Begin with a Bee by Liza Ketchum, Jacqueline Briggs and Phyllis Root, illustrated by Claudia McGehee (9781517908041)
On a winter day, take a look in a small hole and you will find a solitary rusty-patched queen bee. She waits all winter long, her body holding everything needed to create a new colony of bees that year. As the sun shines and spring comes, the bee awakens and travels from flower to flower, eating and eating. Now she must find where she will build her nest. Once she finds the right spot, she builds a pot of wax from her body and fills it with nectar to help her survive the rainy days and the long days of caring for her eggs. She carries pollen to the nest until she lays her eggs and sits with them, shivering to keep them warm. The eggs hatch into grubs who them make cocoons and weeks later the pupae are finally bees! The queen continues to lay eggs through the summer as the other worker bees gather pollen. That fall, the new queens mate with male bees from neighboring colonies and then must find their own hole to survive the winter.
This picture book celebrates the life of the rusty-patched bee by focusing on how they survive the winter and how one lone queen bee carries the future of an entire colony in her body. Throughout the book, the authors show their own marveling at the way that nature works and the incredible burden and hard work this little queen bee must accomplish to allow her offspring to survive. The text is simple and poetic, letting even the smallest children learn about bees and life cycles.
The illustrations are done in scratchboard art that richly mimics woodcut prints. The thick black lines are accompanied by natural colors that evoke the nature around the bee habitat, including a wide variety of the native plants and flowers that keep them alive. Detailed images of the bee lifecycle are shared, often embraced by oval shapes.
A gorgeous and informative look at the bee lifecycle. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by University of Minnesota Press.
A girl and her little brother make their way through all of the seasons and all sorts of weather in this merry picture book. Told in rhymes, the book explores what makes each day special with a jolly sense of humor as things become soggy and froggy, or muggy and buggy, or ready and sleddy in the winter. The book centers on the warm relationship of the two children as they head outside no matter what the weather is doing and interact with the seasons.
Throughout the book, it’s the little girl who is always ready to go while her little brother is a bit more hesitant. Then he turns out to love it just as much as she does. Their shared rhymes add to the fun and bolster the clear connection between the two of them. The rhymes give the book a rollicking merriment that works particularly well as the seasons pass. It also works when the book gets quiet at the end and the rhymes continue but slow down.
The illustrations are done in pencil and mixed media and then finished digitally. The result is the warmth of the media and pencil lines combined with the dreamy digital backgrounds. They are inviting no matter the weather.
A cheerful book of rhymes, weather and seasons. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by Abrams Books for Young Readers.
This picture book takes readers from the chill and ice of winter through the glories of spring and right into summer. Starting with the dark, the snow and the ice of winter, the book speaks directly to those who get their winter boots on the wrong feet, to all the dogs who wear sweaters, and to the birds eating ice-covered berries. It tells them (and us) not to lose heart, for spring is on its way. Soon there will be playgrounds to have fun in. The days will get longer and the frogs will wake up. Bugs and worms will reappear and flowers will bloom. People and animals will move outside to enjoy the warm sunshine. Rain will give everyone puddles and mud to play in. Streams will run free of ice and snow. The days get longer and longer until…summer!
McMullan’s poetic text is jubilant about the return of spring. It’s perfect for when the days of winter seem too dark and cold to continue, reminding us all of what is about to emerge. The focus in her writing is on the natural elements of spring, the lengthening days, the animals returning, the mud, rain and water. It is also about people though and how we respond, heading outdoors ourselves as the sun shines or the rain falls. The entire book focuses on the positive aspects of all of spring, as it emerges all the way through summer approaching.
Rim’s illustrations are playful and merry. They embrace the beauty of spring with bright colors, green watercolor washes of grass, gorgeous wild blooms of flowers, and the joy of mud. The illustrations are full of light, movement and busy with activities of spring.
A warm welcome to a wonderful season. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
A turtle family sets out on a long slow walk, leaving their spot by the pond behind. They start off in the spring through fields of flowers, bouncing rabbits, and robins. They cross a river and curl up together on a rainy night. They continue on under bright yellow flowers, seeing insects, bubbles, and fireflies. They keep walking into autumn with its changing leaves, apples, and chipmunks gathering acorns. They pass jack-o-lanterns and fall asleep together in the falling leaves. Next comes winter with the world turned white with snow. They finally reach their destination after a long climb. And now it’s not time to go slow anymore!
Told in simple language, this book is a gentle and slow look at the changing seasons. With a refrain of “Are we there yet?” the answer seems it will never be yes. Throughout the book there is a joy in the present moment, a pleasure in the journey itself and the changing seasons around the turtle family. The final pages have a burst of speedy joy in them, and then a return back to their burrow for the winter, once again piled together asleep.
The art is simple as well, the turtles moving through their environment, crossing rivers and streams, watching the wildlife around them, and marveling at special moments in each season. Done in watercolor, the bright green turtles are always the focus of the images as the seasonal colors swirl around them.
A joyous yet quiet look at seasons that would make a great board book too. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Greenwillow Books.
Through simple text and exquisite line drawings, the tale of a family of robins is told. Beginning in early spring, two robins meet and then build a nest together in the crook of a tree limb. As the tree is in full bloom, bright blue eggs appear, the only color in the book. Soon there are four eggs which readers get to see hatch into chicks over the course of a few panels. The hungry chicks must then be fed, the parents hurrying across the page. Storms must also be weathered and predators forced away from the nest. Then it’s the chicks turn to be brave as they leave the nest. Getting larger, the robins prepare to head to their winter months together.
