Three new picture books for young children feature the great outdoors as the setting for small, familiar dramas. On the nonfiction side, a new photo-essay celebrates a school garden as an outdoor classroom and gathering place for the school community.
In David Martin’s Peep and Ducky, two bird pals meet in the park for an idyllic play date. Peep and Ducky romp in a mud puddle, have snacks, take a pee break (side by side on their port-a-potties), fight over a bucket until it breaks, apologize, and dig in the sand. The simple and repetitive rhyming text is great fun to read aloud; the springlike pastel colors of David Walker’s illustrations fill in the chubby figures with a comfortable solidity. (Candlewick, 1–4 years)
Young Phoebe scores a toy truck (yay!) at the same time she acquires a baby sister (boo!) in Tricia Springstubb’s Phoebe and Digger. When her harried mother finally takes Phoebe and the (not-always-adorable) little baby to the park, Phoebe and Digger have a blast. A scaredy-cat “crybaby boy” lands her in time-out, and, later, a bully snatches Digger up, but in the end Phoebe learns that, in a family, it doesn’t have to be every girl for herself. Jeff Newman’s mixed-media illustrations play up the tale’s small moments and big emotions. (Candlewick, 3–6 years)
Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle is Chris Raschka’s straightforward account of one young girl’s perseverance and triumph over her two-wheeled vehicle. A grandfatherly figure’s encouragement makes up the second-person text (“And now you’ll never forget how”). Raschka’s loose watercolor images bespeak protection, urging, assistance, and commiseration (after a fall). While the title’s “everyone” may be a bit of an exaggeration, it reflects this book’s infectious optimism. (Schwartz & Wade/Random, 3–6 years)
From spring planting to winterization, George Ancona’s full-color photographs in It’s Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden chronicle a year in the life of a garden at an elementary school in Santa Fe. Students are shown composting soil, watering plants, raising butterflies, and sampling the edible delights. Ancona’s no-nonsense prose style is perfectly suited for newly independent readers. (Candlewick, 5–8 years)
From the May 2013 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.