Here are three wonderful new or recent picture books that celebrate nature and outdoors.
In the Middle of Fall by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek (9780062573117)
This book follows When Spring Comes by the same masterful duo. Here Henkes’ poem celebrates the turning of the leaves and other changes in nature. There are the squirrels, the brown gardens, pumpkins and apples. Then leaves fall, filling the air with oranges, yellows and reds that disappear quickly and soon another season is on its way, this time with snow. Henkes keeps the text of the book simple and focused on nature. There is a deep sense of the fleeting nature of autumn and how quickly it passes by. The illustrations by Dronzek are large and fill the page. They will work well shared with a group, who will recognize their own backyards and their own time outside reflected in the book. A lovely look at fall, let’s hope this duo does the other seasons as well. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)
Once Upon a Jungle by Laura Knowles, illustrated by James Boast (9781784937799)
This clever picture book uses the phrase “once upon a time” to set in motion the food cycle in a rainforest. “Once upon” quickly turns to the animal being preyed upon, eaten or hunted. Ants are eaten by a mantis who in turn is snacked on by a lizard who is hunted by a monkey. The animals get larger and larger as the book continues until finally there is an old panther. After that panther dies, he returns to the dirt where his body enriches the soil and new plants grow. Thanks to the simple phrasing, the book is fast paced and the structure allows readers to be surprised and fascinated. The book ends with an explanation of the jungle as a living habitat. The bright illustrations framed by the black backgrounds leap off of the page and offer a sense of peering through jungle leaves and vines to see what is happening. A very approachable and interesting book on food cycles. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)
Thank You, Bees by Toni Yuly (9780763692612)
This bright and bold picture book is just right for the smallest of children. Exploring gratitude and appreciating the little things in life, this book moves through a little boy’s day as he thanks each thing that brings him joy. The sun is thanked for its light, the bees for honey, sheep for wool and trees for wood. By bedtime, the little boy thanks the entire earth for the life it gives. Done in very simple language of identifying what to be thankful for and then voicing the thanks, this book shows how easy it is to see the beauty of life. The art of the book is done in collage with items like wood, paper, and fabric. With the white background, the images pop on the page making this a good choice for sharing aloud with a group. It could also be used as an introduction for a gratitude exercise with small children. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)
A Letter to My Teacher by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter (9780375868450, Amazon)
The framework of this picture book is a thank you letter to a childhood teacher. Inside that framework, it is the story of a girl who is struggling to learn to read and the 2nd-grade teacher who taught patience and gave the little girl space and opportunity to bloom. Along with the little girl, there is also a gardening project in the classroom, one too that takes its own time to come to fruition though the hard work is done throughout the year. Through the year, there are learning moments, accidents, setbacks and leadership opportunities. It’s a year of inspiration that clearly lasted a lifetime.
Hopkinson’s words paint a vivid picture of a little girl who much prefers the out of doors over books and classwork. She is something of a loner, someone who learns to love books during the year and becomes much more part of the group by the end. Hopkinson shows a wonderful individual child who is still universal while being so specific. Hopkinson does the same with the character of the teacher, who is patient and yet has structure in her classroom and expectations. It is the story of all teachers who make a difference and see a child for who they can become.
Carpenter’s illustrations are also exceptional. They use color to keep the focus of the illustrations on the teacher and the little girl. The other child become part of the background at times, though they are still there. Carpenter also shows the relationship of teacher and child with a depth that is very effective, using expression on the characters faces to show the trust that is being built.
A perfect gift for teachers, this picture book is also full of hope and opportunity for children to notice how special their teachers are. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Schwartz & Wade.
In this week of Thanksgiving in the United States, I wanted to share my own thankfulness for those of you who take the time out of your busy day to read my blog. Thank you too to the librarians and teachers who connect children and books each and every day. Thank you to parents who spend bedtime with books shared together. May you have a lovely holiday week.
All of Me! A Book of Thanks by Molly Bang
Badger’s Fancy Meal by Keiko Kasza
Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman
Gracias/Thanks by Pat Mora, illustrated by John Parra
Pecan Pie Baby by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Jill McElmurry
Thank You and Good Night by Patrick McDonnell
Thank You, World by Alice B. McGinty, illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin
Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival by Grace Lin
Winter Candle by Jeron Frame, illustrated by Stacey Schuett
Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman
The Bear series by Karma Wilson continues to impress with its latest entry. There are only a few children’s picture book series that have maintained the quality of both writing and illustration as this series has. In this latest tale, Bear has an idea to create a big feast and invite his friends over to share. The only problem is that Bear has nothing in his cupboard at all. Mouse shows up with a pie to share, and Bear says “Thanks!” Bear continues to fret that he has nothing to share when Hare pops by with a batch of muffins to share. Badger then arrives with fish, Gopher and Mole bring warm honey nuts, and Owl, Raven and Wren have herbs for tea and pears to munch. But with no food to offer at all, what in the world can Bear give his friends?
I’ve always enjoyed the rhythm of this series and the repetition that makes them ideal to read aloud to toddlers. There is also a wonderful friendly warmth to the books, captured both by the colors of the illustrations and the story itself. That same warmth is here, friends offering food and sharing time with one another with no expectations. Chapman’s illustrations stay true to the series, offering pictures large enough to share with a group.
While this book is perfect for Thanksgiving story times, I’d also use it throughout the year when talking about sharing. This is a bear’s den that any of us would love to crawl into and spend some time in no matter what time of year it is. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Margaret K. McElderry Books.