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Let’s hear it for spring

Winter is almost over! Time to head outdoors. Four very different picture books take readers outside, whether it’s on a working farm, in an imaginary tree fort, for a day out with two best friends (one is a bulldog), or going up on a mountaintop in search of a lost kite.

spring_karas_on the farmOn the Farm, at the Market brings readers behind the scenes as it provides an entertaining, enlightening, and child-friendly look at farming and farmers’ markets. Author-illustrator G. Brian Karas describes the operations of three different types of small farms — vegetable, dairy, and mushroom — putting a sunny spin on the hard work required while emphasizing the importance of careful management and teamwork (children, too, help in small ways). Then, early the next morning all the farmers come together at the market, where the community-at-large benefits from their efforts. Karas’s illustrations are rich with the colors of a bountiful harvest, and a cheerful camaraderie shines throughout the book. (Holt/Ottaviano, 4–7 years)

spring_dyckman_horrible bearAt the start of Horrible Bear! by Ame Dyckman, a kite string snaps and lands the kite on a snoozing bear. When the little-girl owner tries to retrieve it — “CRUNCH!the bear rolls over and breaks it. Furious, the girl wakes the startled creature, shouting, “HORRIBLE BEAR!” and then storms off. Meanwhile, the affronted bear formulates his revenge. He stomps down to the girl’s house, ready to wake her up — and is unprepared for the apology he receives. This lively conflict-resolution-in-picture-book’s-clothing is as instructive as it is amusing. Zachariah OHora’s acrylic illustrations, with their thick black lines and subdued hues, enhance the humor. (Little, Brown, 3–6 years)

spring_meshon_best days are dog daysA sturdy-looking French bulldog narrates Aaron Meshon’s The Best Days Are Dog Days, the tale of a dog’s active day spent with his human “sibling.” Dog and Sis wake, eat breakfast, and then head outside. Together they chase a squirrel, separately they take potty breaks, and then the whole family bikes to the market—on a multi-seat tandem, bulldog in a basket up front. The page design makes clever use of the gutter, with Sis appearing on one side of the spread and her dog on the other. The paintings are saturated with bright colors, and the frequent dialogue balloons feature witty lettering (“RISE AND SHINE!” in yellow and orange letters resembling sun rays). Young listeners will enjoy sharing this pair’s eventful “dog day.” (Dial, 3–6 years)

spring_farley_secret tree fortShooed outside by their mother (“It’s a beautiful day!”), the two sisters in Brianne Farley’s Secret Tree Fort find themselves at odds: the older wants to be left alone with her book, while the younger wants to play. Desperate to engage her sister, the younger one makes increasingly implausible claims about her (imaginary) tree fort. Meanwhile, and seemingly at the young girl’s creative command, the muted, green-gray outdoor setting transforms into a thrilling fantastical world. When, eventually, the younger sister is tearfully forced to admit that she made the tree fort up, her newly supportive sibling consoles her: “Maybe we just need to build it!” Farley’s appealingly rendered mixed-media illustrations give a nod to child-made drawings; quirky details in the text (“inside the fort, there’s a marshmallow and chocolate storage compartment…”) feel genuine. (Candlewick, 4–7 years)

From the March 2016 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Martha V. Parravano About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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