Picture Books for Spring Time
A Trio of New Picture Books Just In Time For Spring
Every year I am surprised when the fields and forests finally turn green. Just when I think it will be brown and barren forever, the snow turns to rain, the ground thaws, and those first brave shoots make their appearance. — Springtime gives me a chance to be a child all over again. Heading out into the woods I’m as giddy as my four-year old, discovering the trout lily and wild oats come to life on the forest floor. Planting seeds in the garden, listening to birdsong, watching clouds sail by, leaving our winter coats behind, my kids and I relish the season and all it embodies.
Here’s a trio of new picture books which capture that childhood wonder. And the beauty of finding this within the pages of a book is that we can jump in any time of the year.
AND THEN IT’S SPRING
And Then It’s Spring, written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Caldecott medal winner, Erin E. Stead, tells the story of a boy waiting for his spring seeds to sprout. The first double page spread opens up to the boy and his dog looking out at the brown fields, the sparse text reads, “First you have brown, all around you have brown.”
The second double page spread shows the boy planting seeds, and the words, “then there are seeds.” The boy waits for his seeds to sprout, he wishes for rain, and he worries that the seeds may have been eaten by birds or stomped on by bears. The boy looks for green with a magnifying glass as a turtle, rabbit, birds, and even a worm look on too.
The penciled illustrations are delicately drawn in soft, faded hues, and have a vintage feel to them. Small details, like miniature garden signs and little birds, offer young readers something to be discovered within the simplicity of the pictures. The text, told in a single sentence, is broken up into poetic lines, which help set the gentle pacing of the story. Though the words and pictures are spare and simple, they work together to give the reader a sense of the boy’s patience and quiet anticipation.
Slowly the weeks go by, more seeds are planted, and the boy continues to wait. But then he hears a “greenish hum,” and readers get a window into the activity happening beneath the ground, where ants, worms, and sprouting seeds are busy at work. The story ends with the boy stepping out of his house to check on all that brown, but what he sees is green, “all around you have green.”
And Then It’s Spring written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Erin E. Stead. Published by Roaring Brook Press, A Neal Porter Book, New York, 2012. ISBN 978-1-59643-624-4
Green is that singular color that heralds spring wherever winter precedes it. Laura Vaccaro Seeger pays homage to green in her picture book of the same name. Simple text takes the reader through different shades of green – the green of plants, of animals, of foods, of patterns. There’s forest green, sea green, slow green, even wacky green.
The painted illustrations are rendered with thick brush strokes, adding texture and depth to the pictures. Like Seeger’s previous work, First the Egg, her new book also incorporates her characteristic die-cut pages. Each page has a small cut-out shape that reveals an image on one page, and becomes something different when the page is turned. These shapes add surprise and urge you to turn the page to find out what the shape will become next. Green is perfect for the youngest readers, but the die-cut pages will hook older readers too.
Green written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger. Published by Roaring Brook Press, A Neal Porter Book, New York, 2012. ISBN 978-1-59643-397-7
THE CLOUD SPINNER
The Cloud Spinner written by Michael Catchpool and illustrated by Alison Jay tells the enchanting story of a boy who can spin thread from the clouds and weave it into cloth that is “as soft as a mouse’s touch and as warm as roasted chestnuts.” And just as his mother taught him, he sings a simple tune as he works his loom, ”Enough is enough and not one stitch more.”
One chilly spring day the boy is in town when the king rides by and notices the boy’s scarf. The king orders the boy to weave him a scarf made of clouds. Though the boy warns against it, the boy does what he is told. But the king is still not satisfied and demands a cloak for himself and dresses for the queen and princess. The boy sits on his hilltop, spinning clouds into thread until there are no clouds left. The king and queen are overjoyed with their new clothes, but the princess says nothing.
Without clouds to give rain, the fields soon dry up. The people of the kingdom beg the king to return the clouds, but the king refuses. The princess however has her own plan, and that night she steals away with all the clothes the boy had woven. Together, she and the boy unravel the clouds and return them to the sky. The next morning the king and queen wake up to rain and the people rejoicing. The princess stands atop a hill, ”with a smile as bright as a rainbow,” singing the song the boy’s mother had taught him.
The story makes a good read aloud and offers a lesson, without being preachy, of how our actions affect the natural world. The illustrations done in alkyd paint and crackle varnish on thick cartridge paper, give the pictures an aged look and add a fairytale feel to the story. Kids will enjoy finding faces the artist has painted into the landscape, and will revel in the two children who are the heroes of the story.
The Cloud Spinner written by Michael Catchpool and illustrated by Alison Jay. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2012. ISBN 978-0-375-87011-8
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cheli has been involved with creative arts and education for most of her life, and has taught many subjects from art and books to yoga and zoology. But she has a special fondness for kid’s books, and has worked in the field for more than 20 years. She is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Valley Kids and teaches a course for adults in “Writing for Children.” She writes from Colrain, where she lives with her musician-husband, three children, and shelves full of kid’s books.