Here in Minnesota, we’ve spent the past week glorying in the abrupt arrival of Spring.
Spring Fancy by Lynne Taetzsch
One minute we were scraping ice off our windshields and the next finds us biking around the lakes in our shorts.
Spring Birch Wood by Simon Fairless
Normally March in Minnesota is not spring-y, but a snowy, slushy, tease-y month, while farther south it’s a green, blossoming delight. In West Africa, hot season is descending, while in Australia, it’s nearing winter.
Be that as it may — today we’re celebrating Spring on Orange Marmalade!
Finding Spring, written and illustrated by Carin Berger
published in 2015 by Greenwillow Books ~ Harper Collins
Maurice is a little bear cub who is gaga over the thought of experiencing his first spring.
The trouble is…it’s autumn.
Mama patiently tells him he’s got to wait a while yet, but Maurice is undaunted. While she sleeps, he tiptoes out of the den, looking for spring. And, since he has no idea what spring actually is…he’s convinced he’s found it.
What has Maurice found? I’ll give you a hint: It comes in delicate white crystals that fall from the sky. Maurice gathers a bunch of “spring” up, stuffs it in a sack, carts it home, then falls into a happy sleep beside Mama.
When the two emerge months later, Maurice can’t wait to show Mama and their forest friends the “spring” in his sack…but it has disappeared. Not to worry — Mama, Robin, Rabbit and the others lead Maurice on another hunt for spring, and this time, they really find it.
Carin Berger’s charming cut-paper illustrations inject playfulness, friendliness, beauty, wonder, and joy into this happy story. Her gorgeous, shifting color palette brings the changing seasons to life, and the final burst of spring feels entirely magical. It’s a delight to share with ages Under-Two and up.
How Mama Brought the Spring, by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Holly Berry
published in 2008 by Dutton Children’s Books
Rosy Levine lives in Chicago, where Spring has definitely not arrived yet. Soggy piles of snow, those wicked Chicago winds, and a sullen, gray sky all make Rosy want to pull the covers over her head in dismay. Ugh! She is sick of winter.
Rosy’s mother grew up in Minsk, Russia, so she knows all about long winters. She’s got quite a story to tell Rosy about how her Grandma Beatrice brought spring to Minsk.
The story involves whipping up some eggy batter and a bowlful of creamy sweetness. It requires a brilliant, sky-blue tablecloth, a sizzling skillet, and a pot of cherry jam. It’s a miraculous tale of sunshine awakening and water singing in response to the buttery, sweet, goodness of Grandma’s cheese blintzes!
Rosy and her mother set out to bring spring to Chicago with Grandma Beatrice’s method, and you can give it a whirl as well with the recipe included in the book. Mouthwatering!
Holly Berry’s colorful illustrations swirl with winter winds and radiate the warmth of family and tradition through the homespun fabrics and prolific folk art patterning. Lovely, soft, motion whirls through the pages like magic, propelling us along this warm-hearted, delicious tale. Ages 4 and up.
Raindrops Roll, text and photography by April Pulley Sayre
published in 2015 by Beach Lane Books
April Sayre’s book is a photo-essay tribute to raindrops.
Gorgeous, dramatic, captivating close-ups of raindrops fill every page, with just a whisper of lyrical words, in white handlettering, to accompany them.
Raindrops glisten on emerald insects, cling like beads to glowing green grasses, turn spider webs into glittering hazes of diamonds. Rain makes mud for salamanders to slither in. It pours, patters, spills.
It’s a beautiful, quiet book that helps us notice and observe the glory of raindrops. Perhaps it will inspire some young photographers, too. Ages Under-Two and up.
Mother Earth and Her Children: A Quilted Fairy Tale, written by Sibylle von Olfers, illustrated by Sieglinde Schoen Smith, translated by Jack Zipes
story originally published in German in 1906; this book published in 2007 by Breckling Press
A while back I reviewed a darling little book by Sibylle von Olfers called The Story of the Snow Children. Sibylle was a German Catholic nun whose love of art, children, and nature combined in a number of charming stories that are much loved even today, 100 years on.
This story — originally published as Etwas von den Wurzelkindern — has been translated into English. It is a short poem, and features dozens of Mother Earth’s adorable, tiny children who’ve been asleep in the ground over the winter and are now awakening and busily stitching up some new spring clothes for themselves.
When they’re ready, and “fair spring arrives on time” this fresh and lovely crew emerge from the brown earth, clad in dainty spring colors, carrying forth a glad array of lily-of-the-valley and forget-me-nots, speckled lady bugs and jeweled butterflies, cloaking the woodlands brilliantly.
Sieglinde Schoen Smith is a German-born, American textile artist who created a spectacular quilt illustrating this story. Her gorgeous work makes up the illustrations here. What an amazing piece of art! Rejoicing with all the colors of a flowering meadow. Parading with merry children. Bursting forth with all of nature’s gladness.
Each page contains a close-up look at a portion of the quilt, with the whole work displayed at the end. It’s a feast for the eyes and the imagination. Wouldn’t you love to see it in person!
For the grown-ups reading this book, there is a lengthy note from Sieglinde which tells how this quilt came to be. It was born out of sorrow, and I think her story of the healing power of art will be of great interest and perhaps inspiration to all of you. There’s also a biography of Sibylle by the translator of this book who is a Professor of German Literature at the University of Minnesota.
All told — this is a gem to search for, which will be enjoyed by children Under Two and up, and certainly by you adults as well.
“It’s Spring,” She Said, by Joan W. Blos, illustrated by Julie Maas
published in 1968 by Alfred A. Knopf
I couldn’t resist bringing you this dear vintage title from 1968.
Springtime is just emerging among the brownstone apartments of this city neighborhood. Snow plows and shovels are being stored away, Mr. Alan Lynn is tuning up his Tasty Fresh Ice Cream truck for the warmer days ahead, and children fling off coats and haul out jump ropes and roller skates.
Mrs. Mundy, however, says they’re being hasty. “We’ll be cold again before it’s spring,” she says. And Mrs. Mundy is right.
You know, if you live in the snow belt, that teasing, aggravating game of cat-and-mouse that Winter and Spring play. Warm days melt the slush. Rich, earthy smell scent the air. Bicycles and barbecues sprout like mushrooms. And then BAM! A spring snowstorm swirls in and it’s back to winter.
That’s just what happens in this neighborhood. Out come the sleds. Delay that Ice Cream truck. Zip those jackets.
But is Mrs. Mundy smug about this? No. She smiles at the vegetable man and says that “spring is on its way.” And again, she is right. This time Spring is completely in charge and not backing down.
Lilacs and hyacinths, baseball mitts and short-sleeved shirts, and the happy ding-a-ding chime of the Ice Cream Truck all enliven the town.
Neighborly, pleasant, with a thoroughly 1960s flavor of outdoor play and long-lasting communities and, yes, women at home peeling the potatoes while the men mind the stores. I love that it’s an urban Spring story as most tend towards ponds and meadows and woodlands.
This is an immigrant neighborhood which illustrator Julie Maas peopled with a multiracial cast — nice to see in a title almost 50 years old. Her delicate ink drawings, comfy people, and groovy patterns are charming.
I don’t know how easy this will be for you to find, but it’s a sweet read for ages 3 and up.