Finding Spring by Carin Berger
Maurice is a little bear cub who can’t stop thinking about spring. It may be time for him to go to sleep in the warm cave with his mother, but he stays awake and sneaks out of the cave to search for signs of spring. As he heads through the forest, he meets other animals all busily preparing for the winter. They don’t have time to talk to him for long but find time to warn him that spring’s arrival will take some time. Maurice smells something new on the air and runs towards it, thinking it is spring. When a snowflake falls, he is sure it is spring arriving so he scoops up some snow to keep spring with him and heads back to his mother to sleep. When he awakes in the warmer weather though, his piece of spring has disappeared. But in the end, Maurice manages to find spring all around him.
This picture book has a very simple story with elements that children will relate to. From not wanting to go to bed to the beauty of nature, this book celebrates it all. It is a book of curiosity, adventures and making your own discoveries along the way.
What makes this book exceptional are the illustrations. Berger works in cut paper and collage, creating dioramas that have dimension and shadows. The cut paper contains fragments of words and lovely textures. I particularly love the reverse side of a letter on gray paper being the flowing water in a stream. Throughout the book there are touches like this that work beautifully visually and are artistically inspired.
A lovely new springtime read, this picture book celebrates the seasons of winter and spring side by side. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Greenwillow Books.
I Hatched! by Jill Esbaum, illustrated by Jen Corace
An exuberant chick hatches from an egg and merrily dashes through his first day in this spring picture book. The chick quickly discovers that it has long legs and can really run. While running, he discovers a frog, water, worms and many other things in his environment. He learns to sing as well as poop as his day continues. In the evening after returning to the nest, he gets a surprise when another egg cracks open. Now he can be the expert and show his new sister everything! Maybe.
This book is pure bottled joy. The little chick is wildly positive and vivacious. He captures the delight of babies in their world and invites readers to see things with fresh eyes as well. Esbaum makes it clear that he is a killdeer with his long legs, his song and the way he acts. It’s a pleasure to see a book about a bird in a nest on the ground, running fast that is not about learning to fly but more about being an individual and safely learning new things.
Corace’s illustrations reflect the same cheery delight. They celebrate the little bird’s markings, the challenge of hatching from an egg, and happily show all that he explores in his first day. They have a lightness and humor about them too.
Toddlers will enjoy this book that mirrors their own enthusiasm. Perfect for spring story times with little ones. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial.
Rain! by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Christian Robinson
The perfect book to lift your spirits on a soggy spring day! When an older man wakes up and sees the rain, he is not happy. But when a little boy looks out at the same rain, he’s delighted. The older man grumbles through his preparations to go outside, while the little boy puts on his green boots, green coat and frog hat still happy with the gloomy weather. The old man grumbles about puddles, while you can see the joy of the child. They end up in the same café, the old man still grumpy with his day and the young boy happy with cocoa and cookies. When the two bump into each other, it seems like the grumpiness rubs off on the little boy. But then he notices that the older man left his hat behind, and with a little joke and a shared cookie, a day is brightened.
Ashman has written this book very simply, just in snatches of dialogue. Despite the simplicity, the mood of each character is clear in their words. It is made even more clear by the cut-paper illustrations that display each person’s mood with just a few lines. Readers will notice that the pages with the older man have others with grumpy faces while the pages with the the child have others with smiles.
A book that is sure to have readers jumping merrily in puddles and dancing in the rain, this is an inspiration to look on the bright side of things and share your happiness. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
That’s Not a Daffodil by Elizabeth Honey
When Tom’s neighbor gave him something that looked like an onion and said it was a daffodil, Tom was very skeptical. Mr. Yilmaz told him to plant it to find out. So they planted it in a large pot and Tom waited, and waited, and waited with nothing happening at all. When Mr. Yilmaz asked how the daffodil was doing, Tom answered that it was not a daffodil, it was a desert. So the two watered the pot. Later, Mr. Yilmaz asked again and Tom said that the small green point sticking out of the dirt was a green beak, not a daffodil. The beak slowly began to open. Soon the daffodil looked more like a hand, hair, and even a rocket! It even survived being toppled over by a dog. Until finally, Tom gets to show Mr. Yilmaz exactly what that onion turned into.
