Oscar’s Tower of Flowers by Lauren Tobia

Cover image for Oscar’s Tower of Flowers.

Oscar’s Tower of Flowers by Lauren Tobia (9781536217773)

This wordless picture book tells the story of Oscar and his love of plants and flowers. Oscar’s mother has left him with a relative and his favorite picture of him and his mother is full of flowers. At first, they grow just one little plant in a pot but soon after a visit to a garden store, Oscar has much more. He selects seeds to plant, potting soil and tools. Back in the apartment, they fill all sorts of containers with soil and seeds, placing them on the sunny windowsill. Then they all sprout! The apartment fills with plants, including the bathroom. It all gets a little too crowded, so Oscar gives the plants away to their neighbors. With his mother back, she and the reader can see the way that Oscar transformed not only one apartment but the entire neighborhood.

Tobia creates a warm and lovely story here filled with an adult empowering a child to follow his interest. Oscar communicates through his drawings of plants, showing his desire to grow something. The woman taking care of him, who may be an aunt or a rather young grandmother, dives in with him, getting him the tools and items he needs to truly grow plants. The solution of sharing his success with everyone is transformational for the entire apartment complex. The diverse urban setting changes from stark to vibrantly green and growing in the course of a few months, thanks to one little boy.

A wordless picture book about sharing, community and the impact a child can have. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Candlewick Press.

Have You Ever Seen a Flower? by Shawn Harris

Cover image.

Have You Ever Seen a Flower? by Shawn Harris (9781452182704)

Award-winning illustrator Harris makes his authorial debut in this bright and flowery picture book. A little girl is the only colorful spot in her drab, gray city. She travels by car out to the hills that are covered with flowers, the same hues as her streaming hair. With her dog at her side, she asks the reader if they have ever seen a flower. Have they crawled deep in the clover to find one? Have they breathed deeply and figured out exactly what they are smelling? Have they found a flower so deep that they shouted into it and listened for an echo? The question then shifts to whether the reader has ever been a flower? With their torso as their stem, rooted in the ground, growing to the sun? Try it and see!

Harris brings young readers directly into his story with his string of questions that ask them to use all of their senses to experience nature around us, in particular flowers. He draws deep connections between flowers and children while also inviting in creativity and imagination. His wording reads aloud brilliantly, playing with near rhymes and repeating structures.

The illustrations are stunning. Done in colored pencil, the colors are neon bright while still having real depth. Harris evokes the flowering hills of California, filling them with a variety of plants and also having pages of the same plant repeating in patterns. He shifts perspective beautifully, moving from close ups of plants and the little girl to broad landscapes of color.

Perfect for spring, this is one to pluck from the shelves and share. Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Chronicle Books.

Dandelion’s Dream by Yoko Tanaka

Dandelion's Dream by Yoko Tanaka

Dandelion’s Dream by Yoko Tanaka (9781536204537)

A dandelion in a field of flowers turns into a real lion. Dandelion has feet and paws and heads off on an adventure. A train is rushing past and Dandelion hops on board, riding right at the front of the locomotive. Tumbling off,  Dandelion lands on the back of a large woolly sheep. From there, Dandelion hops aboard a sailing ship, protected from the rain by a friendly seagull. They reach a bustling city, full of rushing people and cars. Dandelion heads into a theater and enjoys a movie with some shared popcorn. Dandelion shifts to being in a plane, inspired by the film, and flies above the city and then over the dandelion field where he started his adventure. By the time he returns to the field, Dandelion has changed once again.

Tanaka tells a wordless story here, filled with dreamy adventures that leap quickly from one setting to another yet show a seamless whole. Done in soft charcoal grays with touches of bright yellow, Dandelion shines on the page. Tanaka cleverly uses lines and shapes to form a story. The ending is particularly beautiful as Dandelion echoes the moon as does the field itself. When the seeds are launched into the sky its rather like fireworks except gentle and quiet.

Beautiful and evocative, this wordless picture book is one to visit again and again. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Candlewick.

