Posts Tagged ‘spring’

My stack of books today glows budding-leaf green and robin’s-egg blue. Oh, what is as cheery and hopeful as spring? Soak up some gladness with these books, bursting with life, growth and new beginnings.

What Will Grow? written by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Susie Ghahremani
published in 2017 by Bloomsbury

For the littlest crop of sweet potatoes, don’t miss this sweet ode to seeds. Susie Ghahremani’s lovely artwork sweeps across the pages with luscious hues of springtime, summer, fall, straight through to the blue-cold of winter. Along the way we peek at seeds — round wrinkly peas, stripey sunflower seeds, snug prickly pine seeds packed into a cone — and discover what will grow from them.

Jennifer Ward’s minimal text provides just the right, lilting clues. She cleverly describes each seed with just three or four words, wisely choosing not to weigh down the delight and wonder of the illustrations.

A few gatefolds along the way augment the thrill of discovery –such fun to see that tall sunflower stretching up-up-up! End pages tell how to sow each of the seeds mentioned. This is a beauty of a book to enjoy with ages 18 months and up.

Over and Under the Pond, written by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
published in 2017 by Chronicle Books

Gliding along the quiet waters of a pond, observing the burble of life above the surface and the secret worlds below comes this elegant book.

The third collaboration between Messner and Neal, it’s as visually striking and wonder-filled as their previous titles which I’ve reviewed here and here.

Messner’s text revels in the jeweled glory of this watery world with skittering whirligig beetles, mussy busy beavers, ghostly-quiet herons a-stalking, and all the shimmering, dappled light. Neal’s handsome artwork captures the hush, the aqua-depths, the muck and reeds and secretive small worlds. Ingenuous changes in perspective keep every page fresh.

I’m thrilled that he places an African-American boy and mom in this wild, out-of-doors setting. Far too little diversity in children’s literature occurs outside of urban settings.

Learn more about each one of the species presented in several pages of  Author’s Notes. I have to say, as a boating enthusiast, I was bugged by the paddling faux pas here, but truly, this is another winner from this team for ages 3 and up.

Robins!: How They Grow Up, written and illustrated by Eileen Christelow
published in 2017 by Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

A couple of robin siblings narrate the story of their lives in this information-soaked, immensely-engaging book from one of the best picture book makers, Eileen Christelow.

From the migration north of their parents, through nest-building, egg-incubating, and all the care and feeding of those scraggly chicks, Christelow’s text brims with intriguing detail, perfect pacing, and the appealing voice of these young robins. This reads like a story — not a mite of dry, merely-factual tone.

Christelow tracks their growth as they leave the nest, learn to feed themselves, and at about five months of age take to the skies to fly south. True to the realities of nature, two of their fellow nestmates don’t make it that far. Those harsh episodes are taken in stride by Christelow. It’s a fabulous presentation.

Colorful, captivating watercolor illustrations dominate the pages, bringing us eye to beak with these awkward chicks, right into the nest as it were. An Author’s Note tells how Christelow became so enamored with these birds, plus there’s a glossary and a couple Q&A pages with more Robin Facts. A gem for ages 4 and up.

Plants Can’t Sit Still, written by Rebecca E. Hirsch, illustrations by Mia Posada
published in 2016 by Millbrook Press

The ravishing colors of Minneapolis-artist (woot!) Mia Posada’s cut paper collages are the first thing you’ll notice when you open this book and oh! they will enchant you!

The fresh-lime burst of green leaves, blushing apricot tulips, twilight-purple morning glories, the seductive red of berries lurking in the bushes — every page surges with color, texture, and beauty.

Rebecca Hirsch’s text is every bit as enticing because although you may think of plants as sitting still, rooted in place, Hirsch leads us on a waltz of discovering otherwise. In fact, plants squirm, creep, climb, snap, nod, tumble, fling, whirl, drift…why, they just can’t sit still!

