The kids’ bikes are out of the shed, daffodils are ready to bloom and bins of warm-weather clothes sit in each of our bedrooms. Though we haven’t had a harsh winter, the energizing days of spring are as welcome as ever. It’s also the time when we pull out Easter books and other spring-related titles that we haven’t read for awhile. Following is a selection of new and existing books that will entertain the kids and may teach them something new about the upcoming holidays. Happy Spring!
Peas on Earth
Written and Illustrated by Todd H. Doodler; Robin Corey Books (2012), $6.99 (board book and e-book available) ages 0-3
As the title hints, this adorable board book features many a play on words. Peace and harmony are the theme and the examples are colorful pictures of objects that go together, such as peanut butter and jelly, milk and cookies, and salt and pepper. Sharing and caring for the environment are themes also presented. This may seem like a lot of information for the board book age, but Mr. Doodler brings it all together like apple pie and ice cream. So please ... give peas a chance!
10 Hungry Rabbits: Counting and Color Concepts
Written and Illustrated by Anita Lobel; Alfred A. Knopf (2012), $9.99 (hardcover and e-book available), ages 1-4
Mama Rabbit is making a giant pot of soup for her 10 little ones. Each young rabbit helps out by gathering the ingredients: one purple cabbage, two white onions, three yellow peppers and so on. Vintage-style illustrations give this lap-sized book a classic feel and tots will love to count along as they also learn their colors, fruits and vegetables.
By Lindsey Craig, Illustrated by Marc Brown; Alfred A. Knopf (2011), $6.99-15.99 (board book, hardcover and e-book available), ages 1-4
It’s quite a party in the barnyard! The farm animals can’t sleep because “they got that beat” and can’t keep from dancing. The chicks’ “peep-peep” keeps up the sheep, who’s “tattity-tat-tat” wakes up the cat, and so on. Repetition, rhyme and great illustrations by Arthur creator Marc Brown, make this a super-fun read aloud for kids right up through the preschool years. Parents can keep the book handy as it can be an effective tool for beginning readers.
The Story of the Easter Bunny
By Katherine Tegen, Illustrated by Sally Anne Lambert; HarperCollins (2005), $6.99-12.99 (hardcover, paperback and e-book available), ages 3-8
Many, many years ago, there was an old couple who spent each winter making straw baskets filled with homemade chocolate and hand-dyed Easter eggs. Every Easter morning, under the warm sun and bright blue sky, the couple gave a basket to every child in the town. One year, the couple oversleeps and doesn’t fill the baskets in time, so their pet rabbit took over. The little rabbit LOVED the job and helped the aging couple every year, becoming known as the Easter Bunny. When the couple becomes too old to make their baskets, the Easter Bunny decides to keep this magic going and moves to a secret location deep in the woods. He invites his rabbit friends to help so that he could provide Easter baskets to children all over the world. The soft, but colorful illustrations, add to the charm of this story, making it as sweet as the candy found in any Easter basket.
The Biggest Easter Basket Ever
Written and Illustrated by Steven Kroll, Illustrated by Jeni Bassett; Scholastic, Inc. (2008), $4.99 (paperback), ages 4-8
Youngsters have enjoyed reading about mice Clayton and Desmond as they’ve made the biggest ever snowman, pumpkin and Valentine over the years. In this book, the duo is about to tackle the biggest Easter basket ever to win the town contest. Of course, they start out making their own basket to compete against each other. After a few mishaps on their own, each mouse realizes that they would do better by teaming up. (When will they learn?) Clayton and Desmond join forces and even ask their families to help. Their jointly made basket, filled with colorful eggs, chocolate bunnies and other goodies, was certainly the biggest and won the contest. Of course, Clayton and Desmond share the baskets’ sweet contents with the whole town and have a festive Easter celebration. Colorful silver foil stickers are included, making this book a fun addition to any “normally” sized Easter basket.
All About Passover
By Judyth Groner and Madeline Wikler, Illustrated by Kinny Kreiswirth; Kar-Ben Publishing (2000), $5.95 (paperback), ages 5-10
Passover is a celebration rich with tradition and meaning, and this book does a terrific job of explaining all the elements from its history to how the holiday is celebrated in Jewish homes today. We learn about the origins of Passover with an easy-to-understand telling of the story of Moses. The authors then offer an overview of all the significant elements of the “holiday of matzah,” from why matzah is eaten in place of bread to the various aspects of a Passover seder. This is a terrific teaching tool for elementary school kids developing a deeper understanding about their own celebration, or for children interested in learning about another religion’s traditions. We don’t celebrate Passover, but this book was a great way for all of us to understand the rituals that are meaningful to our friends and family that do.
Celebrate Easter with Colored Eggs, Flowers and Prayer
By Deborah Heiligman; National Geographic Society (2006), $15.95 (hardcover), ages 10 & up (but I say 5 & up)
This book uses real-life photographs to show how Easter is celebrated in various parts of the world, including the U.S., Cuba, Sweden and the Vatican, among others. Topics discussed are the meanings of Lent and Holy Week, as well as the non-religious traditions of Easter, such as the Easter bunny (no, he’s not a religious icon), parades and egg hunts. For young Christians, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ can be a tough concept, but Ms. Heiligman uses easy-to-understand text that’s appropriate for elementary school kids. It’s also great for children to see that though Christians all over the world celebrate the same holiday, different cultures have their own traditions. Perhaps a fun idea might be to incorporate another country’s custom into your family’s holiday. I’m thinking of making the included recipe for “Franny’s Tatales,” Italian Easter cookies!
The Giving Tree
Written and Illustrated by Shel Silverstein; HarperCollins (1964), $16.99 (hardcover), ages not provided by publisher, but I say “all”!
Mr. Silverstein’s simple story and even simpler black-and-white, hand-drawn illustrations, is about the “relationship” between a boy and a big apple tree. The boy loves playing by the tree. But, what he doesn’t realize is that the tree loves him back, and shows “her” love by providing him shade, a place to climb, branches on which to swing, and apples to eat. Eventually, the boy gets older and moves away, but the tree continues to give by providing apples that he can sell and wood to build a house. As the years pass, the boy, now a very elderly man, returns to visit the old tree, which has been reduced to a stump. To us, it appears the tree has nothing more to give. But to the boy/old man, the stump is a comfortable place to rest. Published nearly 50 years ago, this classic’s theme is as relevant today as ever. Living in such a “consumable” society, one of the best lessons adults can teach children is to appreciate what is given to us, whether it’s from people, animals or the environment. While the boy didn’t appear to “give” anything back, the tree considers his appreciation to be the best gift of all.