Review: Bloom Boom! by April Pulley Sayre

Bloom Boom! by April Pulley Sayre

Bloom Boom! by April Pulley Sayre (9781481494724)

An ideal book to read as spring arrives, this picture book focuses on flowers emerging as the seasons change. Close-up photographs are paired with more distant landscapes to show both the details of the plants and flowers and also the impact of a large group of flowers blooming in different habitats. Stalks, flowers, leaves and more are shown. The photographs also capture the growth of the emerging plants. The book then moves on to the flowers specifically, celebrating their colors and shapes. It also shows the insects that visit the flowers and other wildlife around.

Sayre specializes in simple nonfiction books about nature with great photography. Here, she has created a book that must be shared aloud. It has a strong rhythm and structure to the text with a refrain of “bloom boom!” with which children will love to join in. The photographs are filled with color and details. They invite readers to look closely and are large enough to share with a group.

Another winning nature picture book from a master book creator. Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Beach Lane Books.

 

3 New Friendly Picture Books

Adelaide_s Secret World by Elise Hurst

Adelaide’s Secret World by Elise Hurst (9781524714543)

Originally published in Australia, this picture book features a similar world to Hurst’s Imagine a City, a bustling urban setting filled with animals. Adelaide lives in the city and runs a quiet shop where she makes small models. She spent her days and nights alone, watching others rush past and noting those that were quieter like her. Caught in a sudden rainstorm one day, she sees a Fox that she has noticed earlier drop his book. When she returns the book, she hopes they will connect, but it doesn’t happen that day. Still, Adelaide does not give up and creates an art piece filled with connection and magic that may just make her a new friend. This picture book celebrates quiet people who still want friends and connection. Through the gorgeous glowing full-color paintings, Hurst creates a world for these two quiet animals to live in, one that invites readers in and holds them close. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from e-galley provided by Edelweiss and Knopf Books for Young Readers.)

The Digger and the Flower by Joseph Kuefler

The Digger and the Flower by Joseph Kuefler (9780062424334)

Crane, Dozer and Digger are three big trucks who work hard to build big buildings, roads and bridges. Then one day Digger discovered a tiny flower in the rubble. Digger took care of the flower, watering it, protecting it from the wind and singing to it just before he went to sleep nearby. Soon though, the empty lot that the flower grew in was needed for building. Before Digger could stop him, Dozer cut the flower down. Digger was so sad, but there on the ground were three little seeds. The illustrations have strong graphical elements with shots of color from the trucks and flower. A simple and lovely tale of death and birth, of caring for something you love, this picture book gives a big truck a huge heart. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Kate, Who Tamed the Wind by Liz Garton Scanlon

Kate, Who Tamed the Wind by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Lee White (9781101934791)

A man lived all alone at the top of a very steep hill where winds blew constantly. The wind blew so much that eventually, the shutters banged and the boards bent, and the wind tipped things over and just kept on blowing. Kate was a little girl who lived below the steep hill. When the man cried out in despair, Kate heard him and had a plan. She thought and thought, realizing that she could not stop the wind from blowing. But she could bring new trees to the man. So up she went, pulling her wagon of trees. The two planted the trees together and time passed, the wind still blew, but eventually the trees softened the wind and their friendship grew along with the trees. This picture book is so delightful. Scanlon uses rhymes, rhythm and repetition to create a story that is jaunty and wonderful to read aloud. She plays with the forms, so it never becomes sing-songy and is constantly surprising. The art is just as sprightly and warm, with a stunningly steep hill and plenty of vexing wind. The solution, provided by a child, incorporates nature and science. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from e-galley provided by Edelweiss and Schwartz & Wade.)

Plant the Tiny Seed by Christie Matheson

plant-the-tiny-seed-by-christie-matheson

Plant the Tiny Seed by Christie Matheson

The author of Tap the Magic Tree and Touch the Brightest Star returns with another interactive picture book that is a companion to the first two. The child first plants the seeds by pressing them into the ground. They wiggle their fingers to water them. Then comes sunshine and rain. A hungry snail has to be hurried on its way. And all the while the plants are growing and growing. Then come the flowers, bright zinnias of purple, orange and red. The flowers fade and soon there are new seeds to be scattered.

