Almost Time by Gary D. Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney, illustrated by G. Brian Karas (9780544785816)
Ethan finds it really hard to wait for the maple sap to start running in the late winter. He knows the signs of the time approaching. It’s when he doesn’t have maple syrup for pancakes or oatmeal. His father explains that the days have to get warmer for the syrup to run as well as the nights getting shorter. Ethan thinks he notices it changing, but sometimes gets too eager like not wearing his winter coat anymore. When Ethan’s tooth gets loose, his father tells him that it should fall out around the same time as the sap starts running. Now Ethan has two things to wait for, but one that he can perhaps make happen a bit faster by wiggling it. Still, it takes some time for his tooth to loosen and for the weather to change. Then one day, it’s finally time both for maple syrup and for his tooth to fall out.
Schmidt and Stickney have created a classic tale about patience and waiting for things to happen. Ethan is wonderfully impatient and yet also able to wait, though not really without asking again and again about it. As the darkness refuses to lessen and the days refuse to warm, readers will understand his anticipation. The use of breakfasts to mark a lack of syrup is clever and homey, just to add even more warmth and love to the book. It’s great to see a book with a caretaker father which is not about the lack of a mother or being in a unique family. It’s particularly wonderful to see such a skillful and loving dad.
Karas’ illustrations capture the dark days of winter, the snow that refuses to disappear, and the slow process of the arrival of early spring. The darkness lurks against the warm yellow of the interior of the home, offering real contrast as the pages turn.
A sweet but not syrupy picture book about fathers, patience and food. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Two of these picture book welcome winter while another sends it on its way:
Spring for Sophie by Yael Werber, illustrated by Jen Hill (9781481451345)
Sophie is waiting for spring to come, but she’s not sure how to tell when it arrives. Her mother explains that she should be able to hear the changes, so Sophie is patient and listens while she is outside. Eventually she starts to hear more and more birds in the trees. Still, it was snowy outside. Her father explains that she can use her feet to feel spring coming. So Sophie paid attention to how soft the snow was and eventually, it was less icy and more soft. Still, the snow was there. Her mother tells her to use her eyes and nose. Sophie watches the snow melt, the green return and one day her nose tells her that spring has finally arrived! This picture book celebrates the change of season in a tangible way that children will love. The focus is on the child experiencing the changes themselves with gentle guidance from loving adults. The illustrations celebrate both winter and spring, the slow but steady transformation between seasons. A perfect book to invite exploring outside. Appropriate for ages 3-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)
William’s Winter Nap by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Chuck Groenink (9781484722824)
This rhyming picture book tells a story of a boy who is ready for bed. But just as he is about to fall asleep, there comes a tap, tap, tap at his window. It’s a chipmunk and William invites him into his bed to sleep. Again and again, William is about to fall asleep but another animal needs shelter from the cold and the snow. When the last animal knocks, the other animals insist that there isn’t any more room, but somehow they find room for the very large bear with a little help from William. The series of drowsy moments interrupted makes this a great bedtime tale but also a lovely one to share with a group. The illustrations are friendly and inviting, just like William himself. There are opportunities for counting, naming animals and thinking about napping yourself in this very appealing read. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from copy provided by Disney Hyperion.)
Winter Dance by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Richard Jones
Fox wakes up to snowflakes falling and wonders what he should be doing to prepare for winter. A caterpillar suggests that he wrap up in a chrysalis and wake in the spring while the bat thinks a cave would be best. Turtle heads to the bottom of the pond to sleep in the mud and squirrel quickly gathers food. The geese fly south and the snowshoe hare turns white like the snow. Bear falls asleep in a log. But none of those solutions is right for Fox! He finally meets another fox in the woods who knows just what to do. Beautifully written by Bauer, this book uses repetitive structures to evoke a timeless feel that will be welcoming for the youngest listeners. The illustrations by Jones have a lovely softness to them while also showing the changing season and the beauty of the natural setting. A great pick for celebrating the coming winter. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)
Waiting by Kevin Henkes (InfoSoup)
The award-winning Kevin Henkes returns with a new picture book about waiting. Five toys wait on a windowsill, looking outside. The owl waits for the moon, the pig waits for rain, the bear waits for wind, the dog waits for snow and the rabbit waits because he enjoys waiting and watching out the window. Seeing what they are waiting for makes each of them happy and so do new objects and visitors. Some visitors stay for only a short time while others stay longer. They all wait together. When a cat joins them, she too is waiting but for something very specific and it will be a wonderful surprise for everyone when it comes.
