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Books to Celebrate Spring

 | Apr 04, 2012

First the crocus, then the daffodil, and next the tulip bloom to herald the return of spring. Warm weather and the joyful music of songbirds beckon us outside to soak up the sunshine, work in the yard, plant gardens, and to play. Green replaces the drab brown remnants of winter and we welcome the reawakening of nature and a new season.  This week the International Reading Association Children’s Literature and Reading Special Interest Group shares books that celebrate this wonderful time of the year.

creep and flutterArnosky, Jim. (2012). Creep and Flutter: The Secret World of Insects and Spiders. New York: Sterling. 

This nonfiction masterpiece is ideal for children who enjoy observing the insects and spiders around them. Indeed, this introduction to 200 arthropods would serve as an excellent field guide for some of the tiny (and not so tiny) creatures that share our world. Readers will learn about an array of insects and spiders ranging from a tick and tiny bedbug to a dragonfly, from a tarantula to a comet-tailed moth, from a honeybee to a praying mantis. The larger than life illustrations illuminate such details as brilliantly colored wings, scissor-like jaws, and venomous fangs. Arnosky’s concise writing, thorough research, and magnificent super-sized paintings and drawings make this book a compelling choice for nature lovers. The book includes a table of contents, six foldouts, an author’s note, and a list of additional readings about insects and spiders.
-Terrell A. Young, Brigham Young University

Ford, Jessie. (2012). My Bunny Puzzle Book. New York: Abrams. My Bunny

This vibrant four-page board book is perfect for spring reading. In simple words young readers learn what bunny likes to do. On the first page, “My bunny likes to sniff flowers” (unpaginated). A small speech bubble adds, “Twitch, twitch!” (unpaginated). In addition, bunny likes to eat carrots, listen to bumblebees and hop away. But that isn’t all. Each page contains a puzzle piece that can be removed. Little hands will love putting together the pieces to create a gray and white bunny. When the puzzle is flipped over little eyes will notice pictures of everything bunny likes to do. This book is sure to be read and played with multiple times. 
-Deanna Day, Washington State University Vancouver

and then it's springFogliano, Julie. (2012). And Then It’s Spring. Illustrated by Erin Stead. New York: Roaring Brook Press. 

Sometimes the best part of winter is anticipating the fresh greens of spring, something that this picture book celebrates quietly.  Swathed in a red scarf, red mittens, and a red knitted hat with a pompom on its top, a boy looks over the brown landscape and plants seeds in hopes of warmer weather. His dog, a turtle, a bunny, and various birds observe curiously. Hoping for rain and a bit of sun to nurture those seeds, he waits and watches, pondering all sorts of possibilities. Worried about the tiny seeds, he imagines that maybe the birds ate them or the stomping of lumbering bears kept them in hiding. Eventually, when he peers out the door of his house, everything is green. Each page of this book is filled with some delight that observant readers will note; for instance, the amount of smoke rising from the red house on the hill diminishes over the course of the illustrations as temperatures begin to rise and the boy sheds some of his winter wear. Through a wonderful two-page cutaway view of the earth, readers are able to see the actions of creatures busily preparing for spring when he puts his ear to the ground to hear the "greenish hum that you can only hear if you put your ear to the ground" (unpaginated). Using woodblock printing techniques and pencil, the illustrations feature the particular shades of brown and green found only at the end of one season and the start of another. The subtle secrets found within this book’s pages insure that readers will return to it to savor the joy of spring even when winter winds still howl outside their doors.
-Barbara A. Ward, Washington State University Pullman

step gently outFrost, Helen. (2012). Step Gently Out. Photos by Rick Lieder. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press. 

The text of this book—a poem—invites young readers to look carefully and closely at nature to see what tiny and amazing creatures are lurking just outside their doors. Frost uses rich language to describe the insects as “the creatures/ shine with/ stardust” (unpaginated) and “they’re/ splashed/ with/ morning/ dew” (unpaginated). Then she closes with a reminder, “In song and dance/ and stillness,/ they share the world/ with you” (unpaginated). The imagery of Frost’s words seem to dance with Lieder’s close-up photographs that share the beauty of graceful wings in flight, jewel-like droplets on a spider’s web, the glint of a katydid’s eye, and the soft, fuzzy scales on a moth’s wings. Children will want to learn more about the tiny insects around them after they experience the combination of the gentle message, the calming text, and the breathtaking photography. The author includes detailed endnotes about each of the insects and spiders that appear in the book.
-Terrell A. Young, Brigham Young University

