Review: Sometimes Rain by Meg Fleming

Sometimes Rain by Meg Fleming

Sometimes Rain by Meg Fleming, illustrated by Diana Sudyka (9781481459181)

Told in rhyming couplets, this picture book explores the wonders of each of the four seasons in turn. The book begins at the end of fall with a rained-upon picnic that is met with smiles. The weather then turns colder and soon there is snow enough for sledding. Snow eventually melts into mud that then turns into sunny hillsides of flowers. Summer is filled with visits to the beach and exploring nature. Autumn brings apples and piles of crunchy leaves to play in. The book ends as winter returns once more and everyone is snug and warm at home.

Fleming’s verse is so controlled and concise. She writes in just a few words an entire feeling or moment in time. The fact that she can do this and still create rhyming couplets that don’t feel stilted at all is near magic. Children may not realize they are reading poetry, but the adults sharing the book with them with marvel at the skill and the delight of such a well written book in verse. The illustrations are done in watercolors that are evocative and completely capture each season. The characters are always happy and enjoying that time of year even with rain, wind, or snow.

A charming picture book written and illustrated for pure joy. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Blue by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Blue by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Blue by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (9781626720664)

In her follow-up to Green, Seeger once again explore all aspects of a single color. With blue, there are baby blue blankets, blue berries, ocean waves, blue skies, and deep night blues. Blues can also feel different from one another. Some can be silly, others stormy and still others icy cold. Told through the lens of a boy and his dog, the book explores different seasons and the blues that accompany their days together.

I must say that this book cannot be summarized easily at all. The text is entirely simple, just naming each color of blue and each mood being depicted. It is the illustrations that are awe-inspiring. They use a cut-out mechanism to lead from one blue to the next, one image to the next, connecting each image to the next.

This is done by a master though, the cutout sections to surprising and unique. I found myself running my fingers over the page to find the holes in the page because they are not obvious at all. Then I would flip back and forth, back and forth to see how the images somehow incorporated those cut areas flawlessly. Even when I knew where to look they disappeared into the images. And the images are grand, beautiful and full of depth. They invite readers into this world of blue.

A picture book to marvel at. Appropriate for ages 1-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.

3 New Picture Books Full of Animals

Honey by David Ezra Stein

Honey by David Ezra Stein (9781524737863)

This is a companion book to Leaves with the same bear. This time the bear has woken up from hibernation and is hungry for honey. Everything around him reminds him of aspects of honey like the golden sun and the flowing river. But it is too early for honey to be ready, so the bear tries to forget about it. Still, he keeps on thinking of the sweet treat as he spends his days. He enjoys the rain, swimming in the water, and exploring his surroundings. Finally it is time for honey! And then the days start to cool again and fall approaches.

A great companion book to the first stellar picture book, this one feels so connected to the first. The art has the same free and flowing style as the first that was so compelling. In this book, honey is the focus and Stein cleverly shows how different parts of the bear’s day remind him of honey even when he is distracted. The illustrations are compellingly summerlike, the sunshine clear on the page. A welcome new sweet treat of a book to share. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The Moon Man by Isabel Harris

The Moon Man by Isabel Harris, illustrated by Ada Grey (9781680100785)

One day Cat, Rabbit and Squirrel discovered a new addition to the wheatfield they lived near. It was a scarecrow, but only Rabbit knew that. The friends played near the scarecrow because he smelled nice and had a friendly face. That night, Fox, Owl and Hedgehog came out into the field and see the scarecrow. They think that he’s a moon man and leave him food to eat. The next morning, the other animals believe the scarecrow has left them some treats to eat. They in turn give the scarecrow flowers. The nocturnal animals see the flowers and think that the moon man has picked them because the moon doesn’t have any flowers. Perhaps they should build him a rocket to return home. When the farmer returns, he finds his scarecrow quite different! He moves it to another field, so the nocturnal animals believe their rocket has worked!

Grey’s picture book has young readers in on the joke immediately. The day animals know what the scarecrow is and their jubilant reaction sets the tone for the book. The nocturnal animals are the most confused, but their story is what makes the book really work. It is particularly nice that their story of what is happening is never disproven and instead remains intact throughout the book. The illustrations are bright and summery, filled with golds and greens. The nighttime illustrations fade to grays and pastels. A book about imagination and creativity, this picture book is full of humor and friendship. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Pignic by Matt Phelan

Pignic by Matt Phelan (9780062443397)

An adorable family of pigs head out on a sunny day for the perfect picnic. A friendly turtle helps the littlest pig climb up into a tree. As other pigs want to fly a kite, a wolf sneaks up on them. There isn’t any wind, but luckily the wolf has a solution and fixes the problem with a “Huff puff.” Called to eat, the pigs leave the wolf holding the kite. Soon storm clouds gather and rain pours down in a gush. It leaves lots of mud behind, much to the joy of the pig family!

