The Biggest Puddle in the World by Mark Lee, illustrated by Nathalie Dion (9781554989799)
A little girl and her brother Charlie were staying with their grandparents for six days. On the first day, the spent time exploring the big old house. Then it started to rain. It rained the entire second day, as they continued to explore the house. It rained the entire third day, which they spent playing dress-up. The girl asked her grandfather, Big T, where the rain comes from. He promised to show her when the rain stopped and when they had found the biggest puddle. The next day, the sun was out and the children joined their grandfather outside. On their walk to find the biggest puddle, they explored small puddles, a stream, a pond and finally found the sea! Along the way, their grandfather explained the water cycle with evaporation, the clouds, rain and bodies of water.
Lee combines a science lesson with a fictional picture book very successfully here. The initial story of children visiting grandparents is filled with lovely moments of play and connection. The children may be bored at times, but they also find ways to spend their time even as rain comes down all around the house. When the sun returns, the world opens up to them and their adventures becomes less imagination and more real. The facts shared about the water cycle are shown as part of their walk and a natural conversation. Dion’s illustrations are light and filled with a sense of movement and air. The gray rainy days spent inside contrast beautifully with the sunshine of the outdoor pages.
A quiet picture book about family, weather and water. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Groundwood Books.
Red Sky at Night by Elly MacKay (9781101917831)
A series of weather-related sayings form the words in this book while also telling the story of a family heading out on a fishing trip for the day. The book begins with sayings like “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight” and “When the dew is on the grass, no rain will come to pass.” They indicate that it’s a great day to head out to fish and camp, so a grandfather takes his grandchildren out. There are sayings about sunset, about the moon, about rain. The next day on their way home though, the weather begins to change. Even the morning begins ominously with a “Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.” The little family makes it home before the rain begins, cozy and warm inside.
MacKay takes these sayings and weaves them together in to a story arc that guides young readers through the outdoors and the changing weather. Her illustrations are exceptional. Done with paper, light and photography, she calls them “lightbox illustrations or illuminated papercraft.” Her illustrations have such depth that one almost expects them to be physically layered pages in the book. The light in the illustrations bathes the reader, creating a physical experience of the weather at that moment.
An exceptional picture book about weather and beauty. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
In the third book by Usher that focuses on a specific type of weather, this one is sun-filled and summery. Told in the first person by the boy, he awakens to a sunny day that is just right for an outdoor adventure even if it’s “hotter than the Atacama Desert.” The two set off together with provisions and a large map. They walk and walk until they discover just the right place for a rest. Then they walk some more until they found some shade. More walking brought them to a huge cave. But when they enter, they discover some real adventure inside.
Usher’s books are told very simply. This picture book starts out as entirely reality based and then takes a marvelous fantastical turn when the pair enters the cave. All along, it is hinted at that they are walking on a real journey. The illustrations help tell this tale, showing huge skies, long areas to traverse and a changing landscape. User uses watercolors for the skies, creating vistas filled with summer heat colors that swirl on the page.
A winner in a great series, this one is just right for summer reading. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
This Beautiful Day by Richard Jackson, illustrated by Suzy Lee (9781481441391, Amazon)
Three children are spending a gray day inside as it pours rain. Then they start to dance and twirl, pulling blue into their day. They head outside with umbrellas and boots, walking through puddles, jumping and stomping. The rain ends and other come out with yellow and pink umbrellas and clothes, the colors starting to fill the page. Their umbrellas float up into the sky that is now blue with white clouds. The group of children play together in the field of flowers, climbing trees, rescuing umbrellas, and then treats back at home on a lovely day.
Jackson’s text is filled with motion and rhythm. It invites readers to swirl and twirl with the characters on the page. The action words in the text zing and zip, moving the book forward even as they celebrate the bad weather and move to the sunshine. There is a sense of optimism throughout the book, an acceptance and joy of rainy weather and then a true delight when it becomes sunny later.
Lee’s illustrations are lovely. They use color so skillfully, showing first the gray day while the children are quietly playing alone and then the single swirls of blue that color the children and their clothing. The book slowly unfolds with color, until it bursts like the meadow of flowers and the sun in the trees.
Share this one on rainy and sunny days. Just have umbrellas and boots ready along with popsicles too. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum.
Home in the Rain by Bob Graham (9780763692698, Amazon)
Francie and her mother are headed home from Grandma’s house. It rains and rains. It rains enough that a big truck washes their car into a picnic area. Nearby, the rain hits rabbits, mice and a hawk. It rains on fishermen and ducks. Francie and her mother wait in the car, the windows steaming up. Francie writes their names on the windows. She asks her mother what her new baby sister’s name will be when she arrives, but her mother doesn’t know yet. They eat a picnic in the car together and then they pull back onto the road and continue home. When they stop to get gas, Francie’s mother decides on her little sister’s name and the sun returns to light their way home.
Graham has written a lovely picture book that is more complicated than it seems. It is the story of a little red car heading home. It’s the story of a family about to get one person bigger. It is the story of names and inspiration. It’s the story of rain and water and weather. Graham ties all of these elements together into one precious rain-soaked bundle that really works. It is bursting with the love of family on every page.