Not only does this book perfectly capture the wonder of gardening with children with the impossibly long wait for results, but it also offers a beautiful zip of creativity along with it. As Tom learns about patience with his daffodil, he also incorporates it into his playing. The writing is simple and straight forward, yet has a sense of playfulness too.
Honey’s illustrations appear to be a mix of watercolor and pastels that have a homey warmth. They also have a great texture that works well for the rough ground, dirt in the pot, and sweater knit. At the same time, the watercolor smoothness plays against that.
A sweet book about patience, gardening and creativity, this book would make a great addition to springtime story times. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin E. Stead
This enchanting book starts with the brown of late winter. It’s the brown that you have to plant seeds into in the hopes of green coming soon. But then you have to wait for rain, hope that the birds didn’t eat the seeds, realize that the bears may have stomped too close to the seeds because they can’t read signs, and then you have to wait some more. It stays brown, but even the brown starts to change and seem more hopeful and humming. Then you wait some more, and then one day, if you are patient and keep caring for your newly planted seeds, you wake up to green!
Oh how I love this book! In her poetic prose, Fogliano captures the patience of gardening, the drudgery of late winter, and the hope that must be invested in order to see seeds spring to life. I had expected the birds eating the seeds, but the stomping bears led me to realize that this was more playful a book than I had originally expected, something I love to have happen in the middle of a picture book!
Add to this the illustrations of Caldecott winner Stead and you have such a winning book. Her art has a delicacy that is perfect for the whispers of early spring. The boy in the story is thin, wear glasses, and by the time spring finally comes has created quite a garden with birdfeeders, signs, and plenty of lumps of dirt. By far my favorite part comes at the end, where the garden does not burst into flowers but remains weedy and lumpy, but green. Perfection.
Doing a spring story time soon? Get your hands on this book! Ideal for classes planting a garden or all of us longing for the green to return. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.
In Like a Lion Out Like a Lamb by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
Bauer has created a poetic picture book that explores the concept of March coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb. A lion enters a boy’s home and tromps mud across the floor. But when the air turns warmer, the lion sneezes mightily. On that breeze, a lamb comes in and the grass turns green. But what will happen to the snowy lion now that spring has arrived? Will he disappear? Not him! Meanwhile, the lamb is frolicking and bringing in new babies to greet the spring.
The verse is light and free, creating a poetic, friendly picture book for young children. The idea of the lion not leaving, but instead lingering in a warm patch of sun and purring is a lovely one. While the lamb is breezy and light, the lion asleep happily is what lingers with me afterwards, waiting for winter to return.
McCully’s art echoes the freedom of the verse and the lightness of the subject. She uses a light touch on her lines, a freedom in her colors, and a lushness as spring returns.
Welcome spring and the end of March with this book and hope along with all of us in Wisconsin that the snow will finally come to an end! Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Holiday House.
Also reviewed by BooksForKidsBlog.
Spring Is Here by Will Hillenbrand
Mole wakes up and tries to figure out if spring has arrived. He sniffs the air, tiptoes past Bear’s room and then squishes mud under his feet. He knows that spring is here. But when he tries to wake up Bear to let him know, Bear just keeps on snoring. So Mole comes up with a way to get Bear to wake up. It involves gathering eggs, milking a cow, churning the milk, pouring, mixing, and baking. When he presents Bear with his surprise though, Mole is the one so tired from his efforts that he is snoring.
Hillenbrand has created a charming picture book from a very simple concept, making a book that is ideal to share with toddlers. Sounds have been sprinkled nicely throughout the book, energizing the story. With only a few lines per page, the pacing of the book will work well read aloud to small children. Towards the end, the pacing picks up even more as Mole works on his idea to wake up Bear.
