able to translate my ideas and mental images, that at times were quite specific, into magical illustrations that are better than I’d ever hoped. She has absolutely nailed it!” – Gareth Edwards

  • "It's been great working with Sarah as our illustrator! She's been so great in taking all feedback on board and delivers work of the highest standard. Would 100% recommend :-)" - Michelle Gibbs, Doodle Dozen Series
  • "She has a keen eye for the quirky detail, she is punctual and a joy to work with. I simply cannot praise her enough.” - Clickety Books

  • Sarah is an extremely talented designer and illustrator. She has that rare gift of being able to find something in your business or character that you never knew existed" Craig Green