Birth-3 years old
By Olé Risom
Illustrated by Richard Scarry
Reprint edition: 2004
(Originally published in 1963)
Richard Scarry is a pillar in the hall of children’s books. His Busytown books should be in every home library. The illustrations in I am a Bunny are richer than his usual style, though they evoke the same joyous feelings that all his books share.
“I am a bunny. My name is Nicholas. I live in a hollow tree.”
Thus begins the perfectly simple story, which follows Nicholas the bunny through each of the four seasons; Scarry’s palette changes to match the seasons but is consistently luminous.
In the winter Nicholas curls up in his hollow tree and dreams of spring. And when spring arrives he likes to pick flowers and chase butterflies.
By Taro Gomi
Taro Gomi has created many wonderful books for children; I especially love his activity books, including Scribbles and Doodles. (Some readers may know him for his wildly popular book, Everyone Poops.)
Using bright, simple illustrations and minimal text, this book focuses on all four seasons.
It opens in the spring, with a bold illustration of a fresh young calf; the bright white baby cow is set against a hot pink background.
Soon the calf’s black spots begin to appear, and the background becomes a warm, mellow orange. The seasons change, the calf grows, and soon it is spring again!
By Samantha Berger & Pamela Chanko
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Just looking at the cover of this book makes me want to skip through an open field.
All the animals are excited about the impending arrival of spring! Word spreads through the community from bird, to rabbit, to deer and to duck, and they all welcome the lovely new season.
By David McPhail
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Out of print
David McPhail has had a lengthy career in children’s books and he continues to create wonderful stories and pleasing illustrations.
On a rainy day, a young boy asks his mother if he can go outside and play in the puddles.
“Okay, but you stay out of the puddles.”
The boy dons his coat and boots, grabs his toy sailboat and heads outside in search of the largest puddle. Once he’s found it, he sets his boat to sail.
Soon a frog comes by and jumps on the boy’s boat. Then a turtle happens by for teatime. More and more animals join the fun creating a wild and unbelievable adventure.
Eventually the sun dries up the puddle and the animals and the boy return to their respective homes.
By Ruth Krauss
Illustrated by Marc Simont
1950 Caldecott Honor Book
This book made TurtleAndRobot’s Top 20 Books about Snow as well, but it’s also about spring and it’s a really wonderful book.
It begins under the cover of snow with all the animals sleeping. Soon they are waking up and sniffing. What is it they smell?
They emerge from their burrows and start running and sniffing. They stop, and laugh, and dance! There, in the midst of all the snow and white and cold, a burst of color appears in the form of a beautiful yellow flower.
The delicious, buttery yellow of the flower is the only bit of color in this otherwise black and white picture book.
By Ruth Lercher Bornstein
Out of print
Ruth Bornstein is the author and illustrator of Little Gorilla, which is an adorable picture book. She uses warm pastel colors in her luminescent art.
A baby rabbit and her family are snuggled in a burrow deep underground. Everyone else is asleep but Rabbit is awake, so she peeks outside. There’s something in the air, something calling to Rabbit, something with a “soft green sound.”
Rabbit leaves the hole to investigate and experience some of the amazing events of spring: green grass, a blooming flower and a bird hatching from an egg.
She returns home to share the good news with her family, “Spring is here.”
By Kevin Henkes
Kevin Henkes has published dozens of books for children, from board books to novels. His stories are funny, compassionate, relevant and timeless. His artistic style ranges from soft and subtle to vibrant and active and is always impressive and enticing.
Little White Rabbit is not technically about spring but the soft art and verdant palette embody the feelings of spring.
The little white rabbit hops through grass and wonders what it’s like to be green; soon his whole world is bathed in emerald. He hops past trees and wonders what it’s like to be tall; soon he is peeking out over the tops of the tallest pine. He hops over a rock and tries to imagine staying perfectly still and slowly turning to stone.
In the end, he hops all the way back home to rejoin his loving family.
By Janet Schulman
Illustrated by Meilo So
Out of print
Meilo So’s spare, deft watercolors are luscious. Wildflowers bloom in the background as playful animals flutter, crawl, scurry and frolic across the page.
This counting book celebrates spring, starting with one bountiful Easter basket and ending with ten ladybugs crawling; there are also chicks, ducks, squirrels and foxes along the way.
By Julie Fogliano
Illustrated by Erin E. Stead
Roaring Brook Press
And Then It’s Spring, Julie Fogliano’s first book, won her the Ezra Jack Keat’s New Writer Award. This was Erin E. Stead’s second book to be published; her first, A Sick Day for Amos McGee, won her the Caldecott Medal.
“First you have brown, all around you have brown.”
The book opens on a vast, brown landscape. A young boy, with his dog close behind, plants some seeds. And then he must wait. And wait. While he’s waiting he must also keep those seeds safe from birds and careless bears.
Soon the brown starts to whisper and hum about the coming green. And then it’s spring.