The artwork in the book adds to the story’s cozy feel. The mixed media illustrations have a warmth thanks to their soft lines and homey subject. Filled with small touches, a complete world is created where friendship between a mole and bear makes perfect sense.
Add this to your spring story time pile, especially if you read to the smallest of children. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Big Night for Salamanders by Sarah Marwil Lamstein, illustrated by Carol Benioff
On a rainy spring day, a young boy comes home hoping that this will be the Big Night. After dinner, the boy gets his raincoat on and a flashlight covered in pink plastic to lessen the glare. He and his parents head out to the wet road in the dark. In the dark and the rain, the family help salamanders cross the road safely as they move from forest to pond to lay their eggs. But some of the cars are going so fast that it is dangerous not only for the salamanders. So the boy creates a sign that says “Go Slow, Salamander Crossing!” It is indeed a Big Night.
The story of the boy is presented side-by-side with information on what the salamanders are doing. Readers get insight into the animals, told in a much more poetic and flowing way than the human story. It makes for a lovely contrast with one another where not just the font and the content tell the different stories but also the tone and writing style.
Benioff’s illustrations are equally at home with the humans and the salamanders. It is a pleasure seeing a child of color in a story where there is no mention of it at all. Her art is bold enough to work with groups, and this book as a whole is ideal for reading aloud in storytimes about spring or salamanders. All children will reach the end of the book wishing that they too could shepherd salamanders across a road at night.
A lovely science story book, this book successfully marries science into a picture book story. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Also reviewed by:
Mama, Is It Summer Yet? by Nikki McClure
This lovely, gentle book shows the slow approach of summer through the spring as buds appear on trees, seeds are planted in the garden, trees blossom, and baby ducks follow their mothers. Focused on the natural world and the seasonal changes around us, this book has a wonderful connection to the earth. McClure’s stunningly detailed cut-paper illustrations add to the appeal with subtle colors warming the black and white. A great read aloud for a toddler story time on spring or summer, or a great book to snuggle together with on a wintry day and dream of the warm days to come.
This book features charming, brief writing that offers information on the seasons and ties directly in to what the illustrations are showing. The relationship of the mother and child throughout the book is very organic and loving. The illustrations are so deftly done that it is sometimes hard to even imagine that they are cut paper. The detail would be impressive enough with pen and ink.
A pleasure of a book, share this with children who are enjoying summer right now but make sure to pull it out to warm up cooler days as well. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Also reviewed by:
The Easter Egg by Jan Brett
Jan Brett turns her prodigious talents to an Easter story!
Hoppi the rabbit is now old enough to participate in the egg decorating competition. Each year the rabbits decorate Easter eggs and the winning bunny got to help the Easter Rabbit hide the eggs. But Hoppi needs a great idea for his egg, so he hops around to visit the other rabbits. Each bunny is doing something unique and interesting and inspires Hoppi to try their technique. As he visits, each rabbit offers him a scrap of material or a tool as well as ideas. Hoppi tries to come up with the perfect idea, but is distracted by the distressed calls of some robins. One of Mother Robin’s eggs fell out of the nest on onto the forest floor. Hoppi knew just what he had to do and sat gently down on the egg with his warm fur. Hoppi sat and sat and sat on the egg, unable to create an egg of his own for the Easter Rabbit. But the Easter Rabbit knows just what makes the perfect egg for Easter!
Done in her signature style with one main image on a two-page spread and two smaller images on each side, this book celebrates Easter, spring, art and creativity. It is also about self-sacrifice and giving to the community. Brett has created a book that never becomes overly sweet. A large part of this is her attention to minute details that make the rabbits realistic, the forest come alive, and the individual eggs masterpieces. I also appreciate her use of wild plants and flowers as the framing for the illustrations. Brett’s use of repetition as Hoppi travels the village of rabbits allows for a real surprise when Hoppi discovers Mother Robin and the egg.
This book will work well with a group, though the tiny details are worth lingering over and discussing within a family or very small group of children. Appropriate for ages 3-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Penguin.