Back pages tell lots, lots more about plants and the particular species discussed in this book.  Genius concept, brilliantly carried out by this team. Full of the wonder of discovery for ages 2 and up.

Pig & Goose and the First Day of Spring, written and illustrated by Rebecca Bond
published in 2017 by Charlesbridge

This charming early-reader knocked my socks off and warmed my heart. I don’t know if Rebecca Bond plans any more adventures for these too, but I have my fingers crossed!

The freshness of a spring morning has put Pig in a fine mood. A glorious sun and clear blue sky will do that! “Goody gumdrops!” Pig exclaims, and immediately makes plans for a picnic by the pond.

Pig soon meets up with Goose whose magnificent flying and swimming abilities make her wilt a bit with envy. Goose tries to coach Pig in these goose-y skills but…pigs really aren’t built for such things. Poor Pig! What is it she can do well?

Many things, it turns out, as she hosts a superb First-Day-0f-Spring party! Wow! You will want to be Pig’s guest at her next fiesta I’ll bet! Delectable details, spritzes of beauty, good humor, gladness of heart, and a dear friendship — that’s what’s here. Bond’s fetching watercolor work is the cherry on top. Readers who can manage Frog and Toad can read this on their own, or share it with listeners as young as 3. Lovely!

Wake Up! words by Helen Frost, photography by Rick Lieder
published in 2017 by Candlewick

This is the latest collaboration for poet Helen Frost and photographer Rick Lieder. Each one provides a breathtaking pause from the cacophony of noise, the jungles of cement, a step away, a redirect of our gaze towards the glorious spectacle of nature. All done in whisper quiet.

Feast your eyes and soul on the magenta swoosh of a peony, the emerald wetness of a frog, the fuzzy warmth of a newborn lamb. Wake up to manifestations of new life “exploding outside your door!”

I love the work being done by this team, simply bringing children up close to the wonders of nature, quieting them with few words, thoughtful questions, enticing them to wander out of doors. Find my reviews of two of their other titles here and here. Share them all with ages 18 months and older.

Birds Make Nests, written and illustrated by Michael Garland
published in 2017 by Holiday House

Michael Garland’s arresting woodcuts adorn the pages of this book and captivate us with the extraordinary wonder of bird nests.

Minimal text describes some of the vast variety in construction from a hummingbird’s tiny woven cup, to the giant mounds made by flamingos, and one house sparrow’s nest lodged in the pocket of a stop light.

The bulk of what we learn comes via Garland’s handsome prints, flooding the pages with earthy colors and rich texture. I love the minimal interference between the child reader and these wonders of nature. No back pages, even, with more info. Just — soak in the craftsmanship of both bird and artist. A lovely, leisurely wander for ages 3 and up.

First Garden: The White House Garden and How it Grew, written and illustrated by Robbin Gourley
published in 2011 by Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Children earnestly digging in the soil. Heirloom seeds passed down from Thomas Jefferson. Beehives and ladybugs, eggplants and blueberries. But no beets!

The story of Michelle Obama’s gardening initiative dances with the joy of the earth’s fruitfulness, the brilliance of children learning by digging, sowing, weeding, harvesting, and cooking delicious food in the White House kitchen!

Add in the history of White House gardening down through the centuries from John Adams’ first vegetable and fruit gardens through Patricia Nixon’s garden tours. Sprinkle atop some delicious recipes to try straight from the White House. Then illustrate with Robbin Gourley’s sunny, vivacious watercolors. Ta da! You’ve concocted this delicious book!

A delight to share with ages 4 and up. Plus, you can discover why there are no beets!

There are lots more spring-y titles listed in my Subject Guide. Look under Science: Seasons. And Happy Springtime to one and all!


