Tag Archives: seasons

Day 156 – The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree

Arnold lives with his parents in a little white farm house out in the country, and sitting alone on top of a hill at the farm is Arnold’s Apple tree. It is in this idyllic setting that Gail Gibbons’ “The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree” takes place, and where Ms. Gibbons – with the help of Arnold and his tree friend – walks readers through the changing seasons in a characteristically engaging manner.

apple treeThe book begins in spring, where we find Arnold lounging in the tree’s branches, enjoying the sweet smelling apple blossoms, and watching the bees collect nectar. In the summer, he builds a tree house to go with the swing he hung in the spring, and he does a juggling act with some of the green apples that have begun to grow large. In the fall, he rakes the falling leaves and gathers the delicious red, ripe apples in a basket to take home – where he and his family make apple pie and apple cider. In the winter, he builds a snow fort around his friend with a snowman sentry. The tree’s branches are bare – at least until Arnold decorates them with strings of popcorn and berries! Of course, after the snow melts…it’s spring again!

Just like most Gail Gibbons books, this book was full of great information and colorful illustrations. There is less information packed into this book than we have found in other Gibbons books, where many pages are filled with insets and callouts. “The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree” has more of a traditional storybook flow. There is an inset about apple blossoms and bees, an apple pie recipe, and a diagram of a cider press – but the focus in this book is clearly on the interaction between Arnold and his tree. It’s a charming book that helps explain the seasons to little listeners, and will make readers long to spend a lazy day around their own apple tree out in the country…at least, that’s how it made me feel!


Day 119 – Swing Around the Sun

So…it’s April and you’re looking for a book about seasons that also has poetry – you know, for National Poetry Month? Well, have we got the book for you! “Swing Around the Sun” is a charming collection of seasonal poems by Barbara Juster Esbensen about the colors, events, and feelings that we typically identify with each of the seasons. It’s a book that is a joy to read aloud, and with seasonally appropriate illustrations blanketing every page in color, it’s also an engaging work of art.swing

We were originally alerted to “Swing Around the Sun” by author Laura Purdie Salas – who mentioned that book as one of her inspirations during an online author event several weeks back at Read Aloud Revival. Ms. Esbensen has written five short and engaging poems for each season, with our favorite being “The Wind Woman”…in part because of the dramatic illustration that seems to show the face of the Wind Woman flying over the shadows of trees in the evergreen forest of winter.

Originally published in 1965, “Swing Around the Sun” was reissued in 2003 with an all-star cast of four illustrators – each one applying a unique style and creating a particular feeling around each of the seasons. As a side note, I did think it was interesting that each of the four illustrators currently lives in the Twin Cities in Minnesota. While I thought each artist’s style was appropriate for the chosen season, our favorite illustrations in their own right were Janice Lee Porter’s for Summer.swing 2

This was a very entertaining picture book, and one which I am glad to have added to our collection (poetry books are particularly nice to be able to pick up and read again and again). I will admit that I had to order a copy of the original 1965 edition as well, if only because I love the old-school look of the orange and yellow sun illustration on the front cover. Hey – having two copies can’t hurt…can it? We’re not entirely buried in books yet!


Day 100 – Water is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle

If you have you been looking for some fact-based picture books that help to explain the world around you to your children, while also providing enough entertainment to keep their attention from beginning to end, you’ve come to the right place! We are thrilled whenever we can find books that fill this need, and we like to fit as many into our reading list as possible. For the month of April one of our “real world” themes is the water cycle – in honor of the April showers for which this month is known (in the Northern Hemisphere, at least). Saturday’s selection, “Water is Water” by Miranda Paul and Jason Chin, is a lovely introduction to the water cycle, with lush, playful illustrations and poetic prose that makes for an entertaining read-aloud experience.water is water
The book follows a brother and sister as they and their friends experience the various forms that water can take throughout the year…steam, clouds, rain, ice, snow, etc. The changing seasons are beautifully illustrated with a backdrop that made me wish for a country house for our girls; nearly every two page spread presents a joyful scene of children playing outdoors and enjoying nature’s beauty to the fullest. The illustrations alone make me thankful to have this book in our library. The words are spare but they have a lyrical cadence with just the right amount of repetition to keep reader and listener alike engaged from beginning to end. I particularly liked the repeated use of the word “unless” to lead from one page to the next: “water is water, unless…it heats up…” in which case it is steam, or “fog is fog, unless…it falls down…” in which case it is rain, etc.
 
