Contemplative seasonal picture books

The following picture books explore the warmth of relationships in seasonal settings.

In Sydney Smith's Small in the City, an intrepid child on the move in the big, wintry city speaks directly to an unknown someone, dispensing advice and encouragement. With full-bleed spreads juxtaposed with ones featuring small vignettes, Smith expertly communicates the city's chaos and bustle with line, color, and scale. This emotionally resonant ode to the resilience of small creatures in a big, loud world is tender and timeless—and a masterful merging of art and text. (Holiday/Porter, 3–6 years)

A Big Bed for Little Snow, follow-up to Caldecott Honor Book A Big Mooncake for Little Star, stars an impish boy who lives amidst the clouds. He gives in to temptation and jumps gleefully on his cornflower-blue bed, sending feathers fluttering down; a page-turn shows a rooftop covered in snow. Grace Lin's illustrations are spare but expressive, with copious, thoughtfully used white space. A wondrous and exuberant story to which boisterous listeners and readers will surely relate. (Little, Brown, 3–6 years)

A Stone Sat Still, companion to Caldecott Honor Book They All Saw a Cat, focuses on a large stone. Over the years, as the seasons go by, the stone's qualities appear to change depending on who interacts with it (rough to a slug, smooth to a hedgehog), reminding readers that our perspectives shape how we see things. Brendan Wenzel's textured illustrations include pops of color on earth-toned spreads; light and shadow are used to dramatic effect. A thought-provoking meditation on memory and the passage of time. (Chronicle, 3–6 years)

At the start of Birdsong, a girl named Katherena, her mother, and their dog Ôhô move to their new home in a peaceful, bucolic setting. Katherena befriends their elderly neighbor Agnes, and season by season, they continue sharing their passion for flora, fauna, and art. Cree-Métis author/illustrator Julie Flett's smooth and lyrical words and gorgeous digitally composed pastel and pencil images truly capture the warmth and solidarity of the female protagonists in this tender intergenerational friendship story. Glos. (Greystone Kids, 5–8 years)

His dried fruits missing, forest creature Thomas, star of Wintercake by Lynne Rae Perkins, despairs about making a wintercake for Winter's Eve. Bird Lucy overhears a "vile beast" say he found the fruits—but then witnesses the stranger returning them, before then himself disappearing. After baking a wintercake for the (now) "noble chap," Thomas and Lucy undertake a dark, perilous journey and find him, alone and sad. Descriptive language and dry humor shine in this warm-hearted winter story. Perkins's earth-toned illustrations are rich in detail, patterns, and textures. (Greenwillow, 5–8 years)

From the November 2019 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Cynthia K. Ritter
Cynthia K. Ritter

Cynthia K. Ritter is editor of The Horn Book Guide. She earned a master's degree in children's literature from Simmons University.

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