As my youngest niece prepared to head back to school this week, albeit virtually, I asked her if she was looking forward to the return. Her answer, predictably: “I wish I could have more summer vacation!”

I am sure we can all relate to that sentiment, which is one of the reasons that I found the book Swashby and the Sea so appealing. The book evokes memories of a summertime spent soaking up the sun and sea breeze.

Whether the solitude of a quiet beachfront escape is the ideal or rather a carefree, sunny summer spent frolicking at the beach with family, Swashby and the Sea transports readers there. The book also reminds us, especially during a time of social distancing, that “neighbors could be fun, and friends, and…family” — and that our idea of paradise can be so much more expansive if we are open to the possibilities.

The book’s title character, Captain Swashby, “has lived his life in the sea, by the sea, and with the sea, his oldest friend.” He loves the peace and quiet of retired life at his small seaside home. But when new neighbors move in, Swashby battens down the hatches, determined to avoid them and defend his reclusive ways. He declares that he doesn’t need or want neighbors. His old friend the sea, who knows him better than any, has other plans for the curmudgeonly captain, though.

This lovely tale is written by Beth Ferry and beautifully illustrated by Scottsdale resident Juana Martinez-Neal. The book would be right at home on a back-to-school list for younger readers…and may help that summer vacation vibe linger just a little while longer.

Swashby and the Sea is available at bookstores now, including local independent Changing Hands Bookstore (in Phoenix and Tempe). Or, check out Phoenix Public Library for availability. |CST

Kathryn M. Miller is editor-in chief at CITYSunTimes. @katsmeowaz

Imagine Your Story: Maricopa County 2020 Summer Reading Program

Homes across the country transformed into classrooms as students left their schools two months before the traditional summer break this year. Now, as the weather warms and the official academic year has come to an end, many worry the impact of the “Summer Slide” — the learning loss experienced while transitioning between school years — may be steeper than normal.

Maricopa County officials are encouraging residents — especially young readers — to continue their at-home learning and reduce the “Summer Slide” by including the County’s annual summer reading program into their summer plans. The online platform encourages reading all summer long, while earning great prizes and participating in fun challenges all from the comfort of home at read20az.com (English) or leepor20az.com (Spanish).

More than 60 libraries across Maricopa County participate in the summer reading program, in which people can log their reading online, complete challenges, and attend virtual performances to win prizes.

“Our summer reading program is not only fun, but it is also one of the County’s major community literacy efforts,” said Cindy Kolaczynski, Maricopa County Library District director and County librarian. “Summer reading keeps literacy and comprehension skills sharp through challenges and experiences that spark excitement about learning and reading.”

This year’s theme is “Imagine Your Story” and encourages readers of all ages to read 20 minutes a day. Participants earn one point per minute for reading physical or electronic books (including graphic novels) or listening to audiobooks. Additional points are earned for attending virtual programs and completing online challenges.

Prizes include a free personal pizza from Peter Piper Pizza, free lemonade from Raising Cane’s, and an Arizona State Park pass. Grand Prize drawings will also take place at each participating library for the chance to win family passes to Legoland Discovery Center/Sea Life Aquarium. Readers who achieve 1,000 points can choose a free book for their home library or can donate it to a local Head Start classroom. Last year, Head Start classrooms in Maricopa County received more than 1,500 books thanks to the generosity of summer readers.

The program runs through Aug. 1. Participating North Valley libraries include Desert Foothills Library, Phoenix Public Library and Scottsdale Public Library.

Czech Scientists Exhibit Opens at Burton Barr Central Library

What do Gregor Mendel, the father of modern genetics, Gerty Cori, the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in medicine, Adela Kochanovska, pioneer nuclear physicist, and Helena Raskova, legendary pharmacologist have in common?  They are all featured in “Czech Scientists and Their Inventions,” an exhibition now open at Burton Barr Central Library, 1221 North Central Avenue. The exhibit may be viewed during regular library hours on the second floor of the Burton Barr Central Library through Sept. 30.

Sponsored by the Prague City Committee of Phoenix Sister Cities and the Phoenix Public Library, the exhibit is composed of illustrator Přemek Ponáhlý’s caricatures of leading Czech scientists and their most famous discoveries.  In addition to representations of famous women scientists, the exhibit recognizes Antonin Holy, developer of antiviral drugs used to treat HIV, and Otto Wichterle, inventor of gel contact lenses, among others.  The exhibit is a part of an initiative spearheaded by the Embassy of the Czech Republic, honoring the inspirations that arise between Czech and American cultures.

Phoenix Sister Cities is a nonprofit organization with support from the City of Phoenix. Phoenix Sister Cities creates economic, cultural and educational connections with residents in 10 cities across the world: Calgary, Canada; Catania, Italy; Chengdu, China; Ennis, Ireland; Grenoble, France; Hermosillo, Mexico; Himeji, Japan; Prague, Czech Republic; Ramat-Gan, Israel; and Tapei, Taiwan. Learn more at www.phoenixsistercities.org.

For additional information on the exhibit or for Library hours and information, visit www.phoenixpubliclibrary.org.

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