With one problem after another, the pigs still manage to have a wonderful picnic together. The text is very simple, with a natural rhythm that ends with a chorus of “Hooray!” when each obstacle is overcome. This playful book shows the power of helping one another and having a positive outlook. The illustrations are done in watercolors and pencils, showing pink pigs of all sizes ready for a great day together. Even the blue wolf is not scary, just right for the littlest listeners. A book that will have everyone planning the next picnic. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

3 New Picture Books Where Imaginations Soar

Blue Rider by Geraldo Valerio

Blue Rider by Geraldo Valerio (9781554989812)

This wordless picture book tells the story of a little girl who discovers a blue book on the ground. She lives in a bustling gray city filled with people moving in all directions. Taking the book home, she reads it and the blue horse on the pages inspires her. Soon the blue horse is flying above the city and then moving to the countryside where the art becomes more geometric and even more colorful. Out of that burst of color, the girl emerges riding the blue horse. Then we are back in her bedroom where her dreams and her room are filled with color.

Valerio tells the story of how art can inspire and create wonder and a space to dream. The illustrations are done in mixed media, combining paintings with paper collage. The edges become more frayed as the art from the book takes over the page. The movement to a more abstract type of illustration is particularly effective, bursting across the page. A great picture book to share with art classes who will be inspired themselves. Appropriate for ages 4-7. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The Stone Bird by Jenny McCartney

The Stone Bird by Jenny McCartney, illustrated by Patrick Benson (9781541514553)

Eliza finds a stone shaped just like an egg on the beach one day. She keeps it, even though her mother says it’s not an egg. She sleeps with it under her pillow and then places it on her nightstand, until one day it transforms into a little gray bird made of stone. Eliza takes the stone bird with her everywhere. Then one morning there is a little stone egg next to the bird when she wakes up. Eliza makes a nest out of a pair of socks because winter has arrived. When spring comes again, there are two stone birds in the nest. Then one summer morning, the birds are gone. Eliza misses them dreadfully until her birthday morning when she sees two gray birds on the roof outside her window.

A story of transformation and belief in magic, this picture book is a gentle tale. Eliza is shown mostly alone or with her family and the focus is on her relationship with the stone egg and stone birds. That narrowed focus serves the story well, allowing it to be about seasons passing and the way that birds would act. The illustrations are soft and show the changing seasons with clarity. They have an intimate feel, particularly when it is Eliza and her rocks. A quiet book that asks you to let your imagination soar with Eliza’s. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from copy provided by Andersen Press.)

Groundwood Logos Spine

They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki (9781419728518)

This rich picture book looks at colors and inspires children to look deeper at what the colors inspire. While the sky is blue, so is water, until you hold it in your hand and it is clear and sparkles like diamonds when tossed in the air. There are hidden bright colors like the gold of an egg yolk and the red of blood in our bodies. Golden waves of the field look like they could be sailed on with a boat. Until the gray clouds come. Seasons bring their own colors. Black is the color of hair and also the crows outside the window who fly off into the colorful sky.

This is one of those books that you can read over and over again, different words and illustrations touching you each time. For a picture book for very young children, it has an unexpected depth, inviting children to see in a new way as they experience their days. The playfulness of color and imagination delight. The illustrations are exceptional, created with acrylic paint and PhotoShop. Rich and filled with color and sweeping lines, they carry the reader away into dreams of seasons, weather and wonder. A great picture book. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

3 Seasonal Picture Books

Good Day, Good Night by Margaret Wise Brown

Good Day, Good Night by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Loren Long (9780062383105)

A little bunny wakes up in the morning and greets the day, saying goodbye to the night. Trees, birds, kittens and more come to life as the day dawns. The day continues and then in the evening, the moon rises. Night begins and the bees and birds and town settle down once more into a quiet night. The poetry here by Brown is ever so lovely, lulling and sweet. It invites both a warm look at waking up but also a snuggly look at night coming. The illustrations by Long create a world of rabbits, a village filled with activity and a glimpse of nature responding to day and night as well. This is a picture book just right for bedtime or morning. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Small Walt by Elizabeth Verdick

Small Walt by Elizabeth Verdick, illustrated by Marc Rosenthal (9781481448451)

Walt is the smallest snowplow in the city’s fleet, so when the big storm arrives, no one wants to drive him. Soon the parking lot is empty with only Walt left behind. Then Gus arrives and merrily prepares to drive Walt into the storm. Walt works hard into the night to clear bridges and roads, trying to prove that he’s up to the big job. Then he reaches a big hill. They could leave it for a larger truck to handle, but Walt wants to try. He slips and slides all the way up, but getting down could be even worse! This picture book is a snowy riff on The Little Engine that Could, offering a bright red little hero willing to take on big challenges. The tone throughout is friendly and fun. Any little one who enjoys books about trucks will love curling up with this one during snow season. Appropriate for ages 3-6. (Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.)

