Springing New Readers Forward

Springtime’s here and the reading is breezy. Children’s Book Picks by the Crawford sisters, Patricia and Kerry.

In many ways, springtime is a tease: What appears also conceals. Green buds pop into view, but it’s the full flower they hide within that we’re really waiting for. And those, of course, won’t be in full bloom till summer.

The good news is that getting there is half the joy.

And, just as the signs of spring simultaneously delight and promise something more to come, so too do the “young sprouts” in our families.

“Children represent the springtime, something that flourishes, something new,” the Pontifical Council for the Family concluded in the Jubilee Year 2000. “Our children, the springtime of the family and society, are always a sign of hope for the world and for the Church.”

Here are some suggested springtime reads for the “growing signs of hope” in your little world.

(All are available through local or online bookstores.)

Spring is Here

written and illustrated by Taro Gomi

Chronicle, 1999

34 pages, $6.95

“Spring is here. / The snow melts. / The earth is fresh…” With sparse text, this chubby boardbook introduces this season and takes readers on a whirlwind tour of the other three. Although the words are simple, the pictures are cleverly complex. The story opens with an image of a snow-white baby calf. A turn of the page reveals a calf that, with brown spots, mirrors the melting snow. The visual play continues with the calf morphing through each change of season, until winter returns along with the calf’s snow-white image. While the bright colors will grab the attention of the very young, older children will also be fascinated by the layered messages embedded in each double-page spread. Ages 3 to 8.

Handsprings: Poems and Paintings

written and illustrated by Douglas Florian

Greenwillow Books, 2006

48 pages, $15.99

This collection of poems is just plain fun. Young readers will say “Good-Bye, Winter” and warm up for the excitement ahead. “Our arms are all rusty. / Our pitches are wild. / We’re constantly rattled, / And easily riled” describes “Spring Training.” “Play Ball” captures the dream of every boy and girl who steps up to bat: “The first grand-slam home run ball / Hit so hard it lands in fall.” Other offerings include “Rain Reign,” a poem that takes the shape of its subject and pours down its words across the page. Ages 4 to 8.

Spring: An Alphabet Acrostic

written by Steven Schnur

illustrated by Leslie Evans

Clarion Books, 1999

32 pages, $15.00

Spring comes alive in this book featuring an acrostic poem and a colored linoleum-cut illustration on each page. K-I-T-E-S transforms, for example, to “Knees pumping, we run / Into the wind, strings / Taut, / Eyes fixed on the / Sky.” Many of the acrostics speak of new birth (“Buds,” “Calf,” “Eggs,” “Seeds”) and springtime fun (“Hopscotch,” “Raft,” “Umpire”). The collection reaches its “Zenith” when summer arrives amid the greening of zucchinis and eggplants. Ages 8 to 12.

Spring Things

written by Bob Raczka

illustrated by Judy Stead

Albert Whitman & Company, 2007

28 pages, $16.95

Snow “melting” and “dripping” gives way to “thunderstorming,” “budding” and “sprouting” in this book in which the words, like spring, end in “-ing.” When bees start “buzzing” and hummingbirds “humming,” young readers know that a new season, summer, is soon “coming.” In terms of kid-appeal, the big and colorful pictures are, well, “stunning.” Ages 4 to 8.

Countdown to Spring:

An Animal Counting Book

written by Janet Schulman

illustrated by Meilo So

Alfred A. Knopf, 2002

24 pages, $6.99 (checked price)

This sturdy boardbook counts down the animals that signal spring. Starting with “10 Ladybugs crawling all around the crocuses,” children will visit with, to name just a few, ducklings, chicks, bunnies and squirrels. At the end, there is one basket filled with goodies for all the animals met along the way. Lovely watercolor illustrations accompany the countdown. Ages 1 to 5.

Kitten’s First Full Moon

written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes

Greenwillow, 2004

40 pages, $16.99

When Kitten looks up in the night sky, she sees a full moon for the very first time. Hungry Kitten is sure that something that white and round must be a bowl of delicious milk. She must have it! But, no matter how far she runs or how high she climbs, she just can’t reach the elusive — and illusive — treat. Finally, exhausted, Kitten returns home to find a real bowl of milk waiting just for her. The black-and-white charcoal illustrations give the comfortable storyline a retro feel. Ages 3 to 8.

Splish, Splash, Spring

Written by Jan Carr

Illustrated by Dorothy Donohue

Holiday House, 2002

32 pages, $6.95

Three friends dressed in bright rain slickers and carrying umbrellas set out on an adventure. Changing weather is just one of the things they encounter on their way (“Sun comes peeking / Hide-and-seeking / Days are playful / Spring’s a-sprout”). Baby robins (“Chit-chit-cheeping”), slimy slugs, yellow flowers (“Hocus-pocus! / There’s a crocus!”), and “loop-de-looping” kites remind the trio that spring has sprung. Paper collage art adds appeal. Ages 4 to 8.

And the Good Brown Earth

Written and illustrated by Kathy Henderson

Candlewick, 2008

40 pages, $6.99

Springtime is planting time. If plants are going to grow, they need loving care and the cooperation of the good, brown earth. So Joe and Gram get busy: They work hard in their garden — tilling, planting, weeding and, finally, harvesting. This intergenerational tale not only captures the beauty of God’s earth, but also the excitement and satisfaction that comes from taking care of it. Ages 3 to 8.

Spring Is Here

Written and illustrated by Lois Lenski

Random House for Young Readers, 2005

56 pages, $9.95

This little book was originally introduced in the 1940s and re-released in the ’70s. Now available for a new generation of young readers, it celebrates the joys of being outdoors (“Spring is here today! / Open the door, / Come out and play — / Spring has come to stay!”) and the wonders of new life. Ages 1 to 4.

The Crawford Sisters

write from Pittsburgh.