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when spring comes cover imageWhen Spring Comes, by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek
published in 2016 by Greenwillow Books

Bursting with the joys of springtime, the transformation of stark-drab-and-dead, to adorned-emerald-and-flourishing — quintessential Spring is sandwiched between the covers of this delightful book from husband-wife team Henkes and Dronzek.

when spring comes interior henkes and dronzek

Spring is a bit petulant, so there’s waiting ahead for us. There are  some teasing snowflakes, perhaps. But sure as the sun, there’s a new day coming, full of apple blossom and spring violets, pussy willows and rain showers.

when spring comes illustration dronzak

Accompanying Henkes’ lovely, brief, intelligent text — nobody feeds toddler minds like Henkes —  are Dronzek’s eye-popping, exuberantly-colorful paintings. This book exudes the charm and simplicity of by-gone classics, with a freshness all it’s own. An absolute winner. Pop it in an Easter basket for children ages One to Four.

abracadbra it's spring cover imageAbracadabra, It’s Spring! by Anne Sibley O’Brien, illustrated by Susan Gal
published in 2016 by Abrams Appleseed

When Spring appears, it really does feel like magic, doesn’t it? Out of the decayed, dead drifts of last-year’s leaves, celery-green shoots nose their way up and burst into riots of color! It’s mind-boggling, year after year.

abracadabra it's spring illustration susan gal

Anne Sibley O’Brien captures all the magicalness of spring in this clever, enormously-engaging new book. In lilting rhyme, she introduces many “before” images of late winter: slushy patches of snow, bare twigs, bits of stick and string. Then with a whoosh of Spring’s wand — Abracadabra! Alakazam! — the scene transposes to Springtime.

abracadabra it's spring illustration detail by susan gal

It’s done through gate-fold pages which reveal transformations for  everything from nests to footwear. Susan Gal’s artwork — her brilliant robin’s egg blues, flowery magentas, and bursting-with-spring greens — knocks our socks off at every turn. A fabulous choice for ages One and up, and another Easter treat! In fact — all of the books on today’s list are picture-perfect Easter gifts.

hop cover imageHop, written and illustrated by Jorey Hurley
published in 2016, a Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Serene. Lovely. Riveting. Jorey Hurley once again meanders along with one animal, spreading out for our immense enjoyment the life it leads. This time, it’s bunnies. Cottontail rabbits, to be exact.

hop interior jorey hurley

Hurley’s ample, creamy white spaces and subtle color fill this book with an aching beauty, a tenderness, which I love to see alongside the ebullience of other children’s texts.

hop interior2 jorey hurley

Her tawny bunnies with their shining, glossy, eyes; the whisper of pink lining their ears; their softly hunched bodies lounging, sheltering, nestling together — are a wonder. Each page portrays one bunny-verb. They nibble. Listen. Graze. Envelop yourselves in this quiet world and watch your kids attend to these little creatures with fresh eyes in days to come. Ages One and up.

little bird takes a bath cover imageLittle Bird Takes a Bath, written and illustrated by Marisabina Russo
published in 2015 by Schwartz & Wade Books

Little Bird, in all his russet plumpness, is having a tough day. The sun has come out after the rain and he is eager to take a lovely bath in a rain puddle. And indeed — there are puddles everywhere!

Yet every time Little Bird spies what seems to be the perfect puddle, something boisterous or bouncing or barking comes careening his way and he has to skitter off quick-quick!

little bird takes a bath interior marisabina russo

Little Bird does finally find the perfect spot for a bath. You’ll have to read the book to find out where that is! Russo’s clear, bold, fresh illustrations, her ingenuous page-turns, and the looping pathways of Little Bird, all combine to make this an ideal book for Little Readers aged Two and up.

the wonderful habits of rabbits cover imageThe Wonderful Habits of Rabbits, by Douglas Florian, illustrated by Sonia Sánchez
published in 2016 by Little Bee Books

Gallons of rabbits cavort through this charming, playful guide to All Things Rabbit. Throughout the seasons of the year, by day or by night, now you can discover what rabbits love to do.

