Spring is in the air and the crocuses are blooming! It’s time for reading picture books that will get children excited about seeing baby animals, looking for flowering bulbs, and just enjoying the beautiful colors, smells, and sounds of nature as everything comes to life after a bitterly cold winter. These seven lovely picture books will do just that!
A book that amazed me with its stunning illustrations and thoughtful text is “Carl and the Meaning of Life” by Deborah Freedman. This is a picture book that falls in between fiction and nonfiction — at least according to this educator — because while it’s about an earthworm who talks to the other animals, it’s really about the importance of all creatures and how even the “lowly” earthworm plays a hugely important part in our ecosystem. The story is simple. Carl is an earthworm, and the illustration introducing him shows a lovely pink worm with text that winds up and down the page, simulating the path of an earthworm as the text describes what an earthworm does. When a field mouse asks Carl why he does what he does, Carl takes off to search for an answer to that question. It takes a while, but he (and the readers) learn how important an earthworm is to all of us. Along the way, the readers can marvel at Freedman’s extremely beautiful watercolor illustrations. In a nod to “Shy,” one of the characters is a lovely yellow bird. Freedman’s drawing makes even an earthworm look cute. Carl is adorable. (Viking)
“Badger’s Perfect Garden” by Marsha Diane Arnold and illustrated by Ramona Kaulitzki is a tale that is perfect for spring. It’s about a badger who collected all kinds of seeds last summer to carefully plant in a garden in the spring. He and his friends till the land, rake it flat, make tidy rows for the different seeds, and plant them. The bumpy seeds go in one row, and other rows hold whirly seeds and round seeds and flat seeds and all the different varieties of seeds that Badger had carefully stored in his many seed jars. When it rains the next day, Badger is pleased, but when the weather becomes worse, and winds howl and rain pours down, Badger worries. As hard as he tries to keep the rows and seeds together, all his seeds wash away. And Badger is bereft. He refuses to leave his house until his friends all convince him to do so. They want to show him what happened to the seeds that had washed away. Something magical. And that’s a wonderful discussion to have with children: sometimes the unexpected is even better than the planned. It’s a wonderful life message for us all. (Sleeping Bear Press)
And with “Click, Clack, peep!” Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin create another “Click, Clack” story that kids will love. A baby duck hatches on the farm and peeps and peeps and peeps. But when the peeping doesn’t stop – at all – what are the animals to do? They try and try and try to solve the problem, and finally, clever duck fixes it. But when Farmer Brown finds out how, he’s not going to be happy! Kids will love the antics of the animals, and teachers and parents will love how this tale teaches perseverance and determination. Those animal kept trying different solutions to the problem until they found the one that worked! Lovely. (Atheneum)
“Wake Up, Color Pup” by Taia Morely shares the joy that bright spring colors can bring with the very simple text and lovely bright illustrations. The story starts with the puppy sleeping in a gray room when the bright yellow sun comes shining in. Outside goes the pup, following a bright yellow bird. And the colors the pup encounters outside go from bright yellow to bold orange, crimson red, purple and blue. Cleverly, the illustrations show the pup’s body adding the color of each previous color until the puppy becomes a veritable rainbow. When a storm washes away all the happy colors, pup is a bit lost. But his bright yellow bird friend is there to show him what to do. There is a fabulous curriculum guide available. This is a wonderful book for early readers because the text is simple — two to four words on a page. Kids will see a whole new world of color and texture after reading this colorful picture book. (Random House Books for Young Readers)
“William Wakes Up” by Linda Ashman and illustrated by Chuck Groenink is the quintessential winter-to-spring book. William’s animal friends have slept most of the winter, but now it’s spring and time for them to wake up, and William wants to bake a cake to celebrate. William says some special friends will be arriving soon and asks the sleepy, just-waking animals (all nestled adorably in one huge bed) to help. One by one, they roll out of bed and help. Each helps with something different, but Raccoon is the last to wake. In fact, that rascal doesn’t get out of bed until the cake is ready and the special visitors have arrived. Will they let him share in the celebration? The rhyming text makes this fun to read, and the sweet illustrations are picture perfect! It’s a great vehicle to discuss hibernating and why animals do it, as well as talking to children about pitching in to help with work. And there’s an educator’s guide! (Disney-Hyperion)
“You’re Missing It!” by Brady Smith and Tiffani Thiessen is an adorably illustrated book about the importance of being in the moment. A suited cellphone-carrying dad and his young son are walking through the park. It’s spring and the park is filled with color and excitement. There are squirrels and bluebirds in the trees and dog walkers with many dogs in shades of pink, blue, and yellow. The boy is calling out to his dad about all the fabulous sights, but Dad is immersed with his cell phone. Oblivious. A butterfly lands on the son’s head, but Dad doesn’t see it; he’s busy on his phone. He meets a girl whose mother is also busy on her phone while one child, the girl, explores and the baby is in a buggy. At one point, both children cry out to their parents together, “You’re missing it!!” But when a purple rhino appears, even Dad notices it because everyone, boy, girl, flower seller, dog walker, and zookeeper all yell together, “You’re missing it!!” The ending is sweet, and the message is wonderful and much needed. Parents, put down your phones and play with your kids! Take them on walks! Read them wonderful books — real books with pages they can turn. Enjoy the moment. Put the phone away. Don’t miss it. (Nancy Paulsen Books)
With the advent of spring, it’s time to visit the beach, and “Sandy Feet! Whose Feet?: Footprints at the Shore” by Susan Wood and Steliyana Doneva tells the story of children at the beach and the footprints they encounter. It’s a great example of a fiction/nonfiction book that features characters who teach the reader nonfiction facts about the shapes of different tracks. From their dog who leaves tracks to a crab and a seagull, sea turtle, sea star, sandpiper, and more, kids will be able to identify the different clues left by different species and answer the question “Whose Feet?” At the end of the book is a nonfiction section titled, “Whose Feet are Those?” which explains what ecology is and shows real photos of the animals whose “feet” make the tracks shown in the story. Educational information combines with rhyming text to make it a book that’s fun to read aloud and informational to make learning enjoyable. (Sleeping Bear Press)
Please note: These reviews are based on the final, hardcover books provided by the publishers for review purposes.