Nesting by Henry Cole (9780062885920)
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.
Reviewed from library copy.
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.
Reviewed from copy provided by Beach Lane Books.
The Seedling That Didn’t Want to Grow by Britta Teckentrup (9783791374291)
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.
Reviewed from copy provided by Prestel.
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.
Reviewed from copy provided by Chronicle Books.
On a Snow-Melting Day: Seeking Signs of Spring by Buffy Silverman (9781541581180)
This picture book captures the joys of early spring. Using skilled photography as well as rhyming text, explore the various elements of spring’s arrival. Icicles begin to drip, snow becomes slushy, lakes thaw and snowmen droop. Animals react too with birds singing more and sipping from icicles, frogs peeping, and salamanders emerging. Crocuses start to bloom along with other flowers too. The entire landscape is waking up and celebrating spring!
The photos in this book truly capture that tantalizing moment where spring arrives. The majority of them combine ice and snow with signs of spring, offering those fleeting moments of discovery for readers of the book. The text is simple and reads aloud well. It lets readers get glimpses of animals in thrilling ways from piles of sleeping snakes to the chickadee in flight to snatch a drink.
Spring into action and grab this one to make your winter days a little shorter. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Millbrook Press.
The Scarecrow by Beth Ferry, illustrated by The Fan Brothers (9780062475763)
Throughout the seasons, Scarecrow guards the fields, keeping the deer, crows and other animals away. He has no friends and none of the animals have any contact with him. He is alone. Then one spring, a baby crow falls from its nest. Scarecrow does something he has never done before. He beds down and saves that little crow, tucking it safely into his overalls. The two become immediate friends and steadily the crow grows larger and is able to fly. They spend their days and nights together, until one day the crow flies away. Scarecrow is left along again, on a broken pole in the winter snow. Still, seasons change and as spring returns there is hope.
Ferry has written a captivating story about a very lonely scarecrow who makes one compassionate choice that changes his entire existence. Ferry takes time to make sure that readers understand the profound loneliness of the scarecrows time on his pole and then the delight of him moving is a wonderful surprise. The story has a great structure and arc that children will love, watching the relationship build and the seasons change.
As always, the Fan Brothers are superb. In this book, the illustrations are done in pencil, ballpoint and digitally. The landscapes are lush are seasonal, the golden sun of autumn, the muted colors of winter. The painted face of the scarecrow manages to show real emotion somehow without really moving until he is truly distressed.
A great fall read that will work for springtime too. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
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.
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.