This is such a quiet and marvelous book. Do not read it expecting action and adventure, rather this is a book about waiting and patience. It is a book that shows the beauty of just being, of mindfulness, of acceptance of your day. Yet it is also a book about the tug of wanting and wishing, about time passing and about being friends in the most quiet and yet deep way. There is a silence about the book too that is compelling and superbly done. This is a philosophical book, one that quietly sneaks up on the reader how deep it actually is.
Henkes’ illustrations are done in a limited color palette. They have a quiet tone all their own in their pastels. The objects themselves have an old-fashioned feel, one of timelessness which is quite appropriate here. There are sections of the book done just in pictures, which allow the reader to see the relationships between the characters as well as the patience it takes to wait.
A gem of a picture book, this one is difficult to explain well but such a great read. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett
This follow up to The Boy and the Airplane features a girl who is longing for a new green bike that she sees in a shop window when walking with her little brother. But she doesn’t have enough money for it, even after emptying her piggy bank, digging through pockets in the laundry and looking under the couch cushions. She even tries selling lemonade and her toys. That autumn, she has another idea to make money and finds someone willing to pay her for raking leaves. She continues to do chores for them through the winter and into the next summer. Finally, she has enough money for the bicycle. But when she gets to the store, the bike is gone. Don’t worry, her hard work will pay off in the end!
Pett has a touch for wordless picture books. The subtle humor throughout also helps make the book very readable and approachable for children. They will relate to the longing for a new toy and through this book will learn about the power of resilience, hard work and patience.
Pett’s subjects could easily veer into saccharine qualities, but that is nicely avoided thanks to his deft timing throughout the book and the way that the sweet endings come with real sacrifice and work on the part of the characters. His illustrations have a vintage feel but also a modern cartoon aspect. Done in sepia tones, the dark green of the bike pops clearly on the page.
A wordless book for slightly older preschoolers, this book is a rewarding read. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.
Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk
When Arun went to stay at his grandfather Mahatma Gandhi’s village, he worried that he would not be able to live up to his famous name. Arun walked all the way from the station to the village and made his grandfather proud, but he continued to fret that he would not do the right thing the next time. The village was very different from where he lived before. Arun had to share his grandfather’s attention with 350 followers who lived there as well. Arun struggled with his studies and the other kids teased him as well. He found the meditation and prayers difficult too. His grandfather urged him to give it time, that peace would come. However, Arun just found it more and more frustrating. When Arun finally lost his temper with another boy, he had to tell his grandfather about it, worried that he would be told that he would never live up to his name. How will Mahatma Gandhi react to this angry young man?
Gandhi relates his own memories of his grandfather, offering his honest young reactions to this amazing yet also formidable man. The book resulted from Arun recounting childhood stories aloud. Hegedus emailed him afterwards and asked to work on a book with him, though she felt very unworthy of such a project. The book is beautifully written and speaks to everyone who has felt that electric anger surge through them too. Hegedus sets the stage very nicely for the lesson, allowing time for Arun’s anger to build even as she shows the lifestyle of the village and Mahatma Gandhi himself. It is a book that is crafted for the most impact, building to that moment of truth.
Turk’s illustrations add much to the book. Using mixed media, he offers oranges, purples, deep pinks and more that show the heat not only of the climate but of Arun’s anger. Throughout, he also uses fabrics for the clothing, creating three-dimensional depth to the paintings. When Arun’s emotions flare, the illustrations show that with tangles of black thread that all bring readers back to the image of Gandhi spinning neat white thread. The contrast is subtle and profound.
Personal and noteworthy, this is a picture book about Gandhi that is entirely unique and special. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from library copy.
Anna Carries Water by Olive Senior, illustrated by Laura James
Anna wishes that she could carry water on her head the way her older brothers and sisters do. Her family does not have running water in their home, so the children walk to the spring and back every day toting water. Her siblings carry the water in different types of containers balanced on the top of their heads. But Anna with her smallest container can’t do that. Anna tries, but only manages to dump water down herself and have to refill the coffee can. Then she carries it in her hands instead. Anna’s oldest sister reminds her that when she is old enough to balance the water, it will just happen. But can Anna wait that long?
