Tag Archives: board books

Springtime with Kevin Henkes

In the same way that Jan Brett shines best in winter, Kevin Henkes was made for springtime.  While he is now a prolific picture book author/illustrator, it seems that all his best works embody spring somehow. Maybe it’s his color palette… simple but strong colors in very restrained but delightful shapes. Whatever the case may be, his books are always strong favorites in my house for the younger set… so I wanted to highlight his best of spring themes. I’ve always thought it would be fun to gift a certain THEME of books among my children— I’m thinking Easter baskets here; certain author themes would fit this well too!

Brand new this year and nearly wordless… four eggs hatch and an unexpected friendship ensues.

Last year, this book stole my heart for its burst of color and sweet text. A wonderful primary-age celebration of spring.

The sweet little “Mama loves you” story… also available as a board book!

Let the birding season begin! This is my very favorite *early* bird book.

A board book perfect for a toddler’s Easter basket… an ode to candy basically. 😀

A potentially bad day… reframed. Not just for kids.

Gardening season is beginnning! Kick it off with this imaginative girl…

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Easter Basket Board Books…

Eloise Wilkins. Garth Williams. Tibor Gergely. The Provensens. These are the names of some of the best illustrators in Golden Books history.  Some of the old Golden Books are superb. And publishers are now waking up to the fact that we MISS those books, so they are slowly bringing back into print some of the nostalgic pieces of yesteryear. We are happy.

What is even happier is when the Golden Books upgrade from their fairly fragile spines to the sturdiness of board books! Here is a list of some of these board books that are the best of that grouping… the ones that are readily available to arrive in prompt shipping style for a certain upcoming holiday (other little treasures can, of course, be found and patiently waited for from third party sellers…)

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Spring Transition Favorites

The coming of spring is probably the most prolific genre of seasonal transition books in the picture book world.  Summer is absolutely the LEAST written about as far as transition time goes… likely because it’s a much more subtle change than the crisping of leaves in fall and falling of snow in winter.  With spring it’s the new life and the great thaw.

I know half the country is blanketed with snow still but here in the Pacific Northwest it’s been downright glorious and unusually warm. The daffodils and tulips are poking out of the ground and we all want to scream at them, “Wait! Not yet! It’s too soon!”  Not because we don’t welcome the sun and 60 degree weather but because we are afraid the frost season isn’t over and this warm spell is some sort of cosmic trickery.

But I will take this opportunity to revel in some of my favorite books of the time and opine about which springtime titles merit being called some of the BEST in “seasonal transition literature.” A couple are pulled from my general Top Ten Springtime Book list.

 Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit: A Book of Changing Seasons by Il Sung Na. I purchased this board book recently for my daughter to fill in our baby book basket. It is delightful and fun.  Il Sung Na’s style is so unique, I am always happy to have her books offer a bit of a different picture than the rich, traditional drawings.  I think this would make a marvelous precursor to her A Book of Babies which seems to be just about perfect springtime reading…

Spring Thaw by Steven Schnur is such an obvious choice with the gorgeous, pastoral setting and oil painted illustrations by Stacey Schuett and the light, quiet text. I discussed it more here.

 And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano and Erin Stead is one of those rare books that I bought at full price right when I saw it.  I was and still am enamored by the cadence and pacing of this book. I declare it to be a must have. When read properly, it’s bliss.

 At Grandpa’s Sugar Bush and/or  Sugarbush Spring by Marsha Wilson Chall.  Any beginning of spring list should include at least one title about tapping maple trees.  Both of these are great choices in their own right. Rich, luscious artwork, either title will make non-New Englanders wish they could trample the slushy snow and tap trees. If I had to choose one, I’d only be able to base it on whether I wanted my child to identify with the female or male voice. Now if anyone reading this happens to know or get a hold of The Sugaring-Off Party, please let me know what you think! I’m dying to see those folksy illustrations up close.

 You’re probably familiar with the winter delight, Owl Moon, but did you know about Goose Moon by Carolyn Arden and Jim Postier? The story kicks off with winter coming when geese fly southward and a little girl enjoys the season of sledding and fun. But eventually it gets tiresome and she longs for springtime. Her grandpa tells her how we can tell spring is coming and the story ends with the arrival of a very special moonlit moment.

 Sun Bread by Elisa Kleven. Another one heavy on the excellent rhyme and meter, I’m in love with this book. A town needs to shake off the cold and positively FORCE springtime into existence with the baking of sun bread. The always enchanting Kleven illustrations bring this one alive.

 When Spring Comes by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock traipses through the various (19th century) activities a girl longs for while she waits for the sun to return after winter. This is also illustrated by Stacey Scheuett who did Spring Thaw. I like the easy amount of text that stands back just enough to let the gorgeous illustrations tell the story.

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I judged a book by its cover.

deceptively fantastic…

… I gambled. And I lost the gamble.  I stumbled across the book Baby Born and fell in love with the cover art.  I read the reviews. I got a tiny taste of the inside and I was certain it was going to be my next, undiscovered gem to rave about here.  I imagined an Elisa Kleven style inside. I have a winter baby to whom I was eager to present this book as a gift (it’s ideal for a first birthday present.)

But I don’t love it. The burst of color is there. But the pages are fairly few. The verse feels very prosaic. And there is a weird technique done with the faces and hairlines of the people inside that just slightly crossed the line of “quirky cool” to “quirky ugly”… in my opinion.  The book is okay. I’m not going to get rid of it… because my three year old was excited to see a new book in the “baby basket”, but I’ve no plans to ever replace it, and I certainly wouldn’t spend a precious $8 on it. There will be no loving inscription written to my daughter in this; I’ll choose something else (something safer).