Fogliano’s spare and poetic text, coupled with Stead’s finely detailed, delicate, beguiling art produce a book that perfectly portrays both the long wait between the end of winter and the beginning of spring, and all the joy that comes with spotting those first green shoots of the season of renewal.
This pair has another spectacular book, If You Want to See a Whale, due out in May.
By Karma Wilson
Illustrated by Jane Chapman
Margaret K. McElderry Books
This author and illustrator have created several books together about the downright adorable Bear and his friends. The simple, rhyming text flows smoothly and Chapman’s bright art has a fresh, velvety appearance.
At the end of a long winter, Bear wakes up from his hibernation and he is very hungry. He nibbles on some grass, but Bear wants more. He meets up with his friend Mouse and they visit a strawberry patch. Bear eats and eats, but still wants more.
After eating his way through the day, Bear arrives home. His friends have arranged a party for him but he can’t fit through his own door! All of Bear’s friends must work together to dislodge him from the entrance to his den.
When he’s finally freed, Bear eats a little more and goes back to sleep.
By Lois Ehlert
Ehlert’s vibrant, bold collage art and simple, informative text make this a great book for aspiring gardeners and flower lovers. From planting bulbs in the fall, to ordering seeds in the winter, to waiting for sprouts in the spring until finally a rainbow of colors and a mélange of shapes all come together to form a beautiful garden.
With clear labels and color-coding, it’s easy to follow the steps and teach children about colors, shapes, planting, flowers, gardening and seasons, all with this one beautifully simple book.
By Sarah Stewart
Illustrated by David Small
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
1998 Caldecott Honor Book
Young Lydia Grace is moving to the city to help her uncle, who owns a bakery. Lydia Grace does not know anything about baking but she knows everything about gardening and her happy, generous spirit is just what her grumpy uncle needs (even if he doesn’t know it yet).
She immediately sets to work planting everything she can in anything she can, including broken teacups and bent cake pans. One day she finds a secret place and makes great plans for it. Meanwhile, the world around her is blooming and brightening from all her planting.
In a perfect and grand reveal, readers discover that the secret place is a rooftop, now gloriously transformed into a majestic garden by Lydia Grace—who now goes by “The Gardener.”
Told in a series of increasingly jubilant letters from Lydia Grace to her family back home and paired with exquisite art that radiates life, The Gardener possesses all the beauty that comes with spring.
By Lucille Clifton
Illustrated by Brinton Turkle
Reprint edition: 1992
This book was originally published in 1973 (the cover sort of gives that away) and is a distinctly urban-centric story.
King Shabazz doesn’t understand what everyone means when they say spring is just around the corner. He’s never seen this “spring” and he’s sick of everyone talking about it. He wants to find spring for himself, and enlists his friend Tony Polito to help. The two boys explore outside their usual neighborhood to investigate new sounds and smells; they’ve never been past the end of their street before.
Eventually they come across an abandoned car, emitting unfamiliar noises, in an empty lot. As the boys are approaching the car they see a patch of yellow flowers growing amidst the litter in the lot. Once they reach the vehicle they learn that the unfamiliar noise is a mama bird protecting her nest of eggs, prompting the boys to declare, “Man, it’s spring!”
By Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrated by Garth Williams
Reprint edition: 2003
(Originally published in 1956)
Margaret Wise Brown is best known for penning Goodnight Moon. Her simple text in this story is rhythmic and lyrical.
Garth Williams has illustrated some of the world’s most beloved books, including Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, Bedtime for Frances and The Gingerbread Rabbit. His detailed, lush and comforting art is absolutely exquisite.
Bunny is in search of a home. During his search, he encounters many other animals and learns about the kinds of homes they live in.
When he meets a mother robin and learns about nests, Bunny declares, “Not for me, I would fall out of a nest. I would fall on the ground.”
‘”Where is your home?” he asked the frog. “Wog, wog, wog,” sang the frog. “Wog, wog, wog, Under the water, Down in the bog.”’
Under the water would not be a good place for a bunny to make his home either.
Before long Bunny meets a lovely white rabbit whose home is under a rock and she invites Bunny to stay. It’s a perfect home.
By William Joyce
Out of print
William Joyce’s career spans children’s books, animated films (Rise of the Guardians) and television (Rolie Polie Olie). His intricate and detailed illustrations are stylistically unique and incredibly beautiful.
Bently Hopperton is a young, artistic frog. When his duck friend Kack Kack needs someone to watch over her egg while she visits her sister’s new ducklings, Bently is left to watch over the precious package.
Bently doesn’t like the egg even though all the other animals are quite excited about the joyous turn of events in the recently widowed duck’s life. He decides to spruce up the dull shell by painting it, but a young boy wanders by and takes it, certain it’s been left by the Easter Bunny.
Bently must find the boy who took the egg and shepherd it to safety without it coming to harm, and without his beloved friend discovering. Thus begins a wild adventure. Happily, Bently recovers the egg and gets it back to its mother just in time for the beautiful baby duck to hatch. Kack Kack decides to name her new son Ben, after her hero Bently.