This Caribbean picture book is a treat. It not only offers a glimpse into a different way of life but also gives a gentle reminder of the importance of patience and perseverance. Written in simple language, the book uses repetition very nicely to give it a sense of traditional folktale while being firmly set in the present day.
The illustrations tell much of the story and also have a traditional feel mixed with modern content. They are bright colored, vibrant and help make sure that readers know that they are in another part of the world.
A bright and vivid book, this is a great pick for sharing aloud and would make an unusual but great addition to any story time or unit on water. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Big Snow by Jonathan Bean
It is very hard to wait for the snow to come, as David discovers in this picture book perfect for the snowy season. David is waiting for the snow to start, so he helps his mother bake cookies. But then the flour reminds him of the snow so he heads out to check on it. It’s fine and dusty in the air. He heads back inside and helps clean the bathroom, but then is reminded of snow from the bubbles. When he checks, there is more snow but it’s still light. He helps his mother change sheets and is reminded of snow blanketing the ground, when he checks outside that’s exactly what the snow is doing! Then it’s naptime, and David dreams of snow, lots and lots of snow. Will his dream come true?
Bean creates a book not only about waiting for a big snow, but also about the different types of snow that arrive in the course of a storm. It is a wonderful tribute to loving snow and wintry weather and hoping for the white to cover the barren landscape. Bean cleverly ties in David’s reminders of snow with the level of snow outdoors. Children will immediately get the connection and will enjoy watching the storm outside progress.
Bean varies the illustrations from close ups of David helping his mother and their cozy home interiors to distance images of their home and neighborhood as it transforms under the snow. One can see the magic of snow happening firsthand. I also love the humor of David disappearing to check on the snow, only the end of his scarf still in the room. And bravo for Bean creating a family of color in a book that doesn’t have anything to do with race.
Even with the icy temperatures outside, this is a book that will get everyone looking forward to the next big snow. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Farrar Straus Giroux.
The Boy and the Airplane by Mark Pett
This wordless picture book tells the story of a young boy who is merrily playing with his brand-new red airplane. He runs with it, runs around it pretending to be a plane himself, and eventually throws it up into the air. It lands on the roof where the boy where the boy is unable to reach it using a ladder or anything else that he tries. He sits in discouragement under a tree and then is inspired when a maple seed drifts down and lands in his hand. He plants the seed, watching it grow through the seasons and the years. The ending is satisfying and lovely. This book is about patience and dedication, but is also open to interpretation thanks to its wordless design and flowing storyline.
Pett manages to create a truly timeless book here. The art is done in sepia tones with just a dash of red for the toy airplane. The characters are even dressed in clothes that are universal. The book has a great cyclical quality to it that works particularly well with the timeless feel. The illustrations also have a contemplative feel to them that permeates the entire work. This is a book that slows you down and gets you considering other options.
A great gift book for adults, this book will also be appreciated by young children who will see the humor in the boy’s solution. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
If You Want to See a Whale by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin E. Stead
The incredible partnership that brought you And Then It’s Spring last year has recreated a similar magic in their second book together. In this book, a young boy heads to the sea to try to spot a whale. There are things that you must have to see a whale, one is time to wait and another is a way to not get too comfortable and doze off while waiting. There are also things that you must ignore, like sweet pink roses that want you to look at them or boats that are floating by or insects crawling in the grass. Just keep your eyes on the sea and wait. And then…
Fogliano’s writing is poetry. She lets us wander into distractions, taking our own eyes off the sea to explore the grass, the roses and the clouds in the sky. Her pacing is delicious, making us wait for the payoff in the end in a way that doesn’t promise anything other than the wait and the sea itself. It is that wait and that meander that makes this book so wonderful. In other words, she makes the book about the journey, about being in the moment, about noticing.
Stead’s illustrations are done in her signature style with fine lines and organic colors that seem to come from childhood crayons. Adding the friendly dog into the story works well, he serves as another pair of eyes both watching for the whale and being distracted.
Lovely, simple and filled with charm, this picture book is thoughtful, quiet and worth the wait. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.