So it just goes to show you that even a book with a (as of this date) “perfect” 5 star review can’t necessarily be trusted.  But that cover is gorgeous isn’t it?!

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The Best Treasuries, Sets and Collections

This is the time of year to be thinking about meaningful gifts. Perhaps even heirloom gifts!  Each Christmas, one of the gifts our kids receive are books… often picked up throughout the year at a thrift store and saved, but sometimes a special title I’ve been eyeing a while and know a particular child would love. Sometimes, we gift a set or deluxe collection of something to a child and these have become treasured components of their personal growing libraries.  You have to be a little bit careful when buying “sets” of books because a couple mistakes are often made:  1- the set is incomplete of what you consider to be essential favorites.  2- The set includes abridged versions of stories. Or the biggest grievance I have: the set includes illustrations that have been truncated, altered or deleted to the point of ruining a good story. (Don’t mess with McCloskey!) But sometimes, despite some of these mistakes, the collection can still be an wonderful investment and treasured gift. Here are a few of what I think are the best of the best offered right now.

BOARD BOOK SETS

 

Gyo Fujikawa’s Little Library. What a deal!  Happy art. Simple text. Tiny books. Perfect for a two year old maybe…

Jan Brett’s Little Library. Contains three of her must have board books: The Mitten, The Hat, and The Gingerbread Baby.

Brown Bear & Friends Board Book Gift Set. All three of the infectious rhyme books that get read over and over again in our home…

Margaret Wise Brown’s: Baby’s First Library A perfect gift for new babies!

The Little Red Box of Bright and Early Board Books. I love P. D. Eastman and my three year old does too.  I don’t mind that these are abridged versions of the classic books (in fact I welcome the shortening since I am currently asked to read Go, Dog Go twice a day, every day.)

 

PICTURE BOOK SETS or ANTHOLOGIES

 

Mad about Madeline. Doesn’t every girl between 5-8 need this collection (and not the later, added on versions…)?!

Frederick and His Friends: Four Favorite Fables. There is another one by the same author but I prefer the titles in the first set if I had to choose just one.

The Complete Adventures of Curious George. Again… the original tales are so beloved! No need to scramble after the dozens of after-tales by other authors. They aren’t “bad”… just not quite as charming as the original.

Once There Was a Boy… Boxed Set. Delighted to find this new this year!!!  I have a son who loves Oliver Jeffers and this just may go under our tree next month!

Eloise Wilkin Stories: Little Golden Book Treasury. For nostalgic mothers who love Wilkin’s work and want to pass the beauty onto their daughters…

Mike Mulligan and More: Four Classic Stories by Virginia Lee Burton. Unabridged and complete illustrations!

Lois Ehlert’s Growing Garden Gift Set. A lovely collection for budding gardeners.

Jan Brett’s Snowy Treasury. Four of her best, snowy books!

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile Storybook Treasury. Lyle is an odd one. Some children don’t really fall in love with him. Others engage and won’t let go. To those children, this is a wonderful collection.

Richard Scarry’s Best Little Golden Books Ever!  A collection of just plain, old fashioned good stories illustrated by the incomparable Scarry.

Maurice Sendak’s Nutshell Library. My favorite… everybody needs Alligators All Around!

Dr. Seuss’s Beginner Book Collection. Pares down the vast Dr. Seuss collection to just the must-have classics.

Babar’s Anniversary Album: 6 Favorite Books. Originals only!

Joy to the World: Tomie’s Christmas Stories. Worth the collection for the Three Kings book alone in it…

The Paddington Treasury: Six Classic Bedtime Stories. Good old Paddington, delighting British children for ages now.  Let’s reignite love for him on this side of the water!

The World of Peter Rabbit: Books 1-23, Presentation Box. Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without this:  the pièce de résistance‘!

CHAPTER BOOK SETS

Pooh’s Library. Individually bound.  Or in one volume if you prefer.

Mercy Watson Boxed Set: Adventures of a Porcine Wonder.  Let’s be honest. These are barely chapter books.  Indeed, I give them to my eager 8 year old who still stumbles to read independently.  But he feels such a mastery at reading these “official big kid” books… Mercy Watson is a great bridge to real chapter book reading.

Little House Nine-Book Box Set. C’mon. Every home needs this.

Favorite Thornton Burgess Animal Stories Boxed Set . Lots of bang for your buck with the Dover produced classics here!

Old Mother West Wind and 6 Other Stories. Same great bargain, but different titles as above.

Anne of Green Gables, Complete 8-Book Box Set. Because I have a ginger-haired girl who will love this someday.  Well, she acts more cayenne than ginger!

The Chronicles of Narnia. Please, please be certain to buy a version of these books WITHOUT the movie tie-in photographs on the covers!!!  Let imaginations come alive before putting real actor images in their minds!

The Chronicles of Narnia Complete 7 Volume CD Box Set (Unabridged). Audio book to own and play in the car!!! I’ve had my finger hovering over “Buy Now” on this for a couple years now!

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings: Deluxe Pocket Boxed Set. This set is leather bound. Are you kidding me?!  I might buy it for MYSELF since it lends itself so well to re-reading.  And these books do need to be reread many times through one’s life.

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