Review: Trevor by Jim Averbeck

Trevor by Jim Averbeck

Trevor by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Amy Hevron (9781250148285)

Trevor is a very lonely canary who knows that he can escape his cage at any time, but stays put for the seeds. He has one favorite kind, sunflower seeds, that he saves for when he is feeling loneliest. When Trevor sees a lemon outside of his window, he tries to get it to sing with him. He even gives it his last striped sunflower seed, but it won’t eat. The lemon doesn’t reply to Trevor at all and doesn’t give him any gifts in return. Still, Trevor builds a nest in the tree for himself and the lemon. Meanwhile, the seed has fallen to the ground below. Eventually, a storm comes and Trevor must try to save the lemon. When he reaches the ground, he discovers the sunflower has sprouted and grown, scattering seeds across the ground. When a group of hungry birds arrives, Trevor quickly realizes what real friendship feels like.

Averbeck keeps the text of this picture book very simple, making it just right for younger listeners and good to share aloud. The emotions that Trevor feels in the book take center stage, from frustration at the lemon to eventual forgiveness to acceptance about their differences. Trevor is a great mix of brave, inquisitive and friendly as he makes his way into the larger world.

Hevron’s illustrations are painted onto wood. She cleverly allows the wood to show through to create tree branches and leaf spines. Against the pale blue background, the leaves, lemon and Trevor himself pop. One can see the wood grain throughout the book, both covered in color and plain. It makes for a very organic and natural feel.

A lovely quiet picture book about new friends and what to do when life gives you lemons. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.

3 Fun Fall Picture Books

The Bad Seed by Jory John

The Bad Seed by Jory John, illustrated by Pete Oswald (9780062467768)

He is a very bad seed. He cuts in line, tells pointless lies, never washes his hands (or his feet), and is late to everything. He wasn’t always that way. Once he was happy with his family of seeds on top of a sunflower. But when the flower drooped, he was gathered and put into a bag of seeds. Darkness fell until he was almost eaten by a giant! After that, he was a bad seed. Everyone knew it. But what happens when a bad seed doesn’t want to be bad anymore? Can he become a good seed? This picture book looks at the power of choice and transformation. An interesting read aloud for gardening story times or autumn units. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Review copy provided by HarperCollins.)

Full of Fall by April Pulley Sayre

Full of Fall by April Pulley Sayre (9781481479844)

With vibrant photographs, this picture book celebrates the beauty and colors of autumn. Told in rhyme, the book focuses on the changing leaves. Different colors are shown clearly in the images, making this a great book to explore for colors too. The leaves go from bright colors on the trees, to falling down, to heaps on the ground and sinking into the water too. Finally, there is snow. This is a great addition to Sayre’s body of work on nature. It is simple enough to use with very young preschoolers and even toddlers all of whom will enjoy the vivid clarity of the photographs. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Wee Sister Strange by Holly Grant

Wee Sister Strange by Holly Grant, illustrated by K. G. Campbell

Wee Sister Strange is a girl who lives by herself by the woods in an old house. She spends time in the woods when others won’t be there. She enjoys the moon and the dark. She talks to the owls and buries the bones from their meals. She rides on the back of a ferocious bear. She climbs trees as wolves prowl below. She dives deep into the water of the bog looking at snail shells. Then a bright window beckons her closer. There is the reader, snug in bed reading this book! And Wee Sister Strange stays there, right outside, listening to the story and snuggling down in her own bed outside.

The poetry of this book immediately tells readers that they are in an odd world, one where a child merrily lives on her own. Wee Sister Strange is a beautiful and wild child; the language in the poem makes sure that children will see her as a welcome and safe part of the woods. Still, the bear is fierce and the wolves are about, so this is a wild woods, one where other may fear to explore. The bog is like that as well, cleverly not described as a lake and with the slime emphasized for good measure too. The art by Campbell is glowing and rich. The leaves on the trees are just about almost fallen entirely with a few stubborn yellow leaves lighting the branches like lanterns. The moon is full and throws shadows. The animals are strong and fanged. It’s a book with shivers and wonder galore. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Schwartz & Wade.)