Some of it is ticklishly surprising, as in building snow rabbits and lollygagging in summer streams.

the wonderful habits of rabbits florian and sanchez

All of it is adorable. Douglas Florian has written oodles of children’s poetry, and this poetic text has a master’s touch of lyric and rhythm and pleasure. Then — Sánchez’s artwork is outstanding!

the wonderful habits of rabbits interior florian and sanchez

Her lipperty line gives these bunnies immense personality, while her color palette, textures, and fantastic compositions will make you wish you could pop these onto your walls. Love her work! A treat for ages Two and up.

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stripedeggs from purlbee dot comEaster is coming, a time of eggs everywhere, those exquisite surprise packages that gladden us with thoughts of new life.  

Here are two gorgeous new books and one vintage sweetheart to add to your Springtime or Eastertime collection:

p.zonka lays an egg cover imageP. Zonka Lays an Egg, written and illustrated by Julie Paschkis
published in 2015 by Peachtree

Look at that cover! Like an outpouring of sunshine and joy! How can you possibly resist taking a peek inside?!

There, bathed in lemony radiance, we meet three industrious hens, one sterling rooster, and P. Zonka.

P. Zonka is not keeping up with the egg-laying prowess of Maud, Dora, and Nadine which concerns them greatly. Much clucking and advice-dispensing is showered on P. Zonka, to no avail.

p. zonka lays an egg julie paschkis interior

For she is a dreamer, that P. Zonka, lost in the wonder and beauty of her surroundings, much too distracted by the azure sky, pink cherry blossoms, and “the shining center of a dandelion” to attend to egg laying.


One day, though, she decides to give it a whirl. And oh my stars!! All the glory she’s feasted her eyes upon comes to fruition. Spectacular!

Julie Paschkis stole my heart long ago with her artwork but here she outdoes herself.  An exuberance of color and the vibrant, rejoicing, folk-motif line that dances across the pages are stunning. I love the dreamy P. Zonka, whose name is derived from Ukrainian pysanka eggs. An Author’s Note tells us of an annual neighborhood egg-decorating party which inspired this book. Wouldn’t you like to attend? Or begin the tradition in your own circle?

Don’t miss this gem, for ages 2 and up.

crinkle crackle crack it's spring cover imageCrinkle, Crackle, Crack: It’s Spring! by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by John Shelley
published in 2015 by Holiday House

It’s still winter as this story begins, with cold stars glittering in the night sky, and one little squirt tucked under quilts in her attic bedroom.

But what is that scruffly, crunchity, crackly sound?!

crinkle crackle crack it's spring illustration2 john shelley

Traipse outdoors to see what is astir, and there is (and this is apparently a normal occurrence) a bear waiting. Off the two set, for “it is time.”

Everyone seems to know the time has come. The buds and the breeze, the rabbit and squirrel. All hearts are light, and yours would be, too, except those rapping, tapping, whacking, cracking sounds are getting louder and louder and louder!! What on earth can it be?!

crinkle crackle crack it's spring illustration john shelley

Then Spring bursts forth in all its flowery, soaring, joyfulness…and the mystery is solved. 

A charming story, with gorgeous, friendly, ink and watercolor paintings that journey from drab, puddly, late-winter, to a virtual explosion of springtime brilliance.  Another one not to miss, for ages 2 and up.

lullaby for eggs cover imageLullaby for Eggs: A Poem, by Betty Bridgman, with pictures by Elizabeth Orton Jones
published in 1954 by The MacMillan Company

While the first two books today trumpet the gladness of Spring, this tender, vintage beauty whispers of the hope…of an egg.

The text is a poem by a Minnesota author, Betty Bridgman.

She was a poet who avidly supported the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden here in Minneapolis. Her love of the fragile beauty of flowers and birds is evident in these poignant lines, and I can imagine her sitting in the rustic shelter in that garden, which has, at least in the past, had a wondrous display of birds nests and eggs. 