McDonnell, P. (2011). Me…Jane. New York: Little, Brown and Co.me...jane 

Me…Jane describes the formative years of Dr. Jane Goodall, a United Nations Messenger of Peace.  This story narrates how the young Jane became interested in nature and animals, and decided to study chimpanzees in Africa.  As a girl who loved to sleep with her stuffed toy chimpanzee, Jubilee, chasing animals and observing plants in her backyard on nice spring days weren’t enough to satisfy her curiosity.  One day, interested in where chicken eggs came from, she hid in her grandmother’s chicken coop and watched the hens in order to solve the mystery.  She avidly read many books in order to learn about different animals.  Although women were not encouraged to pursue adventurous careers at that time, with the encouragement of her mother, Jane kept dreaming of going to Africa.  Her dreams ultimately brought her to Tanzania, where she discovered that chimpanzees could make and use tools just as humans do.  The India ink and watercolor illustrations allow readers a glimpse into the personality of this ground-breaking woman. This book recounts one little girl’s almost impossible dream that became a reality—and it all started in her own backyard.  
-Tadayuki Suzuki, Western Kentucky University

isabella's gardenMillard, Glenda. (2012). Isabella’s Garden. Illustrated by Rebecca Cool. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.

Many of us think of gardening in spring, and Isabella is no different. Millard tells the story of the amazing things that happen in the beloved garden, told in a similar style as the traditional nursery rhyme “This is the House that Jack Built.” Amazing things happen to the tiny seeds as Isabella and her friends observe the incredible events unfolding before their very eyes. “These are the shoots that seek the sun/ that kissed the clouds that cried the rain/ that soaked the seeds that slept in the soil,/ all dark and deep, in Isabella’s garden” (unpaginated). Rebecca Cool’s brightly colored, mixed-media illustrations capture the wonderful growth and change that takes place in astonishing garden.
-Terrell A. Young, Brigham Young University

Pfister, Marcus. (2012)  Ava’s Poppy. New York: NorthSouth Books. ava's poppy

Red-haired Ava discovers a bright red poppy growing in the middle of a field near her house. Over the summer she befriends the flower and takes care of it by watering the poppy, sheltering it from heavy rain, protecting it from harsh winds. When the summer ends and the growing season is over, the flower withers and eventually dies. Ava feels the loss of a true friend. She marks the spot where her flower passed by creating a ring of stones around the area to memorialize their friendship. Winter comes and goes but Ava has not forgotten her poppy friend. In spring when Ava returns to the circle of stones and as the cycle of life promises, a new friend has started to grow within the circle. Pfister has created colorful opening and closing spreads that show the flower from seed to stem and finally the dying plant.  Teachers who are using picture books to support science concepts of life cycles will find this book useful as well as nurturing friendships whether personal or botanical.
-Karen Hildebrand , Ohio Library and Reading Consultant

 a leaf can be...Salas, Laura Purdie. (2012). A Leaf Can Be… Illustrated by Violeta Dabija. Minneapolis: Lerner. 

This lovely story in rhyme begins with, “A leaf is a leaf. It bursts out each spring when sunny days linger and orioles sing” (unpaginated). From there, Laura Purdie Salas takes young readers and listeners on a colorful tour that illustrates the leaf’s many functions, such as: “Tree topper/ Rain Stopper” and “Wind rider/ Lake glider” (unpaginated). Violeta Dabija’s stunning, evocative mixed media illustrations are the perfect compliment to Purdie’s playful text. The back matter includes a glossary, a list of books for further reading, and “More About Leaves” section that further explains each of the leaves’ many functions. Between the lyrical text and the luminous, magical illustrations, children will beg to return to this book again and again.
-Terrell A. Young, Brigham Young University