Graham’s illustrations are done in his signature style. The characters are people of color and their car becomes a haven and a busy room filled with small details. The book then pulls away to the countryside and their small car seen from above. The rain sweeps the pages and the animals appear. The play of close comfort in the car with wide scenery captures the wildness of the storm and strengthens the intimacy of the family.
A special book that looks at those delicate moments before the birth of a new baby, this picture book celebrates family and storms. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Storm by Akiko Miyakoshi (InfoSoup)
A little boy heads home after school, excited about a trip to the beach the next day with his family. His teacher did warn that a storm was coming and as the evening goes by, the sky gets darker. His parents prepare for a storm and reassure him that even if they can’t go to the beach the next day, they will go another weekend. Soon rain starts to fall and then the wind picks up and blows hard. When it gets too loud, the boy jumps into his bed and pulls his covers over his head. Soon he is dreaming about being on a ship with big propellers that help to drive the storm away. Finally the storm moves off and his ship can sail higher into the sky. When the boy wakes up the next morning, he discovers a lovely day. Just right for a visit to the beach!
Miyakoshi’s picture book is filled with tension. Not only of the storm itself but of the waiting for the storm to arrive and then the concern about how it will impact their plans for the next day. It is a tension that children will understand, whether about weather and storms or about big plans being disrupted. It is also a picture book that speaks to the power of nature and the way that children can have plans with little control over them.
The illustrations in the book are black and white with small touches of color like the blue sky after the storm. The charcoal style has a lovely texture throughout. Light and dark play on the page with one storm page filled with rain showing the falling water as bright zings of light in the darkness. There is both a feeling of drama and also one of safety throughout, particularly during dinner and at bedtime.
This stormy picture book is one that children will relate to on a variety of levels. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Kids Can Press and Edelweiss.
Tree by Britta Teckentrup (InfoSoup)
The seasons pass as an owl looks out of a hole in a tree in this engaging picture book. Beginning in winter, owl is alone in the cold landscape. When spring comes, the snow melts and buds form on the tree. Baby bears play and climb the tree’s trunk. Leaves and blossoms form and squirrels, birds and fox cubs arrive. With summer, the apples start to form on the tree and the tree spends long warm nights swaying in the breeze. Autumn comes with colder temperatures and the animals start to leave. Apples fall to the ground and the tree’s leaves turn red and fold. Snow comes and winter arrives. Soon everyone is gone, even the owl. But he is peeking out again soon as spring comes once again.
Teckentrup uses simple rhymes to tell the story of one large tree and the ways that it supports the ecosystem around it. The seasons are clearly noted in the rhymes, the changes explained and each one is celebrated for how unique it is. The various animals too change what they are doing as the weather shifts. This is a dynamic book about weather and seasons.
It is the illustrations that make this book so noteworthy. Teckentrup’s cut out designs allow each page turn to show the owl for most of the book but also to add the other animals as they appear in the story. Then as the story reverses and the animals leave, the cut outs play out that way too.
A clever and striking look at one tree, one ecosystem and many seasons. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Random House.
Rain by Carol Thompson
Snow by Carol Thompson
Sun by Carol Thompson
Wind by Carol Thompson
Four lovely little board books in this set by Thompson. Told very simply but with plenty of energy, these books look at different kinds of weather and children out playing in it. Rain begins with a bit of hesitation but ends with the merry fun of jumping into puddles. Snow invites children to breathe out clouds and plunk right down in the snow. Sun has clothes coming off and playing in a pool together. Wind roars from page to page but then in the end is gentle too.
Introduce toddlers to different kinds of weather and different seasons, but even more importantly get them outside to experience it themselves too! Appropriate for ages 1-2.
Reviewed from copies received from Child’s Play.
When the Wind Blows by Linda Booth Sweeney, illustrated by Jana Christy
Head outside on a windy day in this breezy picture book. When the wind chimes start to ring, a family excitedly gets ready to go outside into the fresh air. Together a little boy and his grandmother fly a kite that eventually breaks free and rides off on the wind. The wind blows the grass and flowers. It also sends the sailboats out on the water racing. The wind gets even stronger and a storm moves in with thunder and rain. They head back home into the bright warm lights of the house. There they are cozy and protected, unworried about the storm that continues outside. It is night when the storm clears and everyone is asleep.
Told in short rhyming lines of poetry, this picture book manages to be fresh and fun rather than stilted in any way. The rhymes and their rhythms offer a dynamic edge to the book, creating movement that echoes that of the wind in the words themselves. The attention is on both humans enjoying the breezy weather and also nature as the storm moves in. This is an invitation to head out into changing weather.
Christy’s illustrations are gorgeous. They have vivid colors and capture the movement of the wind. Just seeing the images evokes wind and breeze, as if fresh air is lifting off each page as you read. She also captures the joy of being out in weather, the fun of wild wind and the beauty of oncoming storms.
A beautiful look at weather, wind and rain that will have everyone looking for their kites on the next breezy day. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from G.P. Putnam’s Sons.