What Will Grow? by Jennifer Ward


What Will Grow? by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Susie Ghahremani (9781681190303)

The author and illustrator pair who brought us What Will Hatch? return with another winning picture book. Here children get to guess what plant will emerge from the seeds being planted. Told in rhyme, the book invites guessing and participation. Some pages offer the answer immediately while others ask readers to fold out a page to see the answer. The book shows that seeds can turn into all kinds of different plants from carrots to sunflowers to pine trees. It also demonstrates the various shapes and colors that seeds come in.

The text has an welcoming tone that immediately asks children to participate in guessing. The rollicking rhyme and rhythm of the book adds to the pace and the fun. The text is basic enough for young toddlers to enjoy while the guessing will make the book fun for preschoolers. The book ends with information on each of the seeds, including when to plant them, how to plant them and when it will grow.

The illustrations have a wonderful natural feel to them. Seeds pepper the pages that are also filled with the greens of plant life. Animals appear as well: a fox snatches a tomato from the vine, a squirrel holds an acorn, a monarch sits atop milkweed. There’s a sense of a complete ecosystem on each page with each plant shown in its habitat. The gatefold pages add a lot of appeal, folding down to show long carrots underground and folding up for tall sunflowers and trees.

A wonderful warm new picture book to celebrate the arrival of spring and gardening. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Bloomsbury.


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: If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson

if you plant a seed

If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson

Award-winning Nelson tells a story about the power of sharing in this simple and striking picture book. The story begins with a rabbit and a mouse planting a tomato seed, a carrot seed and a cabbage seed in their garden. Then the two wait through all kinds of weather for the seeds to sprout and grow. Until finally, they have three lovely plants and are able to feast on their bounty. Then the birds arrive and silently ask for the rabbit and mouse to share. But no sharing happens and instead there is a struggle and the plants are destroyed. One small red tomato survives and the mouse offers it to the birds. The birds in turn repay that kindness with seeds of their own which then sprout into a much larger and more diverse garden for them all to enjoy, along with even more animals.

Nelson’s writing here is simple but also to the point. He shows young readers what is happening in the story. Using the symbolism of the garden throughout, he explains the importance of sowing the seeds of kindness rather than selfishness and finally how beautiful it is in the end when you do that. There is little subtlety here and the symbolism is beautifully integrated into the story as a whole.

As always, Nelson’s illustrations are pure delight. His animals shine on the page, showing emotions clearly and beautifully both in their eyes and the positions of ears and tails. Other details bring the entire scene to life. Perhaps my favorite page is the birds silently watching the rabbit and mouse feast on the produce. It’s funny and yet the tension is clear too. The entire book is filled with small lovely moments like this told in images rather than words.

Community, sharing and kindness come together in this splendidly illustrated picture book that is sure to be enjoyed along with other spring gardening books. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Miss Maple’s Seeds by Eliza Wheeler

miss maples seeds

Miss Maple’s Seeds by Eliza Wheeler

This book will sweep you up like a breath of brisk autumn air.  Miss Maple is a little woman who spends her entire summer searching for seeds that have not gotten planted in the spring.  She brings them back to her maple tree and nurses them back to strength.  She washes them off, warns them to take care because they are so small, takes them on field trips to learn about being a seed, and reads them bedtime stories.  In winter they all burrow down together and fill the time with songs and stories.  Then when spring arrives, the seeds learn to dance in the rain and sink into muddy ground.  In May, it is time for the seeds to find the places they will grow, so Miss Maple launches them off.  Miss Maple then starts her journey with the seeds all over again, heading off on the back of a bluebird to find another year’s worth of stranded seeds.  Lovely and warm, this picture book is a joyous celebration of the seasons and the plants around us.

Wheeler has created a tiny motherly figure in Miss Maple, someone who loves and cares just for the good of the earth.  As the book progresses, she becomes almost a Mother Earth figure as her world turns with the seasons.  Wheeler’s writing is filled with wonderful small moments and details.  Miss Maple reads bedtime stories “by firefly light” and during the winter her animal neighbors share “supplies of hot maple syrup, old corn husks, and juicy fruit rinds.” 

