Tag Archives: spring

Day 135 – A Seed is Sleepy

As part of our May focus on flowers, seeds, and gardening, today we read a fantastic reality-based picture book by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long: “A Seed is Sleepy”. Like their collaboration on “An Egg is Quiet”, “A Seed is Sleepy” is a true work of art, blending poetic text with vibrant and detailed watercolor illustrations to introduce younger listeners to the world of seeds – where they come from, their many different shapes and sizes, and the remarkable ways in which they ensure that they will grow into the plants they are meant to become.

sleepyAlmost every page of the book ascribes a human characteristic to seeds, and uses that characteristic to help explain a seed’s journey. It’s an engaging and clever approach. A seed is secretive because it does not reveal itself too quickly, a seed is adventurous because it must strike out on its own in search of a less crowded place to put down roots, and a seed is generous because it gives the baby plant a seed coat to keep it warm, etc. The flowing cursive font and the pictures work together to enhance the poetic feeling of the book. On each page you can also find short paragraphs of additional information, in smaller block lettering, placed between the illustrations – and each of the seeds or plants shown are labeled in the same font for easy identification – not unlike a handwritten and lovingly prepared field guide.

I love how this book introduces children to all the different things that a seed can be, or the different ways they can behave, in such an artistic and engaging way. I also appreciated the little nuggets of information, including an anecdote about the oldest known seed to actually sprout: a date palm seed found in the remains of an ancient palace in Israel. The book is a wonderful combination of fact and art. There is a bit of a magical quality to it as well – which fits with the magical fact that a single seed has everything necessary to grow into a giant tree, all packed inside a tiny seed coat. While the cursive font may be challenging for some younger readers to follow on their own, they should still have fun picking this book up just to examine Ms. Long’s illustrations – I certainly enjoyed looking back over it again as I was writing this review.


Day 95 – When Spring Comes

Just released in February of this year, “When Spring Comes” is a delightful collaboration between author Kevin Henkes and his wife, illustrator Laura Dronzek. With vibrant illustrations and playfully repetitive text, the book reminds us of the old adage that good things come to those who wait: there may only be bare trees, brown grass, and snow as winter winds down…but if you wait, eventually you will see all manner of fascinating and beautiful signs of spring!

whenThe pages of the book are illustrated in a simple but compelling style reminiscent of Mr. Henkes’ own work, although Ms. Dronzek makes more liberal use of vibrant colors to fill out her drawings. Rich hues of deep blue, earthy brown, and emerald green dominate, and the pictures should easily grab the attention of young listeners. The text has repetition and alliteration that is fun to read aloud and is great for beginning readers: “Before spring comes…the trees look like black sticks against the sky, but if you wait…the grass is brown, but if you wait…the garden is just dirt and empty, but if you wait…” (emphasis mine). And, when spring is fully here, you will know it because there will be “buds, bees, boots, and bubbles…worms, wings, wind, and wheels.” Mr. Henkes also makes reference to how you will feel it, smell it, and hear it when Spring comes, which makes for a fun discussion of the senses and how they can perceive the changing seasons.

The text of the book is a fairly accurate representation of how I think a child might look at the changing seasons – waiting to be able to splash in the mud, waiting to play with kittens, waiting to romp in the flowers, waiting to blow bubbles, waiting to do all the things you are ready to do once you have grown tired of winter. I think waiting is a continual, and often frustrating, state of being for a child…which reminds me of a story (bear with me, it fits): when our oldest was maybe five or six, we took her to see a Tom Petty show. When Tom got to the refrain of his song “The Waiting” (“…the waiting is the hardest part…“), our daughter yelled out “I HATE WAITING, TOO!”. See what I mean?

Where was I? Oh, yes – that concept of continually (impatiently?) waiting for the next thing to happen is captured here in an entertaining and humorous way – much like it is in two other wonderful books we have read recently: “and then it’s spring” by Julie Fogliano and “Waiting” by Mr. Henkes himself. My favorite part of this book was actually right at the end where we are reminded that after spring has finally arrived, we aren’t finished waiting…for summer!


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 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.