eggs-traordinary!…a list of five eggs-tra books to enjoy at Easter-time

the country bunny and the little gold shoes cover imageThe Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, by Du Bose Heyward, pictures by Marjorie Flack

According to this classic story,  there isn’t just one Easter Bunny who delivers eggs to the world-ful of boys and girls. It actually takes five of them to do the job. These five have to be the “kindest, and swiftest, and wisest bunnies in the whole wide world,” since there’s such a lot of work to be done. Each time one of the five retires, old Grandfather Bunny must use all his wisdom to select a replacement.

One, rustic girl bunny dreams of belonging to that Easter Bunny set, but meets with scorn when she tells her dream to the lofty folk or the athletic bunch. Time the country bunny and the little gold shoes illustration marjorie flackpasses and that little girl becomes a mama to a whole lot of baby bunnies, whose care drives any other dreams from her head. But what a smart mama she is! She runs her home like nobody’s business!

When the time comes for a new Easter Bunny to be selected, Grandfather Bunny recognizes that although some feel she is “nothing but an old mother bunny,” her kindness and wisdom and swiftness exceed all others’. He is that wise! And it’s a good thing he’s chosen someone so selfless and loving, for her assignment on Easter Eve demands all the love and courage she can muster.

This absolutely charming story from 1939 lauds all the best virtues and tells such a sweet story. I especially love the sets of tasks these bunny children do to make a smooth, pleasant household, including designated singers, dancers, and artists. Bravo! Marjorie Flack’s dear illustrations are enchanting, and full of spring color. A family favorite, and a great, annual treat at Easter-time.

eggs 1 2 3 who will the babies be cover imageEggs 1 2 3: Who Will the Babies Be?, by Janet Halfmann, art by Betsy Thompson

From the world’s biggest egg, to eggs tiny as peas — these small worlds-encased-in-shells hold new life …and mystery.

Here’s a fairly large egg.  It’s not nestled in a nest.  Instead, it’s “snuggled on Papa’s feet” where he keeps it cozy despite the vast plain of ice and snow surrounding them.  What could be inside of that egg?  Who will this baby be?

Lift the flap, and you’ll see!  A penguin chick — just a plump ball of gray fluff — has cracked out of its shell!

Moving on, now there are two teeny eggs tucked into the hollow of a tree trunk. eggs 123 illustration betsy thompson 001The mama is keeping them warm with the help of her unusual tail.  Who is squinched inside these eggs? Lift the flap, and you can find out! So surprising!

Janet Halfmann brings us ten different egg-laying animals — birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects, mammals(!), and fish are all represented here — creating a lovely guessing game filled with wonder and discovery.  Each page spread has a large number, 1-10, and a beautifully-written, tantalizing clue, on the left-hand page.  To the right, we see the corresponding number of eggs in their proper incubating spot, with a question: Who will the babies be? The entire right hand page acts as a flap to lift, which reveals the newly-hatched babies and one phrase of fascinating information about them. Halfmann’s lovely writing packs juicy information into few words for the very youngest listeners.

Betsy Thompson’s gorgeous, striking, paper collages radiate with the warm colors of nature, and lots of appealing textures. Very inviting to look at, and little fingers will love to point out the eggs and count them. It’s printed on strong, creamy-smooth paper — the whole package is a beautiful, satisfying treat.

rechenka's eggs cover imageRechenka’s Eggs, written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco

Babushka is a comfortable, kindly woman who lives all alone in her cottage in the Russian countryside. The amazing thing about Babushka is her talent for painting ornate, beautiful eggs. Every year she takes the eggs she’s painted over the winter, to the Easter Festival in Moskva, and every year she wins first prize.

This year, again, Babushka has a basketful of gorgeous eggs ready for the festival, rechenka's eggs illustration patricia polaccowhen disaster strikes. Rechenka, an injured goose who is living in the cottage while her wing heals, accidentally breaks all the exquisite eggs. So sad! However, Rechenka has a knack with eggs, too. A miraculous knack, Babushka would say. Perhaps things will turn out well, after all.

