Tag Archives: spring

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…


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…)


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, early buds are peeking defiantly out of the cold, frozen ground. And we ought 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 any current 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.

 It’s Springtime, Mr. Squirrel. I am a Sebastian Meschenmoser groupie and zealot. We LOVE his book Waiting for Winter and have delighted in his other titles as well. So when this book came out this year, it was irresistable for me.  Silly Mr. Squirrel is back… and the gentle, wry humor of Meschenmoser’s illustrations steal the show once again.

 When the Root Children Wake Up.  Like many of Elsa Beskow’s glorious titles, beware of purchasing Sybille Von Olfers’ books that seem like a bargain deal.  Mostly sold nowadays are the mini-editions which are alright, but don’t do justice to the original illustrations.  Often the quality is compromised in the reprints. But when you find these big, ol’ hardcovers… they are wonderful, satisfying drinks of whimsy.

 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.

 In Like a Lion Out Like a Lamb.  This fun little story personifies the old adage: “March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb.” The old beast wreaks havoc in a boy’s home before the sweet, little lamb ushers in springtime…

 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.

  Crinkle, Crackle, CRACK It’s Spring!  Calling all onamatopeia lovers!  What is that sound as winter wanes on its last holdout and begins to fall apart…?  This is the book for you, ending in lovely little splurge of whimsy.  John Shelley’s illustrations evoke an interesting blend of vintage while still being novel and warm.

 When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes became an instant favorite of mine when I first saw it.  Henkes is the perfect illustrator for this season with bright, full colors and primary, simple scenes.  He and his wife managed to produce an elegant, rythmic book that ought to be read in every home.

 Abracadabra, it’s Spring! This title by Anne Sibley O’Brien is an eruption of color and rhyme and beauty. It’s companion volume (Hocus Pocus, it’s Fall!) is equally fun and enjoyable. These are both perfect for the pre-school set…


Sorting and Displaying Books… for now.

Someone recently asked me how I organize books in our home.  The answer is that we’ve gone through a few different methods and the current one isn’t ideal, but it works. “Do the best you can with what you’ve got!” What we currently do is this: picture books are sorted into 12 stacks—one for each month.  The stacks not in use are stored in the attic (not ideal since it’s dusty up there but I don’t have space in our main living area quite just yet). The current month is stored in a basket like so:

Each stack is comprised of both seasonally appropriate books and generic titles.  I used to have only seasonal divisions but as our book collection grew, two things happened:  1-My basket wasn’t big enough to hold a full season.  2- Many of the books NOT season specific never got read!  Adding in generic titles to our monthly baskets was the best thing I ever did!  Now, our excellent picture books all get read and loved in a healthy rotation and the children are happy to see “novel” titles each month.  So anyway, here is the month of April spread out (doesn’t the toddler and soup near those books make you nervous?!  Me too… I quickly put them away after this–and yes, that’s the cover missing off of Caps for Sale but I can’t bear to toss it in my upcycling pile until I replace the book):
Seems I’ve got about 20-25 books for most months right now. Each week, I grab some of the books and put them on the piano for display–an (effective) effort to lure young readers into wanting to grab one of those titles. Occasionally a library book or two (library books have their own basket) will be displayed like this with our regular ones:
This is the general plan and it works well for now but it doesn’t solve the problem of most of our non-fiction titles which live on the bottom half of a shelf in our spare room. The top row seen here is pretty much every religious book we own, along with an assortment of fables and fairy tale books (probably not a great idea to put those categories on the same shelf as if they are equal genres… but it fits).  The middle row is all of our biographies, science, history, etc. books of the living sort that we read and reference frequently in our school studies. This row is full and tight and spilling onto the bottom row which is a smattering of readers, Dr. Seuss, Bob Books etc. The problem is that I often forget what I have!  I don’t want to employ the Dewey Decimal System in my home, but I’ve got to get a better accounting method going on for when we need a book on Ancient Egypt or dinosaurs for example.  I did set up a Library Thing account but it’s not been updated for over a year!  I think I’ll probably resort to shelf labels or magazine file holders for this area. It won’t be nearly as attractive but are books for aesthetics or utility?  (In my world, both… but I digress.)  
Okay, the top half of that bookshelf has our chapter books and a random smattering of games/stuff:
Our baby/board books (when not scattered throughout the house) get kept in their own little basket on a low end table for easy accessibility.  I try to rotate a few seasonal things in and out of there but mostly it’s just all the same… new ones come in via thrift stores and old ones get tossed after getting soaked, torn or chewed beyond repair. Here it was at Christmas:
So this is our method today… tomorrow may be different!  In addition to this, each child has their own small basket or shelf of personally owned or gifted books that are in their room. My daughter has hers in a really cool pallet shelf Papa built:
And my own collection of adult books are still waiting for a permanent home… except my homeschooling or education philosophy books which are accessible on a shelf above the computer.

