a list of…five cheery books to welcome Spring!

And Then It’s Spring, written by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Spring doesn’t start with green; that radiant, light-dappled, yellow-green of sunshine filtering through brand new leaves.  Nuh-uh.  It starts with brown.  Brown, dead grass.  Brown, clumpy fields.  Brown, dry stalks of last year’s asters.

Hopeful people, however, plant seeds into that brownness.  And after some cool, spring rains, and warm, up-and-coming sun, and a great deal of patient waiting…and waiting..and waiting  — THEN comes green!  Glory be!

I love this book!  It’s brand new, and I’ve been waiting…mostly patiently…for my library copy to come in, knowing I was in for a great treat.  Ahhhh…it is even better than I was imagining!  Julie Fogliano’s quiet words express perfectly the longing for those first brushstrokes of green to transform the earth into springtime.   Just the right touches of humor, tinges of disappointment, needlings of fretting, and a heart pit-a-patting with hope, before final, great satisfaction.  Understated, simple, and so, so pleasant.

Meanwhile, lucky us, the artwork is by Caldecott-winner Erin Stead.  Her soft, woodblock-print and pencil illustrations brilliantly follow one charming boy and his faithful dog (plus a couple other animal pals) from the chilly nip of winter’s exit to the barefoot warmth of full-blown spring.  A subtly warming palette of colors as the season slowly progresses is just one of many clever markers of progress.  Even though that ground stays stubbornly brown, changes are in the air.  Can you spot them?

Truly — this book is destined to be a great favorite for many of you.  Don’t miss it!

Who Likes Rain? written and illustrated by Wong Herbert Yee

When the rain streams down the windowpane, one little girl gets to thinking, and asking a lot of questions.  Who likes rain?  And who doesn’t?  She comes up with lots of answers to her own questions, as she gazes out the window, then puts on her egg-yolk yellow mackintosh and froggy-green galoshes to venture out into the wet world.

Her wonderings are written by Yee in pleasantly rhyming lines, cleverly presented so we get to guess what she’s about to say.  “When it rains, who’s the first to scat?  I know! Do you? Mew, mew…(turn the page…) it’s the cat!

Charming colored pencil drawings follow this perky little one as she meanders in the rainy neighborhood, merrily splashing and peering and finding out interesting things.  The small format, and small heroine, and child-size thoughts combine to create a warm, delightful book to share with  toddlers.

Doing the Garden, written and illustrated by Sarah Garland

Spring has come.  A time for dreaming about seeds and poring over seed catalogs.  So, mom bundles her two charges into the pram and walks down to the garden shop.  The three of them wander about, gazing at bewildering numbers of potted pansies and hanging baskets and young trees in sturdy buckets.  Finally they make their choices — including a beloved garden gnome spotted by the littlest fellow –lug them home, and get to work planting.   By day’s end — voila! — some lovely growing things are nestled in their garden, and it’s time to enjoy them with tea and biscuits.  And a nap!

I love Sarah Garland’s work.  A Brit, her young families have that same comfy, honest, mussy feel that Shirley Hughes achieves; so endearing.  Bright, loose, watercolors capture the plump, sturdy bodies of the children, mom’s grace and grit in the face of numerous hazards, and the exuberance of outings and gardening.  Very few words, but loads of jolly, companionable, life!  Perfect for the very youngest of listeners.

Even an Ostrich Needs a Nest: Where Birds Begin, written and illustrated by Irene Kelly

Oddments of yarn; strands of spider silk; tufts of moss; dollar bills.  What do these have in common?  They all act as building materials for birds nests!

Nests are fascinating, from the massive, muddled-looking piles of sticks constructed by powerful bald eagles, to the teensy, delicate, silken cups woven by hummingbirds.  Some birds build with seaweed.  Some design double-decker, hide-the-babies nests!  Some shelter inside a cactus.  Some festoon their nests with colorful bits of trash…and pots and pans!  Truly.  Some build no nest at all.

Intrigued yet?!  Irene Kelly’s book is a fabulous catalog of many, many birds and their nest-making habits.  Every page is so interesting, you’d think there can’t be more amazement ahead…but there you’d be wrong! This book is crammed with wonder from start to finish.  A world map at the end shows us where the 40 birds in this book live — there are some from all seven continents!

Kelly’s illustrations, in watercolor, gouache, acrylic, and pen and ink, are bold, bright fantastic glimpses of all this variety.  A showy emerald-and-ultramarine bowerbird dazzles us; a whisper-soft tailorbird peeks out from her cleverly-stitched, leaf pouch; a blue-footed booby looks as ridiculous as her name sounds as she warms her egg with her aqua webbed feet.

Lay-outs with words winding here and perched there help convey a wonderful lot of information without pages appearing dense with text. Early elementary right on up will thoroughly enjoy this one!

City Dog, Country Frog, words by Mo Willems, pictures by Jon J. Muth

It’s spring, and for this ecstatic dog, it’s also his very first day in the country.  Woohoo!  No leash!  Just running and chasing and cavorting across broad, lemon-lime swathes of grass.

Very quickly, City Dog spies someone odd.  Small.  Plump. Googly eyes.  An unknown entity.  It’s Country Frog.

It doesn’t take but two ticks for these guys to become great friends.  All spring, they play country games, taught to the dog by yours truly, the frog.  All summer they play city games, taught by the dog to a frog who’s quite a good sport.  Next comes fall, a time for lounging and reflecting.  Then winter — alas! — a very lonesome time for City Dog, whose friend has vanished.  When spring rolls around again, will Dog have a friend?

This simple text contains two incredibly engaging characters, generous splashes of exuberance, buckets of warm friendship, just the right dash of repetition, and a sunny ending.  The watercolor illustrations by Jon Muth are simply fabulous.  You will want to cut them out and hang them on your child’s bedroom walls.  Really.  The changing color palettes for the changing seasons are gorgeous.  The postures of this quintessential dog and his frog buddy will make you smile, guaranteed.  And how does he capture so much emotion and expression in the angle of a dog’s ear, the joggly-curving line of a frog’s grin?  Brilliant and beautiful.

This is a feel-good book, and that’s perfect for spring time…or any time.  Ages 2 and up, up, up.

Here are Amazon links for these cheeriup-cheerio-cheeriup springtime stories:

And Then It’s Spring

Who Likes Rain?

Doing the Garden

Even an Ostrich Needs a Nest: Where Birds Begin

City Dog, Country Frog