Friday, February 24, 2012

Picture Books for Spring

It never ceases to amaze me how many beautiful pictures books are published each year. I know that it has become more and more popular to use a Kindle or the like for reading and I imagine that soon, even kids, will want to do their reading on that type of neat contraption, but I hope that doesn't slow the creation of these actual books....

There are three titles I have my eye on for the Spring. The first is Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies. Admittedly, I am drawn to the illustrations, but I have found my kids really love books about the natural world around them and they are little sponges for facts about nature. The glowing Kirkus Review convinced me I would not be disappointed....

Lyrically textured and illustrated glimpses of the natural world. In this sweeping, comprehensive look outdoors, zoologist and noted children’s author Davies (Poop: A Natural History of the Unmentionable, 2011, etc.) here joins forces with the illustrative talents of British artist Hearld, a kindred spirit when it comes to drawing artistic inspiration from nature. Following the progression of the seasons, these poems and their accompanying eye-popping spreads capture the essence of common animals, plants and phenomena in ways sure to entice young readers to venture outside. Hearld’s powerful multimedia illustrations layer paper-cut animals and diverse flora with vibrant swathes of watercolor, ink and crayon, creating dynamic scenes to which children can readily relate, while Davies’ spare lyrics ground complex processes like the life cycles of frogs and dandelions and the formation of rainbows with relative clarity. Some broader scenes encourage children to explore with all their senses and prove especially evocative, as in this moving image of what can happen during a snow-filled winter’s night: “In the morning, you’ll find the snow has kept a diary / of things that happened when you were asleep. / The animals and birds who ran about the garden / have left a snowy record of their feet.”
Over 50 poems, lustrous illustrations, a couple simple recipes and some advice for saving seeds combine to lend enough nature-related food for thought for many a sitting.

The second title on my wish list is non-fiction and one of those ideas that seem so obvious that I can't believe nobody published it before. It is a book about how the things you would find in your backyard work- simply titled How Things Work in the Yard by Lisa Campbell Ernst.

The layout and art is something really different and so full of information. According to Publisher's Weekly, I am not wrong to be charmed.

Graph paper — style backgrounds emphasize the schematic approach to nature that Campbell-Ernst uses to explain how different items and creatures — such as birds, butterflies, rocks, and dirt — that can be found in a typical backyard 'work.' There's a playful aesthetic in evidence, from the bright palette and friendly cut-paper artwork to the innate humor in some of the questions themselves ('How does a squirrel work?'). The various parts of the animals, plants, and objects are labeled, and brief facts about each subject dot the spreads ('Each kind of firefly has its own special pattern of flashing'). It's an elegantly designed primer to the natural world Ages 4 — 8. (May)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Finally, I am probably most excited about And Then It's Spring by Julie Fogliano. She teams up with Erin Stead, illustrator of Caldecott winner and household favorite- A Sick Day for Amos McGee. Their collaboration results in a perfectly paced tale of little boy patiently, but eagerly, waiting for the first signs of springtime....

The Horn Book gave the duo a starred review and should convince most anyone this is a title to have in their library.
And Then It’s Spring
by Julie Fogliano; 
illus. by Erin E. Stead
Primary Porter/Roaring Brook 32 pp.
2/12 978-1-59643-624-4 $16.99
A small bespectacled boy and his companions, a dog, a rabbit, and a turtle, are on a search for spring. “First you have brown, / all around you have brown / then there are seeds / and a wish for rain, / and then it rains / and it is still brown, / but a hopeful, very possible sort of brown…” Fogliano’s poetic yet grounded narrative is reminiscent of Charlotte Zolotow’s picture-book texts in its understatement and straightforward, childlike observations. Her text builds the tension with an expertise of a much more experienced picture book writer, and she gets the pacing exactly right. As for the illustrations, there’s no sophomore slump for Stead: her second book is even better than her 2011 Caldecott winner, A Sick Day for Amos McGee (rev. 5/10). The graceful illustrations were created with the same medium (woodblock prints with pencil), but here she’s used a completely different palette of browns, grays, light blue, bright green, and touches of red, all set against negative space that most often suggests a cloudy sky. Observant readers will notice many humorous touches: the rabbit eagerly anticipating the first sign of carrots in the garden, the dog waiting for a bone he has planted to grow, a bird sunning itself under the garden label of a sunflower. But the humor never overshadows the mood of quiet anticipation or the thrill that comes at book’s end when, all of a sudden, “now you have green, / all around / you have / green.”

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