Snow Scene by Richard Jackson

Snow Scene by Richard Jackson, illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (9781626726802)

Explore a snowy area with this inviting and engaging picture book. With very simple text that asks readers to guess at what is coming next, this book has a freshness that is very appealing. The simple text focuses on speaking directly to the reader, showing different aspects of a snowy day that slowly transitions to spring and then summer, where snow is only on the far mountain top. The art by Seeger has a strong textural element that will have small children running their fingers over the smooth pages. It is rich and inviting, sometimes close up and other times just hinting at what is to come. This seasonal picture book celebrates snow in all of its forms, winter and summer. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.)

3 Wintry Picture Books

Two of these picture book welcome winter while another sends it on its way:

Spring for Sophie by Yael Werber

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

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

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.)

My Little Fox by Rick Chrustowski

My Little Fox by Rick Chrustowski

My Little Fox by Rick Chrustowski (9781481469616, Amazon)

Mama Fox watches closely over her little fox as he heads outside for the first time. When he is scared at first, she reassures him that she will always be nearby. Little Fox discovers the wonder of water in both rain and a pond. Sunny summer days have him frolicking in the flowery meadow. In the fall, he hops into the fallen leaves. Winter snow shows his footprints. As another year begins, it’s time for him to head off on his own. Even then, his mother will be close.

Chrustowski notes in his blurb on the book jacket that he discovered a fox den in Minneapolis one day and returned regularly to try to catch a glimpse of the foxes. Finally seeing one is the inspiration for this picture book. That inspiration shows as a real reverence for these animals is clear. The book is a celebration of maternal love and also of giving youngsters the freedom to explore and discover on their own. Mama Fox doesn’t rescue Little Fox at all, rather being nearby to encourage.

The illustrations in the picture book are done watercolor and pastel pencil. They have a deep richness of color that works well with the wooded setting. Chrustowski has used the illustrations to show different words in his rhymes. The words are made of leaves, mushrooms, the sun and pond weeds. This ties the words directly to the images and adds a playful touch.

A lovely look at maternal love and childhood play. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.

 

And Then Comes Summer by Tom Brenner

And Then Comes Summer by Tom Brenner

And Then Comes Summer by Tom Brenner, illustrated by Jaime Kim (9780763660710, Amazon)

With summer officially starting this week, the timing for this book could not be better. It’s a celebration of everything that makes summer great. Written in a consistent pattern of statements throughout, the book focuses on moving into summer from school and establishing summer traditions from year to year. There are lemonade stands, cleaning out lockers, green grass, bumblebees, ice cream, games, and even a visit to the lake and camping outside. Come along and enjoy summer in one big gulp!

Brenner truly shows what makes summer fantastic as a child. The focus is on being outside and playing with friends. There are all sorts of activities shown. Brenner also captures the little things that make summer special. There are smells and sounds, things to see and things to eat. It’s a smorgasbord of summer senses. Written with a light playfulness, the strong structure of the prose works well to set up a rhythm which makes it a pleasure to share aloud.

Kim’s illustrations are buoyant and merry. As children head out of school and into the summer, there is feeling of freedom on the page that continues throughout the book. Fireworks splash on the page, parades march, sprinklers spray.

A shining summery picture book, this is just right for celebrating this season with children. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

The Gold Leaf by Kirsten Hall

The Gold Leaf by Kirsten Hall

The Gold Leaf by Kirsten Hall, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe (9781592702145, Amazon)

Spring has returned to the forest, filling the woods with all colors of green. In the midst of the new growth, something special sparkled. It was a gold leaf, unique and different. All of the animals wanted to have it. A bird got it first, planning to use it to line its nest. Soon though, other animals grab it and take it for themselves until finally it lays in tatters on the ground and then is swept away by the wind. The animals are so dismayed at what they have done. The seasons change and fall and winter arrive and go. It is spring once again, green and lush. Will the gold leaf return?

Hall dazzles with her prose, offering so many colors of green in a single sentence that it is almost like being in a woods and noting each color. She uses very dynamic pacing in this picture book from the frenzy over the gold leaf itself as it is torn apart to the sadness afterwards and the slow turn of the seasons. That slow consideration continues as the animals wait to see if the gold leaf will ever return to them.

The illustrations take Hall’s considerable list of green colors and convey them to the page. The images are lush and filled with rich colors that have dapples of sunlight, deep shadows and animals that glow against the background. The use of goldleaf for leaf itself is very effectively done, particularly as it is ripped apart and each little piece continues to brighten the page.

A book about wonder, patience and sharing, this picture book is particularly golden. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion.