Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Celebration of Seasons

Several books nominated in the Cybils fiction picture book category were about seasonal changes and how things in nature change over the course of the year. It’s interesting to see how three different books and their creators can take the same concept and celebrate it completely different.

When the Shadbush Blooms
By Carla Messinger, with Susan Katz
Illustrated by David Kanietakeron Fadden
Tricycle Press, 2007

This book celebrates the Lenape Indians and the cycle of life in one year’s time. Each spread eloquently tells what goes on during this time of the year.
“When the air hums with the wings of bees, my brother and I chase the crows from our garden. Together we gather honey. My brother ducks when a bee buzzes too close. I lick from one finger a drop as sweet as summer.”

On the left side of each page the traditional Lenape family is shown performing the task of the season. In the top left corner the name of the moon is written in traditional language. On the right side of the spread a contemporary Lenape child is shown with her family performing the same tasks in modern day. In the top right hand corner the name of the moon is written in English.

This book does not go through spring, summer, fall, and winter alone, but rather through each moon. Each season is mentioned in the text, but there are more than four stages that they go through. The moons include When the Shadfish Return Moon, Grass and Geese Moon, Planting Moon, Heartberry Moon, and more.

The Illustrations in this book are done in acrylic paintings and have a tremendous amount of detail.

The back of the book has information about Lenni Lenape people, the Lenape Seasons, and more about the Lenape culture.

The Growing Story
By Ruth Krauss
Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

This book also celebrates the seasons and the growth of things in nature, but the focus is on a little boy. The little boy has small chicks and a puppy. He watches the seasons change as he helps his mother with the yard work. He watches the chicks and his puppy grow and he wonders if he is growing too.

“The days grew longer. The nights grew shorter. The grass grew faster. The flowers grew higher.” The reader knows what season it is from the clues in the text and the pictures. The pictures show the animals and the plants as they go through changes.

The little boy wants to know if he is growing like everything else. He stores his warm clothes for next winter. As the seasons change the chicks and puppy he is raising grow up. He doesn’t realize he too has grown until he tries to put on his clothes from the previous winter. He celebrates as he realizes that he has grown too.

In this story the focus is the little boy, but the seasonal changes are central to the story as that is how the little boy marks time. It also is a celebration of all the things that are important about each season—picking pears at the end of the summer, watching the leaves turn colors, and feeling the air turn cooler.

This book was first published in 1947, but it has been rereleased with new illustrations.

Written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein
G.P. Putnam, 2007

This celebration of the seasons focuses on a baby bear. He doesn’t know what to do when the leaves begin to fall off the trees. In fact, he is so worried that he tries to put them back on. But he can’t. He doesn’t understand. But he knows he must hibernate, so he does. The winter has arrived and bear is safe in his hole. But soon the spring arrives and so do the new leaves. The bear crawls out from his hole and celebrates the new leaves.

This is a simple, short book, but so much is celebrated in the few words that are in the book. The bear has the excitement of a young child discovering something for the first time.

David Ezra Stein’s illustrations are playful, simple, and perfect for this story.

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