Her illustrations show that same attention to detail.  This small world is filled with little touches that make it come alive.  The frogs in the nearby pond have a house in a log complete with front door and paned windows.  The seeds all sleep in small, cozy beds that are perfectly designed for seeds their size.  Then when Miss Maple launches the seeds off, she does it with winged baskets and other vessels that glow and float on the water.  This is a completely formed world that all readers will want to linger in.

Cozy and lovely, this picture book is a celebration of seasons and the earth, but it is also a reflection on the skill and care of nurturing.  Get this one for your Earth Day units and pull it out when covering seasons too.  Though I think it would be best of all curled up under warm blankets and watching autumn arrive.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Nancy Paulsen Books.

Review–Planting the Wild Garden by Kathryn O. Galbraith


Planting the Wild Garden by Kathryn O. Galbraith, illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin

This lovely book moves from the steady and deliberate planting of seeds by farmers to the ways that seeds are planted in nature.  The seeds sweep along the in the wind.  They are dropped by birds eating from the seed heads.  They pop and snap to new places.  They are carried on the coats of animals.  They are planted by squirrels hiding them for winter.  Told in a poetic voice with images that evoke nature in all of its beauty, this book is one to be treasured.

Galbraith’s writing is leisurely and lovely, lingering on each of the moments that spread seeds across nature.  She explains each instance in detail, offering noises, specific plant names, and building moments that readers themselves can feel and be in for a bit.  She also skillfully blends in animals in each setting, bringing it further to life.

Halperin’s style works very well with this subject matter.  She plays with light and dark, draws the animals and plants described in the text.  Through her fine-lined and gently colored images, nature comes to life.  One of her most successful pages is early in the book, capturing the movement of the wind in colors and lines.

A natural, lovely look at seeds and planting in the wild, this book is a gorgeous tribute to wilderness.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Peachtree Publishers.

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How Does a Seed Grow?

How Does a Seed Grow? by Sue Kim, photographs by Tilde

A visually interesting book all about seeds, sprouts and the harvest.  Each page is dedicated to one kind of seed complete with photographs of the seeds.  That then unfolds to show a large photograph of the seedling in a cutaway format that shows below the ground to the roots and up above the ground for the leaves.  Readers then unfold the page one more time to see a photograph of a child holding the fruit or vegetable.  The text is very simple and rhyming.  The illustrations are the heart of this book.  It is a book guaranteed to fascinate children not only with the unfolding pages but with the details of the seeds and seedlings.

The book covers tomatoes, blueberries, bell peppers, peas and oranges.  The brief rhymes do give a sense of the needs of plants from loose dirt to warmth to water and sunshine.  Readers will enjoy looking at the differences in the shapes and sizes of the seeds and the different ways that the seeds grow.  The children pictured with the fruits and vegetables are multicultural.  One quibble is that some of the pictures are a little blurred, which is noticeable when compared with the crispness of the other images. 

This book will work well in a classroom setting or in a story time focused on spring and plants.  The foldout pages will not survive circulation at a library for long unless they are reinforced with tape.  Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

The King and the Seed

The King and the Seed by Eric Maddern, illustrated by Paul Hess

King Karnak has no heir and is coming to the end of his reign.  So he puts out a call for anyone who wants to be king to come and join in a competition.  Knights come from across the land, ready for the battle to begin.  But the king surprises them all by handing each one of them a seed and asking them to bring it back in six months to show what they have grown.  A boy, Jack, who came only to witness the competition, gets a seed for himself.  Jack tries and tries to make his seed grow, but nothing works and six months later he heads back to the castle.  There he finds the knights with armloads of plants, huge flowers, all different from one another.  Jack doesn’t want to admit his defeat to the king, so what’s a boy to do?

Maddern’s storytelling has a great flair, filled with small touches and humor that really bring the story to life.  The book has a strong message that is not overdone.  It also has a classic folk tale format that is mixed with a modern storytelling style, creating a very engaging book.  Hess’ illustrations are bright-colored and offer interesting perspectives on the action.  They will work well with a group.

Ideal for reading aloud, this book is a great modern folktale that emphasizes the importance of honesty.  Appropriate for ages 4-8.

Reviewed from library copy.