Spring Thaw

Winter isn’t hard and drastic here in the Puget Sound region of Washington State, but I know many parts of the US, and obviously much of Canada are still blanketed in snow. Spring Thaw is a book for dwellers of these parts. Steven Schnur is an author I only associated with his lovely, seasonal acrostic books (e.g. Winter: An Alphabet Acrostic, Spring: An Alphabet Acrostic etc.) before coming across this title, bought cheaply second-hand (unfortunately, Amazon sellers are savvy to the seasonal demand of things and this is currently marked up on that market).  Was I in for a treat!  The text is reflective and evocative:

The sun climbs high into the blue sky. By mid-morning a thousand tiny streams run from the roof like a curtain of crystal beads.

And the illustrations are an oil paint impasto that would be wonderful to see in person!  The story is very simple telling of the first day’s break in snow and ends with a farmer enjoying the pale, warm sunset on his face.  It is an exquisite March book…  I think I need to update my Top Ten Spring booklist and divide it into two categories! The fresh start of Spring/end of Winter books and then the general springtime list.  Anyway, I took a few photos of the inside of this book for you…


Appreciating Arnosky

Today I dug into our October basket (yes, our “seasonal” rotation of picture books has now grown into a “monthly” rotation of books!! I include all our picture books in this rotation (excepting non-fiction) so as to ensure we are getting a chance to read and appreciate all the good ones we have.  Otherwise, treasures get buried and forgotten in the surplus.) and pulled out Every Autumn Comes the Bear by Jim Arnosky.

I was reminded again of how much we love this author.  Is it the brilliance of the text?  Not so much.  The glory of the illustrations?  Not exactly.  I think what it is has to do with the perfect marriage of text and imagery Arnosky offers in all of his books.  He writes simple story lines… easy enough for a 2 year old to sit through, yet engaging enough for an 8 year old to appreciate.  And he doesn’t fictionalize things or  indulge in anthropomorphism like so many other popular kiddy books do— I have no problem with talking animals, believe you me… but all things have their place.  And animals in Arnosky’s books are simply stars in the natural history story he has to tell. And they are excellent.

Tom Bombadil

We own Grandfather Buffalo and Coyote Raid In Cactus Canyon also but I’m starting to get the itch that tells me I need to purchase more of his titles… so loved they are and so seasonally appropriate they can be.  On my shortlist are Rabbits & Raindrops or Raccoons and Ripe Corn and Armadillo’s Orange (get a load of those used prices! Ha!). And we can’t forget Crinkleroot and his series… which are very basic primers to different aspects of nature; kids love them. As a side-note, Crinkleroot reminds me of how I envision a simpler version of Tom Bombadil. If you get that reference, it’s a strong indication you might be awesome.

Anyway, Jim Arnosky provides good stuff all around!  Go get some books!


Andrew Henry’s Meadow: Reissued

I’ve said dozens of times that asking a book lover to choose a favorite book is tantamount to asking a mother to choose a favorite child.  There is however one particular author/illustrator of whom I am especially fond.  If there was a forced admission of my Top Five children’s books of all times, two of her titles would be in that list.  This is Doris Burn.  She illustrated a book very dear to me (which incidentally was republished in 1999 with inferior artwork and a reduced family size) which sent me on a search for other Doris Burn titles (I am so excited that The Summerfolk will be showing up in the mail soon too!!!).  She is most famous for Andrew Henry’s Meadow.  