Seeger, Laura Vaccaro. (2012). Green. New York: Roaring Brook Press.green

This stunning, imaginative offering from the creator of First the Egg (2007) highlights all the incredible shades of spring’s favorite color, green. A quick glance at the illustrations and simple text reveals that there are many different shades of green, ranging from the greens of a tree’s foliage to the greens of a sea turtle sliding through the ocean depths. Thus, her die-cut illustrations feature the particular green lushness of an unlogged forest on a spring day, the green of a juicy, just-cut lime, the darkish greens in a bowl of newly-shelled peas, and the slow-moving green of a caterpillar creeping across a flower petal, among others. Each double-page spread has a cut-out that belongs to the next page. Once readers reach the end of the book, they encounter opposites with a stop sign that is "never green" (unpaginated) as well as a snow-filled landscape when there is "no green" (unpaginated) to be seen. Finally, the mature trees of summer seem to be "forever green" (unpaginated). With spring’s recent arrival in some parts of the world, this is a timely title to share in the classroom. The fact that the cut-outs are designed in different shapes and sizes as well as being placed at different spots on the book's pages adds to the appeal. Readers may enjoy viewing the book trailer for this must-have classroom library title at http://us.macmillan.com/green-1/LauraSeeger. 
-Barbara A. Ward, Washington State University Pullman

StickSinger, Marilyn. (2012). A Stick Is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Boston: Clarion Books. 

With the end of winter, youngsters love to venture outside, but sometimes they have no idea what to do once they shut the door. Despite the attraction of indoor games, playing outdoors in the spring and summer can be plenty of fun. A little imagination and a simple object or two are all that is needed, and the time will pass quickly and enjoyably as described in these 18 poems celebrating the joy of playing outdoors. Thus, one lonely boy in “First One Out” plays catch with the family poodle since no one else is around. While a boy blows a bubble “big as a planet,” (unpaginated) his younger sister creates her own small bubbles that go “sailing right behind him” (unpaginated) in the poem “Bubbles.” The children in these poems play catch and jacks, jump rope, fly high or low on a swing or roll down a grassy hill as though they were barrels. They even run through the sprinkler in glee, play Statues in their own unique way, play Hide-and-Seek, and concoct their own unappetizing soup from the most unlikely items.  The title poem "A Stick Is an Excellent Thing" points out all the possible uses for the perfect stick that might be found and used in imaginative play as a king’s scepter, a fairy’s wand or even just something to throw. The pencil and ink illustrations have been colored digitally, and all of them show boys and girls--and even an adult or two--enjoying the great outdoors. 

-Barbara A. Ward, Washington State University Pullman

grandpa greenSmith, Lane. (2011). Grandpa Green. New York: Roaring Brook Press 

Youngsters are often surprised to realize that the elders in their families weren’t always old. They once had youthful dreams, some of which come to fruition, and others of which are supplanted by others. In the case of Grandpa Green, who grew up on a farm while imagining a career as a horticulturist, he recalls many significant events in his life, including his bout with chicken pox, and represents them and his life stories through topiary shapes in his garden. Once an ambitious and talented young man whose college plans were derailed by WWI, Grandpa Green lived an energetic life and loved to entertain his great-grandson by sharing his precious memories.  This Caldecott Honor book follows his life from birth to his first stolen kiss to his marriage to a woman he met while in Europe to his twilight years with many offspring, blessed with many children and grandchildren.  Although age has caused him to become more forgetful and he will physically disappear some day, his wonderful memories have been captured through skillfully formed topiary shapes in his garden.  The watercolor, oil paint, and digital paint foliage illustrations and the brush and waterproof drawing ink representing the characters show that Grandpa Green was not only a simple grandfather but also an artist who cultivated his family.  Although all humans eventually become old, their memories can stay fresh through the next generation.  Grandpa Green teaches us that all families are special and have unique stories to share.  
-Tadayuki Suzuki, Western Kentucky University

kate&pippinSpringett, Martin. (2012). Kate and Pippin: An unlikely love story. Photographs by Isobel Springett. New York: Henry Holt.

For three days, Pippin an abandoned fawn, cries out for help before Isobel Springett carries her home and places her next to Kate, a Great Dane. Kate licks and nuzzles the young deer and Pippin thinks she has found a new mother. Springett documents this unlikely bond in striking photographs. Wherever Kate goes, Pippin follows. Outside they play, roll around on the lawn, chase each other and leap everywhere. When they return home they fall asleep next to each other. One day the fawn disappears into the forest and doesn’t return for dinner. Isobel calls and Kate waits. But the next morning Pippin returns for breakfast. From then on, Pippin sleeps in the forest each night but returns to play with Kate. Gradually Pippin becomes an independent deer, returning to the farm to see Kate sometimes. This information book would make a wonderful read aloud and could be part of an animal text set.