1940s shelter at the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

1940s shelter at the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

There is something about a wild bird’s egg that makes us hold our breath in wonder. The fragility. The blush of color; spray of speckles. The serenity. 


Bridgman’s lullaby addresses the Earth in her “shawl of temperate air” imploring her to “smoothly roll — take care, take care, for swaying in artfully woven twigs ride hopeful eggs…”

lullaby for eggs illustration elizabeth orton jones

Accompanying this poem, this request to “guard fragile things that hold our hope of song and wings” are soft, colored pencil illustrations by award-winning illustrator Elizabeth Orton Jones. So delightfully old-fashioned and quiet.

lullaby for eggs illustration2 elizabeth orton jones

It is an extreme pity that this book has fallen out of print, but I’d encourage you to keep an eye out for it. For those of you in the Twin Cities, the Hennepin County Library has several copies. A sweet read for ages 2 or 3 and up.

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Here in Minnesota, we’ve spent the past week glorying in the abrupt arrival of Spring. 

spring fancy by lynne taetzsch from abstract-art-blog dot net

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 from simonsgallery dot com

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 cover iageFinding 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.

finding spring illustration carin berger

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 cover imageHow 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!

how mama brought the spring illustration holly berry

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 cover imageRaindrops 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 roll photo by april pulley sayre

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 cover imageMother 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.

mother earth and her children illustration sieglinde schoen smith

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!

mother earth and her children quilt by sieglinde schoen smith

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 cover image“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.

it's spring she said illustration2 julie maas

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.

it's spring she said illustration4 julie maas

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. 

it's spring she said illustration5 julie maas

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.

it's spring she said illustration julie maas

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.

it's spring she said illustration 3 julie maas

I don’t know how easy this will be for you to find, but it’s a sweet read for ages 3 and up.

Happy Spring!

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marit at winterhaven farm 001My sister had, for many years, a farm in the idyllic greenness of Kentucky, where she raised sheep. Visiting her in springtime meant enjoying lambing season –hearing the low, urgent bleating of the ewes; watching those wobbly, spindly lambs with their tails twiddling furiously as they suckled. Marvelous.

Lambs are all of a piece with springtime, as well as central to the Passover and Easter stories. These two sweet stories from the UK will please you anytime, but I thought they were especially suited for this season.

smudge the little lost lamb cover imageSmudge, the Little Lost Lamb, by James Herriot, illustrated by Ruth Brown
published in 1991 by St. Martin’s Press

The sweeping vistas of Yorkshire with its green fields stretching out in undulating folds, and ancient stone walls meandering endlessly, is the setting for this story.

Smudge is one of a pair of twin lambs born onto young Harry Cobb’s father’s farm and given to Harry by his smudge the little lost lamb illustration ruth brown 001father. 

Smudge is a restless lamb, determined to squirm out of the fences meant to protect him, as so many sheep are prone to do. Not so smart, sheep.

When Smudge succeeds, his triumph is short-lived. Hunger, a fierce dog, a massive bull, speedy cars, and a sudden Yorkshire snowstorm  frighten, harrass and endanger the forlorn lamb. Is there any chance for Smudge to survive and return to his mama? 

James Herriot, the famous Yorkshire vet and storyteller, wrote a number of books especially for children. They james herriot's treasury for children cover imageare rich, authentic stories, and Herriot does not talk down to his audience whatsoever. In fact, for a picture book, they are fairly lengthy stories, best for ages 5 or older. We have loved sharing them with our children over the years. Ruth Brown’s gorgeous paintings capture the landscapes, bulky animals,  old-fashioned farms and schoolhouses of the era, in rich, warm splendor.

I think the individual books are out of print, but the James Herriot Treasury for Children is in print and contains all of them.

little baa cover image kim lewisLittle Baa, written and illustrated by Kim Lewis
published in the U.S. in 2001 by Candlewick Press

Little Baa loves cavorting and frisking about the field with his fellow lambs. Even when the rest grow tired and rejoin the flock, Little Baa keeps running.

