It is finally, finally
spring summer? sprummer? here in Minnesota.
We rocketed from blizzards to strong sunshine, from snowbanks to buds bursting into fresh green leaves, in just a matter of days.
Today’s books revel in raindrops and green toads, trees and puddles. Reading them out of doors, on a picnic, lounging on an emerald sea of grass, would be just about perfect.
The Things That I Love About Trees, written by Christine Butterworth, illustrated by Charlotte Voake
published in 2018 by Candlewick
I will pick up anything illustrated by Charlotte Voake, and will you just look at that masterful tree on the cover, giant-ing expansively over one small girl, its burly branches and froth of leaves filling the sky.
That’s just the first taste of loveliness in this book that carries us through the seasons, adoring trees. Blossoming in springtime; sprawling shade in summer; decked with orange in autumn; spare and wind-tossed in winter.
Voake’s exquisite hand-lettering delivers the gently meandering text with grace, while the pages are dominated by thoroughly-glad renditions of tree-ness. Bits of nature lore are strewn throughout. It’s a beautiful beckoning to see and appreciate trees for ages 3 and up.
Watersong, written by Tim McCanna, illustrated by Richard Smythe
published in 2017, a Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Watch that little fox, standing in a spill of sunshine that’s about to disappear. The rain is moving in! What will he do?
A few drops turn to many. Ponds polka dot with droplets. Freshets rush with new vigor. A gust of wind unfurls an all-out storm. Fox watches, splashes, leaps, cowers!
Until finally the sun comes out again radiating gladness. McCanna’s spry text dances with lively onomatopoeia. The rainstorm really is playing a song. Smythe’s striking artwork floods the pages with action, mood, drama, and knits our hearts to our buddy, the fox. Ages 2 and up.
A Hippy-Hoppy Toad, written by Peggy Archer, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf
published in 2018 by Schwartz & Wade Books
Oh you all, this clever text is such fun! It’s trippity-skippety cadence is a take-off on the old folksong, Over in the Meadow, but Archer has amped it up with much more agility and wit.
In the middle of a puddle/in the middle of a road/on a teeter-totter twig/sat a teeny-tiny toad. In this comedy of hair-raising catalysts, a wee toad is propelled from one perch to another, until he lands, hilariously, right back where he started from.
Wilsdorf zooms in on the drama and introduces us to one marvelously expressive toad-hero. This is a book that you’ll read over and over again. Sheer fun for ages 2 and up.
I Am the Rain, written and illustrated by John Paterson
published in 2018 by Dawn Publications
Quieting way down now, this intriguing book is narrated by water itself, describing in brief, poetic lines the myriad forms it takes in our world.
Water can be the rain trickling down your window pane, dewdrops sparkling in the morning sunlight, breakers crashing onto the beach, frost on a pumpkin. Vivid, child-friendly paintings illuminate each form water takes. Revel in the amazing element of water. Spark wonder and appreciation for its beauty and life-giving role in our world. Ages 2 and up.
Drawn from Nature, written and illustrated by Helen Ahpornsiri
published in 2018 by Big Picture Press
Last, but definitely not least, is this incredible piece of artwork from British artist Helen Ahpornsiri.
Every portion of this book’s illustration has been fabricated from pressed leaves, flowers, grasses, seeds. You can watch her at work on this short, lovely video clip:
Journey through the four seasons, dipping into the whims and changes in the natural world, from nest building to herons fishing, forests of mushrooms to the sparse beauty of winter. You will be captivated not only by the miracles of flora and fauna, but the stunning compositions, patterns, textures in Helen’s art.
There are musings and tidbits of nature lore strewn along the way, many of which are more apropos to the British Isles than those of us in North America, but they’re fascinating nonetheless.
It’s a book that simply mesmerizes with its beauty, a delight which would make a great gift for gardeners, nature-lovers and artists ages 6-99.