Cole’s text is simple but shares a lot of information along the way. He makes sure to explain things in ways that feel entirely natural as part of the overall story arc. The Author’s Note at the end has more information. The illustrations are simply lovely done in fine pen lines that look even more detailed that reality. The sense of depth that Cole evokes is exceptional as is the way he captures the robins in action so naturally. Readers will notice the apple tree as it moves from bare branches to spring bloom to full fruiting, another way to explore the seasonal changes.
Expect this one to have award buzz, it’s exceptional. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
In My Garden by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by Philip Stead (9780823443208)
Explore the seasons in a personal and close up way with master storyteller Zolotow. Originally published in 1960, the story has been updated with new illustrations from award-winner Stead. Each season starts with one thing that the narrator loves best about their garden during that time. But then they also include a bunch of other lovely things about their garden that season. In spring, the favorite is birds building nests. In summer it is roses. In fall it is chrysanthemums. In winter it is snow. But there is so much else to love too, mostly centered around a lovely pear tree in the garden too.
Zolotow’s writing is lovely, exploring the seasons in a round-about way through gardening and time spent outside. The book meanders with a sense of curiosity about what might also be lovely about the garden in each season. The exploratory nature of the text invites conversations with children about their own loves in each season.
Stead’s illustrations are dreamy and lovely. The colors are bright but also flow together creating a world to experience, remember and adore. His process creates an organic feel with fine lines that offer details but are also filled with blurs of color and cloud shapes.
A lovely new edition of a beauty of a book. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Neal Porter Books.
Green on Green by Dianne White, illustrated by Felicita Sala (9781481462785)
Explore the changing colors of seasons through this poetic picture book. The colors slide together, dynamically playing in the seasons in ways that surprise and delight. Yellow on green is lemonade and bees buzzing. Spring is new bird song, rain and breeze, yellow on green. Summer comes in on turquoise water with beaches and swimming. It is also peaches, sun and shade, blue on green. Fall is cinnamon and squirrels, brown on green. Corn, pumpkins and candles too. Winter is white with snow and gray skies, white on green. Green as spring returns.
There are so many season books, many that I really enjoy. This one though is very special. It takes colors and shows young readers how they pair and shift and change over the course of the seasons. Green stays constant, always there under snow or next to blue waters. The poetry here invites readers to explore things more deeply, to look beyond the first color they think of for a season. It reads aloud beautifully, the measures actually reading aloud better than they do silently on the page. It turns into a dance like the colors themselves.
Sala’s illustrations are lush and colorful, showing a family of color who experience the seasons together. Children will also notice the mother’s stomach growing rounder as the months pass and then a baby appearing. Throughout there is a strong feeling of family and community.
A lovely new way to see colors and seasons. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
There once was a seed that took a long time to sprout, long after the other plants had grown up around it. Then it took some time to grow from a seedling into a plant. The creatures in the meadow noticed this special plant and monitored it. Ant and Ladybird sat next to it waiting for it to sprout. Circket guarded her roots and Mouse searched for clear paths. Finally, the plant reached the sunshine and left the meadow undergrowth behind. She grew up and up, wide and broad. She transformed with buds and then hundreds of flowers. All kinds of animals lived in her branches. When autumn came, she turned brown and withered along with the other plants, until one day all of her seeds took flight on the wind. Then winter came and spring arrived later, and that’s when everyone could see the transformation of the meadow.
Teckentrup’s picture book about a unique and different plant celebrates those who may be considered late bloomers and looks at how one individual can transform where they live. The seasonal aspect of the book is done beautifully, as the spring brings the sprouting of the seed, the summer with its amazing growth, and the quiet solemnity of autumn. All of this is captured in her illustrations which are rich and textured. The colors are far from simple, taking on the aspect of each season but also bringing in deep maroons in spring, gold light, and the oranges of autumn.
A quiet and lovely look at seasons, plants and transformation. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
My Friend Earth by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Francesca Sanna (9780811879101)
Newbery-award winning author MacLachlan writes a lyrical story about her friend earth. Earth awakens in the spring to the busy sounds, seeing the seeds, insects and birds around her. She tucks in animals, reunites mother and child, and tends to the rich prairies. She visits the tundra and heads underwater where she guards all of the creatures. She creates rain to fill the streams and blows autumn winds across the trees. She sprinkles snow on the land in winter, watching over the hibernating animals. Then she falls asleep herself until spring comes again.
Earth here is shown as a young girl, playful in her relationship with nature and the seasons. MacLachlan’s text is marvelously detailed, pulling small elements of each season out to linger over along with Earth herself. This book is specifically focused on Earth Day without it only being able to be used then. It’s a book that celebrates our earth any day.
Sanna’s gorgeous illustrations are built into cut pages here. Readers awaken Earth themselves, glimpse her peeking through leaves, peer underwater at her side, and blow in the wind with the leaves. The cutouts are cleverly done, representing the changing locations and seasons with their forms. Sanna’s art is bold and lovely, showing a young brown-skinned Earth playfully interacting in the world.
Lush and lovely, this is an Earth Day charmer. Appropriate for ages 3-5.