Until yesterday, that book was out of print, selling on the used market for $35 or more. But thank heavens publishers have some sense and aren’t committed to just churning out “newer, better” books all the time.  Andrew Henry’s Meadow has delighted young and old alike for several generations.  And now, you can purchase it for the bargain price of $11 at amazon.  It’s worth every penny.  Best of all, the publishers didn’t mess with the story at all.  There are still five children in the family.  The only discernible difference is the childish font they used for the front cover (I’m not a fan.) and the size of the book overall is slightly reformatted.  While the story takes place in the springtime, it makes for fine summer reading as well.  Now, there is a movie being made based on this book (I am both frightened and excited to see what Hollywood will do to this) and I’m sure that’s why it’s back in print, but we still can voice our appreciation in one major way: go purchase this book!  Our dollars speak and publishers hear the almighty dollar.  If we buy mediocre garbage, they’re happy to continue publishing it.  If we buy excellent, innovative books, they’ll publish them.  The book makes for excellent gift giving to any middle child you know, any creative child you know, any 7-12 year old boy you know, or any child at all really.  It is a standout picture book.  Thank you Philomel Books for reissuing one of the great titles in children’s literature… may there be many more to come!


This Is My Favorite Bird Book…

… for toddlers that is.  See there are a million and one fantastic picture books on birds, be they educational or purely for pleasure. (Ooh, sounds like a Top Ten list is in order soon!) But I really, really love this very simple one by Kevin Henkes titled Birds.

This must be the third time we’ve picked it up from the library now; I really should just get over myself and buy it already.  I read it today to my near three year old daughter and five year old son and we loved it again.  Our favorite part is when the tree yells “SURPRISE!!!”  Get the book, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  :o)

“Be grateful for luck. Pay the thunder no mind. Listen to the birds. 
And don’t hate nobody.”
-Eubie Blake

Isabella’s Garden: Library Pick of the Week

There are a million and one books that have copied the old “This is the house that Jack built” rhyming structure. While this does mean it can get tiresome… It does not mean that all new versions of it are unoriginal. Isabella’s Gardenby Glenda Millard is a lovely, lovely book. Originally published in Australia in 2009, it’s finally made its way to our shores and would make a gorgeous addition to anyone’s springtime basket. Well, it goes through all the seasons really, but the underlying theme is in the seeds lying “dark and deep”…

What really make this a treasure is the artwork done by artist Rebecca Cool; it is her first children’s book and we can only pray for more! It looks like a folk collage that you’d see hanging on a metropolitan art museum wall. The colors are perfect and bold and exciting, the people move with strange fluidity and vibrancy. I absolutely love it all!

These are the flowers that waltz in the wind that ruffles the buds all velvety skinned…

One Potato: And Then It Was Spring

I really, really, really like this website. I liked reading the “About.” I liked reading the FAQs, I like the whole premise of the organization. There exists in the e-world fellow bibliozealots that receive my salute. I have not read every blog entry and I still am dabbling in the nubs and nuances of trying to pin down what kind of zealot this is, but I like much of what I’ve seen thus far.

I really loved what was written about a book I recently purchased on a whim last week. What a superb purchase it was. I was just getting ready to write up a review on it when I stumbled across what Jay Bushara wrote and found he articulated what I would have said with much more zest and finesse than I could have mustered up the energy for. I need to go update my Top Ten Spring booklist now and bump off another (I guess, I can safely kick off Wildsmith’s The Easter Story) since it technically belongs on a holiday booklist and has received glowing praise from me elsewhere. So yes indeed, make And Then It’s Spring one of your “highest” priorities on your Amazon wish list. It’s clamoring to be my 2012 Book of the Year. Let me whet your appetite: