Today I’ve got a batch of books to add spice to your March reading stacks.
Let’s get started with some hints of spring. March in Minnesota did not come roaring in like a lion this year. It has been warmer and less snowy than I, bona fide winter-lover that I am, would have liked. Nevertheless, full-blown Spring does not land here as early as it does for some of you. Here are three books perfect for that transitional time between winter and spring:
Almost Time, written by Gary D. Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
published in 2020 by Clarion Books
Ethan is eager for sugaring time to arrive at his northernly home. Last year’s lot of maple syrup has run out so the pancakes and corn bread Dad serves up for breakfast aren’t nearly as yummy just now. Anticipation builds as he waits…and waits…and waits for that sap to start running.
Brian Karas strikes a warm, amiable, mildly-retro tone in his superb illustration work. I am particularly enamored with his outdoor scenes, the stately bulk of the trees rising up, anchoring the land, sturdy, benevolent giants.
A delicious combination of hope, family, and the gifts of the good earth, for ages 3 and up.
Bear Goes Sugaring, written and illustrated by Maxwell Eaton III
published in 2019 by Neal Porter Books, Holiday House
This second book about maple sugaring is one of Maxwell Eaton’s jolly non-fiction titles, a splendid combination of imagination, humor, and factual information.
Follow Bear through the entire sugaring process, learning about necessary weather conditions, tapping supplies, suitable trees, the seasonal ebb and flow of sap, and the whole, complex evaporation process. Accompanying Bear are Dog and Squirrel who entertain us with their silly commentary.
You will learn a bucket-load of cool knowledge about maple syrup via this book. Serve it up with a side of pancakes, of course! Ages 5 and up.
Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring, written and illustrated by Kenard Pak
published in 2020 by Henry Holt and Company
Kenard Pak has given us such lovely books exploring the transitions of the seasons. There are loads of full-on-winter and full-on-spring books, but the betweening, bit-of-both weeks often are overlooked. Except by Mr. Pak.
This book is a conversation between one small outdoor explorer and elements of the world he encounters on a ramble. Greeting wintery snowflakes, a frozen pond, trees lashed by winter winds, then gradually meeting the first inklings of spring — slush, thaw, tiny new leaves — he ends by bidding adieu to winter and hello to spring.
A lovely, subtle morphing of the color palette and Pak’s fresh contemporary line spread magic on every page. Ages 3 and up.
Next up — two titles that are perfect follow-ups to some of my recent posts:
Black is a Rainbow Color, written by Angela Joy, illustrated by Ekua Holmes
published in 2020 by Roaring Brook Press
A child’s reflection on what it means to be Black, this title is a fabulous follow-up to Black History Month.
Surging with connections to iconic people and moments in Black history, the book sings out its theme: Black is a color; Black is a culture. Ekua Holmes’s vibrant visual references and a simple, rhythmic text make this easily accessible to children as young as 2 or 3.
However, the power of the message and the extensive back matter — including a playlist, explanations of key phrases in the text, selection of African American poetry, and fascinating, educational timeline of Black ethnonyms in America — make the book a uniquely rich source of history and culture for older children through adults as well.
In a Jar, written and illustrated by Deborah Marcero
published in 2020 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
This gorgeous, imaginative ode to friendship stars two bunnies, Llewellyn and Evelyn, who love to collect their favorite things in jars. Buttercups and heart-shaped stones, yes, but the cherry light of a sunset and the sound of the ocean’s roar, too.
When Evelyn’s family moves away, their little bunny hearts nearly break. Then, Llewellyn gets the idea of collecting the sparkle of a meteor shower he’s just enjoyed, packaging it up, and mailing it to his dear friend.
This opens up a whole new way of extending their friendship across the miles. Perfect follow-up to the snail mail posts in February, or for any reason at all. Ages 3 and up.
How about a fairy tale or two to get us through the slog of slush!
Sootypaws: A Cinderella Story, written and illustrated by Maggie Rudy
published in 2020 by Henry Holt and Company
Maggie Rudy’s adorable, intricate, miniature worlds are the cat’s meow! Or perhaps I should say the mouse’s whiskers, in this delightful rendition of Cinderella.
Imagine a froggy fairy godmother, a ball gown fashioned of rose petals and a velvety, moth-wing cloak, and an entire ballroom of mice dressed in glitzy, Louis XIV-era gowns! You will be bedazzled and bewitched by every scene in this charming adaptation.
Simply scrummy for ages 3 and up.
Franklin and Luna and the Book of Fairy Tales, written by Jen Campbell, illustrated by Katie Harnett
published in 2019 by Thames & Hudson
Franklin, a dragon, and Luna, an adventurous, imaginative little gal, are best friends. Today is Franklin’s birthday. “He’s turning six hundred and six.”
To distract him from a certain surprise under way, Luna hauls him to a bookshop where they discover a dusty old tome. Wouldn’t you know it, it’s a magical book into which they dive and find themselves in fairy tale land on a spicy-dicey rescue mission!
It’s a 100% delectable fantasy, illustrated with a riot of pumpkin-spice color and verve, sure to please anyone ages 3 or 4 and up!
Next up, three very different takes on the lives of our fellow creatures:
The Mushroom Center Disaster, written by N.M. Bodecker, illustrated by Erik Blegvad
published in 1978 by Atheneum
I can’t remember how I stumbled across this vintage gem, but I fell in love with it!
Deep in the woods, on the other side of the mountain, halfway between the brook and the pine trees, is a small rock no bigger than a robin’s egg…If you look carefully…you will see a narrow little path…so narrow that two caterpillars couldn’t pass each other on it, but smooth and tidy, as if someone had swept it with a dandelion down. If you follow that path…you come at last to a small clearing full of white mushrooms. The first mushroom on your left has a sign next to it saying: MUSHROOMS FOR RENT
BY THE MONTH OR THE YEAR
It is quite the most inviting little mushroom ever, with brightly polished windows and a green front door with a brass knocker in the middle, just waiting for someone to knock.
Enter this entrancing little world of ladybugs meeting for toast and crumpets and beetles minding their own business, then discover what befalls them when a strange piece of Unidentified Flying Rubbish lands in their midst. Their ingenuity in solving the crisis is nothing but inspirational!
Delightful storytelling, accompanied by Erik Blegvad’s exquisite pen-and-ink drawings. For me, the tale is also a light-handed reminder to appreciate and care for the vibrant life of every tiny living thing. Ages 5 and up, if you can find a copy.
Who Am I?: A Peek-Through-Pages Book of Endangered Animals, by Tim Flach
published in 2019 by Abrams Books for Young Readers
Presenting twelve of Earth’s magnificent creatures who are currently endangered. Clever, riddlesome questions invite us to guess who, while die-cut pages allow us just a glimpse of the answer before we turn the page and come face to face with the corresponding creature, from a panda bear to a yellow-eyed tree frog, in stunning photographs.
Tim Flach makes this book eminently accessible to young children, provides extra information for older siblings about what makes each creature so special and why it is endangered, and does it all with stunning beauty.
Help your children understand what glories of nature are at stake and why we must act now to mitigate the effects of our climate crisis. Ages 4 and up.
Fix That Clock, written and illustrated by Kurt Cyrus
published in 2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
This convivial, bustling story traces the repair work being done on a rusty, dusty, moldy, musty, clock tower.
Watch the workers swing their hammers, saw some boards, yank those gears into place, all that cool fix-it work kids love to goggle over. Meanwhile, the decrepit clock had been playing host to a variety of creatures while it lay dormant, from bats to mice to pigeons. Can we repair the clock and provide homes for them, too? You bet we can!
Energetic, rhyming text and a constant whirlwind of happy folks gettin’ ‘er done, will mesmerize kids ages 3 and up.
Two final books full of spunk and fun because that’s what we need in March!
No More Naps!, written by Chris Grabenstein, illustrated by Leo Espinosa
published in 2020 by Random House
Every one of you with a toddler will have a visceral reaction to the cover of this book, am I right?
Annalise Devin McFleece is not about to take a nap. Fussing, fuming, and downright shrieking are her means of resistance. When her dad takes her for a stroller-ride through the park and city neighborhood, hoping to coax her to sleep, something peculiar happens.
All along the way, everyone from the kids playing ball to the ice cream vendor decide that if she doesn’t want that nap — they’ll take it! Soon it’s like the Sleeping Beauty curse has landed on the entire city. What happens when there are no naps left to take? Find out in this funny, wacky, yet relatable tale, illustrated in jazzy retro style. Ages 3 and up.
Sofia Valdez, Future Prez, written by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
published in 2019 by Abrams Books for Young Readers
Finally, the latest in this wildly-popular series.
Sofia Valdez loves to serve up kindness in her community alongside her beloved Abuelo, visiting elderly friends, walking pets, delivering groceries. One day, though, Abuelo injures himself on a pile of junk at the local landfill.
When Sofia realizes what a danger that place is, she does what any good activist would do — starts a campaign to replace it with a park! The going is not easy, but Sofie summons up her pluck and wow! does she ever launch some zesty community improvements! No wonder the townsfolk believe she could grow up to be president! Spirited, inspiring, and downright fun, for ages 5 and up.