Spring into nature

Spring is a season of rebirth, which makes it a great time to discover Mother Nature's many wonders. These new picture books will inspire inquisitive preschoolers-and-up to venture outside and explore.

The Home Builders by Varsha Bajaj invites children to observe nature as a variety of creatures busily create homes to live in with their babies. The text is simple, specific, and active, reflecting the hard work of each type of creature to stay alive. Simona Mulazzani's mixed-media illustrations use soft colors and have a generally cozy feel, yet are clear and precise enough that viewers can spot even the smallest insects. See the cover of the March/April Horn Book Magazine for a glimpse inside The Home Builders — and into springtime's bustling underground world. (Penguin/Paulsen, 3–5 years)

In Carl and the Meaning of Life, written and illustrated by Deborah Freedman, earthworm Carl is always moving underground, digesting leaves and "turning hard dirt into fluffy soil." When a field mouse asks him why he does that, Carl suffers an immediate identity crisis and asks other animals if they know his purpose. Carl's existential woes are illustrated via delicate earth-toned watercolors on expansive, full-bleed double-page spreads. A light ending allows readers to deduce an earthworm's role in maintaining ecological balance. (Viking, 3–5 years)

Olive & Pekoe: In Four Short Walks follows Pekoe, a large yellow puppy with energy and enthusiasm to spare, and Olive, a small older dog with a much more subdued outlook on life. Readers follow the good friends on four short walks that showcase their differences and commonalities. Jacky Davis's deadpan text is the perfect foil for Giselle Potter's expressive art, which captures the ups-and-downs of canine life with understanding and humor. (Greenwillow, 4–8 years)

In Antoinette Portis's playful and informative picture book Hey, Water!, a girl named Zoe speaks directly to water while considering its different forms and its roles inside and outside a home. Spare, accessible main text makes effective use of figurative language: dewdrops that wink, water that freezes "soft as a feather," etc. Water's many permutations are the focus of the crisp, uncluttered, primarily aqua-colored illustrations. Back matter includes notes on conservation and water forms and a simple water cycle diagram. (Holiday/Porter, 4–8 years)

From the April 2019 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.
Cynthia K. Ritter
Cynthia K. Ritter

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

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