The last few pages provide additional detail to explain the various stages of the water cycle, along with some interesting numbers about water, like the fact that oceans hold 96.5% of all the water in the world, while 99% of the fresh water in the world is trapped as ice or snow or is hidden in underwater reservoirs. If I understood them correctly, that means that if you combine all the fresh-water lakes in the world, you would have collected no more than 0.04% of all the water on the Earth. I don’t know if that impresses anyone else, but it seems pretty amazing to me. If you are standing on the shore of one of the Great Lakes (for example) and all you can see is water, it must be mind-boggling to imagine that all that water is still only a tiny, tiny fraction of the world’s fresh water.
 
But I digress. “Water is Water” is another delightful picture book that happens to also be full of great information about how the real world works – and it conveys and captures a true sense of joy about being out in nature. It may also be of note for some parents that the brother and sister are biracial –  I didn’t notice it until I read another review of the book, but for some readers that could add valuable color to an already charming book.

Day 93 – When Green Becomes Tomatoes

As you will know if you follow this blog, we thoroughly enjoyed reading Julie Fogliano’s “and then it’s spring” on Day 80 of our storybook year. Imagine our delight when we discovered “When Green Becomes Tomatoes”, a book of verse about the seasons by Ms. Fogliano, which was released on March 1, 2016. The timing was just right for us to put it on the list for April…National Poetry Month…and boy, are we glad we did!

GreenThis charming book is a compilation of short, free verse poetry presented as a series of journal entries. The journal begins and ends on March 20, the vernal equinox, and there are poems scattered intermittently on days throughout the year in between (I hesitate to say that they are scattered randomly…that may be the case, but the author may have some intentional pattern that I haven’t noticed yet). The delightfully evocative prose captures how I imagine a child would view, and experience, the changing of the seasons – conveying a sense of wonder in the process. Ms. Fogliano finds ways, with short clauses and carefully chosen words, to present ideas in a creative and intriguing way which really appealed to us. I paused periodically while reading to ponder what she was saying, and thought to myself, “I wouldn’t have thought to describe it that way…but it absolutely makes sense.”  We appreciated the way that each season is welcomed in it’s time – the writer is clearly ready for each transition to take place.

Ms. Morstad’s  illustrations are a perfect complement to Ms. Fogliano’s poetry – presenting playful and colorful images of children interacting with the changing seasons. We love Ms. Morstad’s artwork, in “When Green Becomes Tomatoes” as well as in “How To” and “This Is Sadie” – two other books which we own and will be reading and reviewing here later this year.

There wasn’t a poem in this book that we didn’t enjoy. We had a lot of fun taking turns reading aloud and presenting different vocal interpretations of each poem, followed by extensive discussion in some cases. It was a truly interactive and fulfilling read-aloud experience!


Day 88 – Circle of Seasons

Today’s book, Gerda Muller’s “Circle of Seasons”, is a simple and soothing introduction to the seasons, complete with playful and captivating illustrations in Ms. Muller’s characteristic style. While paging through this lovely book, we kept feeling as though we wanted to be inside each of the seasonal scenes, and we could feel a love of nature and of natural beauty shining through each of the drawings.

Circle“Circle of Seasons” is actually a compilation of four “Seasons” board books that were individually published in 1994. The four original books have no text, just Ms. Muller’s charming pictures. This “Circle of Seasons” compilation adds only minimal prose to these illustrations, and does a really nice job of maintaining a slow and inviting pace. After reading the cover page for Spring, (“You know it’s spring when…”) the reader is presented a wordless 2 page bucolic scene of a little country house with flowers in bloom, buds on the trees, baby sheep in the field, and many other sweet details that children can come to associate with the season. Each wordless spread, two per season, presents a welcome invitation to stop and explore the illustrations, to discuss what is happening in the picture and to pick out the details that might be associated with the season depicted. I love the timeless nature of the seasonally-appropriate games and activities taking place in each scene, and I thought it was neat that Ms. Muller included both Christmas and Hanukkah as representative of winter.

