Ever-changing weather and seasons

October in New England can be changeable. (Coats over costumes? This year stay home.) Similar to Grace Lin’s four season-themed Storytelling Math series of board books, these fiction and nonfiction picture books explore weather and seasons in entertaining, accessible, informative ways.

If Winter Comes, Tell It I’m Not Here
by Simona Ciraolo; illus. by the author
Primary    Candlewick    32 pp.    g
10/20    978-1-5362-1530-4    $16.99

As a little boy sits on the side of a pool eating an ice-cream cone, his older sister informs him that he had better enjoy it, because “summer’s going to end soon.” Listening to her ominous warnings (“the days get shorter, there’s a chill in the air, and the trees lose all their leaves”) and hyperbolic predictions (“everything will be SO dull, and you’ll be SO cold [and] you’ll be stuck on the sofa for days”) causes the boy’s imagination to go to extremes, and he begins looking for signs of fall with a heavy heart. One by one, the signs come, but the new season isn’t at all what he’d envisioned. Shorter days and changing leaves bring walks with his dad among autumnal colored trees. Time “stuck on the sofa” is enjoyed tucked in between his parents for movie night. And the cold rain his sister threatened soon turns to snow, bringing the unbridled thrill of downhill sledding. Ciraolo’s pencil and watercolor illustrations are rich with dynamic facial expressions, dramatically colored imaginings, and energetic lines, all of which communicate the boy’s wide spectrum of emotions as he dreads, discovers, and finally delights in each new season. A crocus poking up through the snow on the final spread symbolizes the inevitability of change and the happiness that can be found all throughout the year. EMMIE STUART

The Weather’s Bet
by Stephen Cowan; illus. by Ed Young
Primary    Philomel    32 pp.    g
3/20    978-0-525-51382-7    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-525-51383-4    $10.99

“One day a shepherd was fast asleep / upon a hill with her flock of sheep.” The three powers who rule the Earth — Rain, Wind, and Sun — bet on which of them can force the shepherd to remove her cap. They begin their contest of strength. Wind blows “angry gusts of air” and Rain tries “to soak, / with pounding water, / her cap and cloak,” but their efforts are in vain. Then Sun takes its turn and begins to shine. The shepherd “smiled and began to sweat, and Wind and Rain lost the bet” as she doffs her cap — showing readers that kindness and gentleness prevail. In this retelling of Aesop’s fable “The Wind and the Sun,” Caldecott Medalist Young uses mixed-texture collages composed of torn magazine paper and (according to the copyright page) photographs by nature photographer John Hudak. Full-bleed double-page spreads invite readers to linger on the panoramic scenes and dive deeply into the details of the illustrations. The language is lyrical, full of rhythm and rhyme, and the text is beautifully integrated into the illustrations (e.g., on the page where Wind “howled and howled,” words are situated on the page as if they are being blown by a gust of air). The three powers visually present themselves in the shapes of their Chinese characters — a hidden surprise that will delight readers in the know. A primer on the symbols used in the story is appended. WEILEEN WANG

Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy
by Tara Dairman; illus. by Archana Sreenivasan
Preschool, Primary    Putnam    32 pp.    g
5/20    978-0-525-51806-8    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-525-51807-5    $10.99

In this beautifully rendered study of contrasts and commonalities, Dairman imagines a girl and boy from two different biomes in India. Split pages portray the girl going about her day collecting firewood with her family, embroidering patterns with her grandmother, and eating family meals under the desert sky (the back matter indicates that the community is the Rabari nomadic tribe). The yellows of the girl’s dusty surroundings contrast with the lush greens and blues of the boy’s village environment. As heavy monsoon clouds threaten to burst, he attends to his day — going to school, herding goats with his grandfather, and splashing in muddy puddles. As the weather brings about sandstorms (for the girl) and floods (for the boy), both families are forced to move to higher ground — where the children finally meet. Intersecting panels highlight their parallel stories, while the spare rhyming text complements the arresting visuals. This book not only examines climate change through the eyes of communities whose lives and livelihoods depend on the weather, but also provides a starting point for conversations on gendered roles as well as about migration as a form of survival — and how our lives are interconnected. The back matter notes Sreenivasan’s research, including community members’ input into making the book. SADAF SIDDIQUE