-Deanna Day, Washington State University Vancouver

Stone, Phoebe. (2012) The Boy on Cinnamon Street. New York: Arthur . Levine Books.

Seventh-grade Louise has come to live with her pretty cool grandparents after a tragedy strikes her family that Louise cannot remember, or rather, has suppressed. As Louise narrates the story, she describes how she is creating a new life for herself having given up her old friends, her old neighborhood and her love of gymnastics. She has nicknamed herself Thumb, for Thumbelina, because she is so tiny, unlike her fairly large best friend Reni who stands by Thumb during this family life crisis. As spring approaches, Thumb receives a note from a secret admirer that she believes is from the pizza delivery boy, Benny. She and Reni set out to encourage a blossoming relationship with Benny only to find out the note is not from him. Standing in the wings of all this are Louise’s very supportive grandparents and Reni’s brother, Henderson. Readers will discover who is Thumb’s “biggest fan” before she realizes who the secret admirer is. Told with humor and realistic adolescent dialogue, Louise comes to terms with her father’s new family and the circumstances surrounding her mother’s death to move on and have a spring with new relationships and new beginnings.
Visit the author’s website for more books by Phoebe Stone: http://www.phoebestone.com/
-Karen Hildebrand, Ohio Library and Reading Consultant

piggy bunnyVail, Rachel. (2012). Piggy Bunny. Illus. by Jeremy Tankard. New York: Feiwel and Friends/MacMillan. 

With Easter right around the corner this hilarious picture book will bring a lot of laughter. Liam is like all of the other piglets, except for one thing. Most piglets want to grow up to be pigs, but Liam dreams of becoming the Easter Bunny. Liam practices hopping, eating salad and delivering eggs. In the accompanying illustration Liam falls on his face, tries tasting greens and leaves a trail of broken eggs. His family thinks he is perfect the way he is with a squiggly tail, little black eyes, snouty nose, and triangular ears, but Liam believes he is the Easter Bunny. Thankfully, his grandparents respect his imagination and order him a Bunny suit on the internet. In the meantime, Liam practices hopping, eating salad and delivering eggs, though salad remains a challenge. When Liam tries on the Bunny suit and looks in the mirror, he is indeed the Easter Bunny. Every child or piglet can become anything they want to be when friends and family believe in them. 
-Deanna Day, Washington State University Vancouver

ellray jakesWarner, Sally. (2012) EllRay Jakes Walks the Plank. Illustrated by Jamie Harper. New York: Viking. 
Spring break is ruined! EllRay was supposed to take care of the class pet Zippy the goldfish, over spring break but his little sister Alfie accidently overfeeds him and that is the end of Zippy. This disaster happens just when things were starting to go really well for EllRay and his third grade year in school. When he returns to school after spring break he has forgotten to bring back Treasure Island, the book he borrowed from Mrs. Sanchez that she is reading aloud to the class and his classmates are furious. To make matters worse, his archenemy and the class bully, Cynthia, is unjustly blaming EllRay for a few playground and classroom issues that were not his doing. Readers who are familiar with the EllRay series will recognize how EllRay always seems to mess up. This third installment in the series brings another realistic school adventure to the early chapter book genre. Read about the entire EllRay Jakes series at the author’s website: http://www.sallywarner.com/
-Karen Hildebrand, Ohio Library and Reading Consultant

secrets of the gardenZoehfeld, Kathleen. (2012) Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in Our Backyard. Illustrated by Priscilla Lamont.  New York: Knopf. 

Alice and her family are anxiously awaiting spring so they can begin planting their garden. Working the soil, starting the seeds in pots, and planting the budding sprouts they begin to watch their garden take root. Other critters are watching the garden as well and Alice narrates the comings and goings of nibbling rabbits and munching mice and buzzing insects where even the family cat and a soaring eagle drop into the garden. She discovers how many creatures, including her family, are waiting on the delicious fresh produce coming from the garden. Two chickens on nearly every page provide humor but also contribute science concepts about gardening through the speech bubbles that thread through the book explaining exactly what is happening as the garden changes including the water cycle, photosynthesis, composting and the food chains that bring the insects, rain and sun. Teachers who would like to add nonfiction read-alouds will find this book perfect on many levels. Careful examination of the often-humorous illustrations demonstrates how the garden is created and tended throughout the spring and summer.
-Karen Hildebrand, Ohio Library and Reading Consultant

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