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In the stacks: new picture books

Posted: March 21, 2013 - 12:03am

Spring officially started yesterday, Passover and Easter are coming right up, and any day now, we’ll be able to see new things growing up through the snow. New spring picture books include several holiday books as well as some green, growing books.

“A Sweet Passover,” by Leslea Newman, illustrated by David Slonim.

Little Miriam is always happy when it’s time for Passover – every year, her family celebrates the eight days of the holiday at her grandparent’s house by lighting candles, singing prayers, and eating lots and lots of crunchy matzah. Miriam loves everything about the holiday, especially the matzah and for seven days, she eats it with jam, with cream cheese, with tuna, and even covered in chocolate. By the eighth day of Passover, all she wants is a nice piece of soft, squishy, toast, or a muffin, or even a bagel. But Passover isn’t over until sundown, and guess what her grandfather is making for breakfast! Newman sprinkles information about the holiday into the story and adds more details in an author’s note along with a recipe for matzah brei.

“Sugar Snow,” by Laura Ingalls Wilder, illustrated by Doris Ettlinger.

This picture book adaptation of a snippet from “Little House in the Big Woods” showcases an East Coast sign of spring: the making of maple syrup. Laura and her big sister, Mary, can see the ground through the melting snow – it’s warming up and almost time to go outside to play. But then they get a big snowfall, which Pa calls a “sugar snow.” The next day, Pa goes to help their grandfather and when he comes back, he brings a piece of maple sugar candy for each of the girls and a big bucket of maple syrup for Ma. Warm and cozy, with illustrations based on Garth Williams’ classic pictures, this slight story introduces the process of maple sugaring and also shows a little bit of life in the 1800s.

“The Easter Bunny’s Assistant,” written and illustrated by Jan Thomas.

It’s time to decorate Easter eggs with the Easter Bunny and his enthusiastic assistant, Skunk. But Skunk has a little problem: when he gets too excited, he is… well… difficult to be around. Step 1 (hard boil the eggs) gets things off to a smelly start, and Easter Bunny asks Skunk to please control himself. Step 2 (make the dye) features such beautiful colors that Skunk adds his own bit of color (a yellowish fog). He almost manages to keep it pleasant for Step 3 (decorating the eggs with crayons), but sadly, Easter Bunny has to add Step 4 (remove Skunk from the room) before moving on to Step 5 (dye the eggs). All is well by the end, though, as Easter Bunny finds a clothespin and lets a well-meaning, but very excited Skunk back in to help hide the eggs. Thomas’ lighthearted digital illustrations are reminiscent of Mo Willem’s delicious pictures, but have their own charm and energy.

“And then it’s spring,” by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin E. Stead.

Readers who pay attention to the beautifully-detailed, delicately-colored illustrations will be well-rewarded, because this is a book about noticing the small things. After the last snow has melted away, a boy in a scarf, hat, and gloves, his dog, and his turtle, head out to a brown, brown field where spring is just not happening yet. They are joined by other creatures – a curious rabbit, several birds – and they plant seeds and hope for rain. Days later, it’s still brown, but it’s a hopeful brown, and it gets more hopeful as the weeks pass and the scarf and hat are replaced by a raincoat, then a t-shirt. The boy wonders why the seeds aren’t sprouting: is it because the birds have eaten them all? Or have the bears come and stomped on them? (Even though he’s put up a sign: These are seeds and they are trying) A greenish hum fills the earth, a tire swing gets tied to the tree, and after sun and rain and many wishes – suddenly, it’s spring! Just the right mix of whimsy and reality make this a book we all can relate to this time of year.

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Monday, March 25, is Seward’s Day and all public libraries will be closed. For information about upcoming programs, or to place a hold, visit www.juneau.org/library or call 586-5249.

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