Every Color of Light
by Hiroshi Osada; illus. by Ryōji Arai; trans. from Japanese by David Boyd
Preschool, Primary    Enchanted Lion    40 pp.    g
8/20    978-1-59270-291-6    $16.95

Poetic phrases and vibrant mixed-media illustrations capture the intensity of a thunderstorm across a natural landscape. The book begins with a small image of the landscape in one corner. “Look, it’s raining,” reads the text, encouraging a child viewer to begin focusing in on the image closely to spot the streaks of rain. Attention is rewarded when the next picture expands to fill both pages as the rain begins to fall — “Wetter / And wetter / The blues darken / And so do the greens” — again drawing the viewer to notice the changes, with lines across the intense blues and greens showing the driving rain. The wind’s power is shown on the next pages with a much less orderly picture as the lines begin going sideways as well as vertically, and the style becomes more impressionistic and wild. A spare text economically conveys what’s happening: “Cracking / Crashing / Boom / Bah-bah-BOOM!” Light then fills the pages once the storm has passed, and one spread focuses on the dripping raindrops with sparkles and iridescent colors inside. As the day fades, the pages become golden, and the focus begins to shift to the expansive night sky, concluding with another tiny picture in the corner, with the word asleep fading away. It’s rare for a picture book to so vividly command attention without any characters, but the pictures are so stunning that a child who has dwelt in them will likely notice much more the next time they are observing nature, especially during a terrifying, thrilling thunderstorm. SUSAN DOVE LEMPKE

Feel the Fog
by April Pulley Sayre; photos by the author
Preschool, Primary    Beach Lane/Simon    40 pp.    g
9/20    978-1-5344-3760-9    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5344-3761-6    $10.99

Immersive photographs (most taken by the author) pull viewers into the experience of a foggy day in Sayre’s latest weather-focused title (Raindrops Roll and others). The large-format pictures invite viewers to explore how weather interacts with animals, plants, and natural landscapes. Sayre’s fog obscures and reveals, with many monochromatic white and gray pages showing just how much the fog can transform outdoor objects and creatures (a yellow bird, for example) and inviting viewers to lean in closely to see what they’re looking at and what may be hidden. But while the pictures steal the show, Sayre’s poetic language creates a mood and a rhythm while leaving plenty of room for listeners to feel like they are making their own discoveries. A back-matter spread succinctly answers many of the questions that children may ask while reading, such as, “Why does fog feel cold?” The book ends by telling readers that fog “limits what you can see, but it can expand what you imagine” — the latter of which could easily describe Sayre’s book. LAURA KOENIG

Green on Green
by Dianne White; illus. by Felicita Sala
Preschool, Primary    Beach Lane/Simon    48 pp.    g
3/20    978-1-4814-6278-5    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4814-6279-2    $10.99

Do we need another picture book about the seasons? When it’s this good, the answer is an emphatic yes. White’s text is written in eminently readable verse that employs repetition, spot-on cadence, slant rhymes grounded in assonance, and inventive word choices. Early lines about summertime are representative: “Lemonade petals. / Sunflakes between. / Lemonade, sunflakes, and yellow on green.” Meanwhile, Sala’s art provides all narrative content, interpreting the poetic text with lush illustrations that follow a family — a child and two parents (all dark-skinned and blue-eyed) — through the seasons in their rural coastal community. One marker of the passage of time is the mother’s growing belly. Another is Sala’s shifting palette to visually depict the changing seasons: green dominates early scenes set in spring; then summertime blue skies and ocean waters take hold; followed by warm autumnal golds and browns; then snowy winter whites. (Endpapers feature portraits of the same tree in four different seasons.) Green returns again in closing pages, which also introduce a new baby into the family. Cozy and calming, familiar and fresh, Green on Green is great. MEGAN DOWD LAMBERT

From the October 2020 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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