We have had Ms. Muller’s Seasons books in our collection for several years, and they have been solid favorites with our youngest for quite a while. I had a bit of a hard time locating a copy of this compilation, but I am so thankful we found one to add to our Gerda Muller collection.

 


Day 81 – World Poetry Day

Today, in honor of World Poetry Day and the changing of the seasons, we read a book of  poems by renowned Children’s author Margaret Wise Brown: “A Celebration of the Seasons”. Although I am by no means a poetry aficionado (I lean toward Shel Silverstein, “The Raven”, and silly limericks), I think that this book of posthumously published nature poems inspired by Ms. Brown’s childhood on Long Island is a very attractive piece of work. It is a delightful combination of lilting prose and beautiful artwork, even if I didn’t absolutely love all the poems.celebration

Published in late 2015, “A Celebration of the Seasons” is actually the second collection of previously unpublished poems by Ms. Brown. As in the first volume, “Goodnight Songs,” each of the twelve poems in “A Celebration of the Seasons” is illustrated by a different artist, and the results are impressive. We had a hard time picking favorites from this collection. I was particularly fond of “the song of tiny cat” about a diminutive banjo-playing feline who is so small that he uses a ladybug for a pillow. I thought Blanca Gomez’s “handmade collage” fit the mood of the poem perfectly, and her little cat made me smile. Our oldest singled out “Fall of the Year” – mostly because of Leo Espinosa’s joyful picture of a little girl dancing among the falling leaves on an autumn day in New England. In truth, however, nearly every one of the two-page spreads in the book is a treat for the eyes.

I recommend taking time to read the introduction and end notes of the book. The introduction provides a brief biography of Ms. Brown and sheds some light not only on her love of nature, but her love of poetry and music. One observation from the introduction that really struck me was her belief that if she could sing the words to a story or poem she wrote, then she knew it had the right tempo (the book actually comes with a CD of songs to go with the poems, but I have not listened to it in detail). The end notes include blurbs about each of the artists, along with brief descriptions from each of how they went about creating their illustrations. It’s fascinating stuff that makes me appreciate the book that much more – and it’s the kind of thing I probably would not have taken the time to read before embarking on our storybook year.


Day 80 – and then it’s spring

In honor of the first day of spring today we read a whimsical, wonderful book about a little boy and his animal friends waiting for the season to start. The story begins with the little boy, his scarf blowing in the wind and his nose red from the cold, looking into the distance across a barren brown landscape: “First you have brown, all around you have brown…” The text (“First you have…”), the boy’s distant gaze, and the expectant tilt of his dog’s head convey a sense of anticipation…something is coming.spring

Eager to help spring arrive as soon as possible, the boy plants seeds…and he waits. He inspects his handiwork…and he waits. He sits in his little red wagon and fears that his seeds have been devoured by fat little birds or stomped by clumsy bears…and he waits. He sets out bird feeders and hangs a tire swing…and he waits. Meanwhile, underground there is a riot of activity…a “greenish hum” which you can hear “if you put your ear to the ground and close your eyes.” And eventually, one day he walks out and all that brown isn’t around…instead “all around you have green.”

“and then it’s spring” by author Julie Fogliano and illustrator Erin E. Stead is a sweet and lovely book which we thoroughly enjoyed – in English and then in a Spanish translation as well. primaveraLike Kevin Henkes’ “Waiting”, “and then it’s spring” does a marvelous job of combining limited but well-chosen prose with beautifully detailed and subtly humorous artwork to effectively capture what I imagine waiting must feel like through the eyes of a child. We were particularly fond of Ms. Stead’s drawings: the little boy’s confident and determined posture as he pulls his wagon full of gardening supplies, the haphazard arrangement of seed mounds in the little boy’s garden, the little animal vignettes taking place all around him, and especially the small variations from page to page that hint of the coming change in seasons. I recommend reading the book once through to get the flow of Ms. Fogliano’s text first, followed by a slower second pass to truly savor all the fascinating and funny details Ms. Stead has managed to work into every page.