Eventually he settles down for a nap, but he’s so little baa illustration kim lewisfar off, that when his Ma begins to call for him, she gets no reply.

A mother ewe knows her lamb’s voice and smell.  Ma searches and sniffs and bleats and bleats, but to no avail. It’s up to the shepherd and his trusty border collie, Floss, to find Little Baa and reunite him with Ma.

Swaledale sheep

Swaledale sheep

Kim Lewis has written a number of really lovely stories set in rural England where she lives on a sheep farm. I like them because they are true-to-life, and sweet, and full of the quiet pleasures of the outdoors. This one captures the behavior of sheep and the life of a shepherd beautifully.

Her colored pencil artwork glows with the soft light and pastoral scenes of the wild hills and dales of England’s sheep country, as well as the gamboling lambs and curling-horned Swaledale sheep. It’s an enchanting read for ages 2 and up.

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I don’t feel qualified to assess stories about the Jewish faith, yet this year I did want to include some books for Passover. These two seemed excellent to me. If there are other titles you particularly enjoy, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

passover celebrating now remembering then cover imagePassover: Celebrating Now, Remembering Then, by Harriet Ziefert, paintings by Karla Gudeon
published in 2010 by Blue Apple Books

This gorgeous book begins by telling the story of the Ancient Israelites’ sojourn in Egypt which is remembered in the symbolism of the Passover celebrations.

Page by page, Ziefert highlights the preparations and elements of the seder, one at a time. Each part of the seder is tied to its historical counterpart. This is what we do — because of what the Israelites experienced then. Her explanations are succinct, clear, and full of solemn respect.

The pages are dominated by Gudeon’s beautiful paintings. Her rich, vibrant colors pop against the handmade, wheat-colored paper. Each page shows the present-day seder elements, then by unfolding a flap, a large scene from the Old Testament story is revealed showing the historical context.

passover illustration karla gudeon

As I said, it’s a gorgeous book, with folk art borders, caligraphy, paintings, and narrative all contributing to a warm, celebratory, yet bittersweet understanding of Passover. Ages 5 and up.

the passover lamb cover imageThe Passover Lamb, by Linda Elovitz Marshall, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss
published in 2013 by Random House

Miriam lives with her family on a small farm. Today is an exciting day because it’s time to celebrate the Passover seder at her grandparents’ home, and for the first time, Miriam will be the one to sing the Four Questions.

When one of the family’s ewes unexpectedly delivers triplet lambs in the morning, though, travel plans need to be called off. The ewe has rejected one lamb, and it needs round-the-clock care to survive.the passover lamb illustration tatjana mai-wyss

Miriam is initially heartbroken, but her clever thinking makes it possible to care for the lamb and attend the seder.

Inspired by a true story in the author’s family, this gentle story will not help an unfamiliar person understand Passover, but it sheds a nice light on the significance of the seder tradition from a child’s point of view. The use of names relevant to the Passover account, and a story revolving around a lamb, also tie things together well. Ages 3 and up.

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poetry friday

Kite Tails
by Rose Waldo


peter pan flying a kite by arthur rackhamMy kite grabbed on a gusty gale
And took a wild and windy sail.

I held on tight while it flew far
To where the elves and fairies are.

And when I drew it back to me
It told of things I’d like to see;

And if you’ll listen I’ll tell you
A tale my kite told, maybe two.

Why, one time pussy-willows were
The baby fairies’ coats of fur;

pussywillow by mili weberAnd there’s a fairy wishing well
Hid in the ferns of Dingle Dell;

And what you wish in it comes true,
I wish that I could wish a few.

I’d wish as sure as anything
That all the year were made of spring.

Then I could sail my kite away
For fairy secrets every day.

c1905 Children in the Garden from vintagefieldandgarden dot com

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