This delightful story dances with the brilliant colors and long-standing traditions of Eastern Europe. The egg designs, which we know as Ukrainian eggs, the architectural styles, clothing styles and fabrics — all work together to conjure up this enjoyable folktale. Polacco even adds Russian icons to several illustrations — such a nice touch. Intriguingly, all the faces are done in pencil rather than the full color of the rest of the illustrations, giving the people themselves a dignity and reality that anchors the story in restful homeliness.

Really nice story for preschool and up. If you paint your own Ukrainian eggs, your kids will especially love this.

don't count your chicks cover imageDon’t Count Your Chicks, written and illustrated by Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire

You know the saying: Don’t count your chicks before they hatch. Here’s the back story for it.

This ample, happy, woman lives in a quaint farmhouse in the country. Her situation is quite nice at present. Her snug, red home is surrounded by lush, green grass, a riot of  flowers, and a forest of quiet trees. Besides that, she has a hen that beats all others for laying — every day, without fail, she lays a beautiful egg.

One fine day, the woman decides to take her eggs to town and sell them. She’s saved don't count your chicks illustration ingri d'aulaireup three dozen eggs, and collects them carefully in a basket. The trip to town is long, though, so along the way, she begins to muse about how much money she’ll get for the eggs. Once she realizes what that might amount to, she starts dreaming of buying more hens, selling more eggs, and spending her vast income on all manner of wonderful improvements to her home, farm, and life.

Alas! A moment of foolishness brings her dreaming to a sudden…splat!

This isn’t a story that ends sadly, however. You’ll have to read it to see why.

Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire created many wonderful books, with a special flair for myths, but this one was unknown to me until recently. Apparently the Scandinavian countries tell this tale, based on a poem Hans Christian Andersen wrote, “The Woman with the Eggs.” It definitely makes our proverb make more sense for young children, and incorporates another little moral as well.  Their artwork, as always, bursts with vibrant color,  imagination, and character. Nothing quite like it.

the egg tree cover imageThe Egg Tree, written and illustrated by Katherine Milhous

Each year, the cousins gather at Grandmom’s small, red, house for Easter, and each year, Grandmom hides colorful eggs, high and low, all around the farmyard for her grandchildren to find on Easter morning.

This year, Katy and Carl are joining their cousins for the first time, and they’re eager to prove their egg-hunting skills, searching out eggs perched in the hayloft and in nests in the trees, eggs in the clock case and the closet under the stairs. Carl and the other cousins — even little Appolonia! — are quite successful at the game, but Katy hasn’t found a single egg.

Up in the attic, however, Katy finds a collection of hand-painted eggs that eventhe egg tree illustration katherine milhous Grandmom has forgotten. When these beautiful eggs come out, everyone wants to try her hand at making more, which they display on a beautiful Easter Egg Tree. That Egg Tree becomes quite an attraction for folks from miles around, and soon, they’re at work painting eggs for their own, lovely trees.

Katherine Milhous won the Caldecott Medal in 1951 for this book. Though quite an old-fashioned read, it’s a pleasant account of an egg-painting tradition of the Pennsylvania Dutch people, including one tree that grew to hold over 1,400 eggs!  Her illustrations, featuring bold line and muted color, incorporate traditional folk art designs of the Pennsylvania Dutch. She also used original egg paintings of one Pennsylvania artist as the designs for the eggs in the book. These designs have quite descriptive names, such as The Horn-blowing Rooster and The Bright and Morning Star, and are completely different from the Ukrainian patterns.

An interesting read, and perhaps, inspiration for some Easter art traditions of your own.

Here are Amazon links for this egg-y collection:

The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes (Sandpiper Books)
Eggs 1, 2, 3: Who Will the Babies Be?
Rechenka’s Eggs (Paperstar)
Don’t Count Your Chicks
The Egg Tree