This book shows the cycle from seed to plant to flower to seed in a simple and very approachable way. While it won’t work well for large groups, smaller groups of children or single children will love the interactive component and the feeling that they are gardening along with the book. The book incorporates plenty of other nature as well with snails, bees, birds and butterflies on the page. There is also lots for parents and children to talk about, making the book even more interactive.

Matheson’s illustrations are bright and simple. She keeps the plants in the same spot on each page, so the weather and creatures provide movement and changes. Deep brown soil richly frames the bottom of the pages and most of them have a clear white as a background that lets the simple illustrations pop.

A great way to explore the life cycle of plants, this picture book is simple and friendly enough for toddlers to enjoy. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

 

Review: The Little Gardner by Emily Hughes

The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes

The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes

The gardener loves his garden and he works hard in it, but he’s not that good at gardening. He feels often that he is too small for the job. He does manage to grow one tall red flower that gives him energy and hope. After working so hard, he knows that if something doesn’t change he will soon be out of food, out of a home, and no longer able to live in the garden he loves so much. He falls asleep, exhausted after making a wish that something will happen. Someone notices his flower in the garden and start to work. As the gardener sleeps, the people work on the garden, transforming it into flowers rather than weeds. The little gardener’s flower inspired them to make a change and in turn their work allowed him to live on as the gardener in the place he adores.

Told very simply, this picture book from the author of Wild is about a truly tiny gardener who is smaller than the weeds that he is battling. The writing is simple with a wonderful tone, very understated with the illustrations bringing the real truth to the reader. At the same time, there is a sense of wonder throughout the text that speaks to the power of wishes, the joy of being in just the right place for yourself, and the pleasure of a simple life.

Hughes’ illustrations are phenomenal. She captures the wildness of the weeds, the beauty of a single red flower rising above them, and then the bounty of a newly planted garden. She also captures the size of the little gardener, showing him to be almost fairy-like in his size, dwarfed and protected by the plants around him. That size allows Hughes to focus closely on the plants, creating a jungle out of the garden.

Beautifully illustrated and with a lovely look at a little life well lived, this picture book would be a great addition to gardening story times. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Flying Eye Books.

Review: Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson

sidewalk flowers

Sidewalk Flowers by JoArno Lawson, illustrated by Sydney Smith

As she heads home with her father who is distracted by his cell phone call, a little girl dressed in vibrant red picks wild flowers. Along the way, she takes a moment to smell each of them, creating a bouquet of bright colored blooms. The flowers grow unnoticed by the others on the street in this urban setting, but the little girl spots them all growing out of sidewalk cracks. When the girl and her father reach the park, she notices a dead bird on the sidewalk and leaves some of the flowers there with the bird. A man sleeping on a park bench is given a sprig too. Then she decorates the collar of a friendly dog with more flowers. As they reach home, the little girl gives each of her family members flowers, leaving a trail of them on their hair and heads. The final flower is used to decorate her own hair at the very end.

This wordless picture book is immensely lovely. The story arc really works well and has moments of sophistication that create a vibrant urban world for this girl to live within. As she gathers the flowers, other beautiful parts of the city that would have been overlooked too light up with color or are captured in small moments. From the display of bright fruits in the market to the pigeons on the street, each small piece adds together so that readers “see” the beauty of the city along with the young protagonist.

The art is expressive and lovely. The city is shown in black and white against which the red girl pops like a bright ruby. Portions of the city are done in color, like flowered dresses and the small flowers that the girl gathers too. Then when the girl starts sharing her flowers, the entire world becomes colorful and bright. It is a dynamic shift in the middle of the book, showing the power of generosity and community.

Subtle and powerful, this picture book celebrates seeing the beauty in everyday life and sharing it with others. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: That’s Not a Daffodil by Elizabeth Honey

thats not a daffodil

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.