Celebrate all four seasons with these three new picture books that transport readers through the seasons and showcase the glories of Mother Nature.
Kim Norman’s Come Next Season captures the magic of a year spent outdoors on a journey from one summer to another. A brother and sister narrate the tale, anticipating the joys of each season—eating blueberries in the summer, filling their pockets with pecans in the fall, sledding with their dog in the winter and visiting “cheeping chicks” in the spring. The use of vivid figurative language animates their reveries, such as when they “scissor” their legs to warm up their bedsheets in winter and “roar like hungry bears” while jumping into piles of fall leaves. The well-paced text, with its gentle rhythms and perfect page turns, reveals the change of each season with a graceful and subtle fanfare.
Daniel Miyares illustrates the children reveling in a screen-free, outdoor world. Vivid purples, yellows and reds are on display, but the bright, warm blues steal the show. The story comes full circle, opening with a visit to a lake and ending with a return visit. Both moments feature the girl leaping exuberantly into the water, but the latter visit includes a new puppy for a new year.
A larger group of children plays outdoors through the seasons in Rebecca Grabill’s A Year With Mama Earth, illustrated by Rebecca Green. Both author and illustrator grew up in Michigan, and they base their words and art on those experiences.
Children play and explore outside, from one autumn to the next, near a home in the woods. Toying with the notion of nature as “Mama Earth,” Grabill personifies objects in nature in evocative, lyrical language, such as pumpkin seeds that play peekaboo under fall leaves, oaks that are “stubborn,” geese that take vacations, sugar maples that sing sweet songs and rain that dances. Grabill describes Mama Earth with bustling verbs. She “tightens night’s reins,” “dresses holly shrubs in icicles,” “sings a lullaby to the fat black bear,” “bakes the ground dry as toast” and “gathers icy diamonds in her skirt.” Green’s richly colored illustrations depict a wide range of woodland creatures—from bees and squirrels to cardinals and deer. In a closing author’s note, Grabill likens Mama Earth to a “gentle, fun-loving” parent full of surprises and calls for readers to slow down and listen to nature speaking.
Author-illustrator Eliza Wheeler’s Home in the Woods, narrated by 6-year-old Marvel, is a trip back in time to Depression-era Wisconsin. The book follows Marvel and her seven siblings from summer to spring as their family looks for a home after the death of their father. With each passing season, they are able to make the most out of having little. They create a home out of a shack in the woods, make a garden out of a “blanket of rotting leaves,” pitch in to do chores, fill their cellar with their garden harvests, hunt for food during the winter months and, working as a team, manage to thrive.
Wheeler often singles out objects in the children’s lives in her lush, detailed spreads. Her language is rich—there are “crystal rains,” berries that are “sweet jewels of blue and red” and “ruby leaves”—and she uses repetition to great effect. An author’s note reveals that the story is based on her grandmother’s experiences. It’s a story, she writes, about finding “inventive ways to work together.”