Saturday, April 03, 2010


THE EASTER EGG by Jan Brett (Putnam,2010) The great egg decorating contest is on, and all the bunnies are trying to "bring it!" so they can win the honor of helping the Easter Rabbit deliver the eggs. Page after page, we find bunnies in creative throes via panoramic chocolate eggs, painted eggs, Ukranian eggs, marbleized eggs, straw eggs, golden eggs, beaded can Hoppi hope to compete? Finally, he decides, "I guess I don't have to win. I just want to make an egg I am proud of." Hoppi's artistic endeavors are sidetracked when he encounters a robin's egg in need of some warmth and decides to put first things first, and manages to impress the boss bunny anyway. With a little blue jacket, Hoppi must be a nod to Peter Rabbit by another great children's book illustrator and naturalist, Beatrix Potter, though the story line gives more of a nod to Demi's THE EMPTY POT, about the celebration that comes with doing one's personal best. Brett used real rabbits as models, and it shows. The angora on the first spread looks like it might very well wiggle her nose at any moment! Signature illustrated borders are used to optimal effect; the pussy willows morphing into fluffy white bunnies is true picture book magic. This book is so gorgeous that it verges on the alarming; the many types of beautiful eggs boggle the brain, there's a dramatic fold-out page featuring a chariot drawn by red hens, and the forest detail, from the curve of a fiddlehead to the tentative downy bloom of flowering trees in the background, conspire in an ethereal mix of whimsy and realism to create a believable and textured world. Jan Brett, please illustrate Howard Garis's classic Uncle Wiggly next! This artist is putting some of her best work on display as vividly as a crocus bed, making this book is a true harbinger of spring. Sure to be savored repeatedly by the whole family, you can supplement your enjoyment of this title with the many resources available on Jan Brett's spectacular website. Honestly, I nearly ran out and bought a lop-eared rabbit of my very own. But then I remembered: bunnies eat books. (5 and up and up and up)

Also of interest:
More bunnies for your holiday book basket, and beyond.

THE STORY OF THE EASTER BUNNY by Katherine Tegen, illustrated by Sally Ann Lambert (HarperCollins) This very imaginative story perfectly paced for sharing tells how a sweet old couple started the Easter traditions of eggs and baskets while their family pet looked on, and when they were not able to do it any longer, our hoppity hero took over. The graceful watercolor illustrations hold all of the pleasure of walking down the supermarket candy aisle awash with pastel colored delights, but without the stomach ache. Truly sweet. (4 and up)

LITTLE RABBIT AND THE MEANEST MOTHER ON EARTH by Kate and M Sarah Klise (Harcourt, 2010) Hooray, the chance to revisit Little Rabbit and Mother Rabbit, whom wehave met before in SHALL I KNIT YOU A HAT? In this latest installment, mother's scoldings surrounding the need to prioritize a spring cleaning before going to the circus incites the son to sell tickets to see the Meanest Mother on Earth. After mom steps into the center ring, the audience feels the claim has been overstated, but she manages to calm the rowdy crowd with a compensatory spectacle: the Messiest Room on Earth. The give and take of a mother/child relationship is recognizable and offers all readers somebody to root for, but the best part is the detail that goes into the cozy matte acrylic illustration, displaying Little Rabbit's half-finished projects, a gum collection, a quirky mobile made of clothes hangers and handy pile of sand. Mother and son are not the only dynamic duo here; I always love this sister author/artist team who are so original, funky-fresh and wonderfully eclectic (demonstrated also in their novel replete with visuals, REGARDING THE FOUNTAIN, one of the best pieces of children's fiction ever penned in letter-writing form). (5 and up)

A VERY BIG BUNNY by Marisabina Russo (Schwartz & Wade, 2010) It's not easy being the tallest girl (or rabbit) in class. Amelia tries to compensate for her loneliness by playing imaginative games and enjoying her solo status, but is intruded upon by an insistent new classmate, and a very short one, at that. Can two very different types find the middle ground of friendship? Count on Russo for a sensitive slice of life, and her gouache illustration style is cheerful and clear. Even though it's a story about bunnies, any child who has felt like the odd duck will find something hopeful here. (5 and up)

Finally, a couple oldies but goodies: MINERVA LOUISE AND THE COLORFUL EGGS by Janet Morgan Stoeke (Puffin), in which the Amelia Bedelia of the barnyard is chagrined to find eggs laying (or is it laid eggs lying?) around everywhere. Luckily, children are scooping them up. Clever storytime listeners will recognize an Easter egg hunt where our feathered friend does not. Minerva Louise books are always sure-fire for read-aloud because they make children feel extra smart, and the illustrations couldn't be sunnier...or funnier. (4 and up) Also, speaking of egg hunts, although out of print, go to the library and try to find HUMBUG RABBIT, by (in my opinion) the undersung Lorna Balian, who throughout her career has consistently produced some of the most charming and timeless holiday stories penned in the 20th century, as well as some of the most graceful and surprising narrative arcs. In this parallel tale of a grandmother setting up Easter festivities for her grandchildren and a family of rabbits who believe their father is the Easter Bunny although he insists he is not, both stories converge to create a perfect holiday for both parties, and a delightful cottontail tale for us. (5 and up)

On a personal note:
I can't believe it's already April, can you? Happy Passover to those who share in that celebration as well! Sorry this is a bit late (frankly, boiling matzo balls and spending quality time with kids on break was the priority this week), but I do want to mention the fabulous Passover post at one of my favorite book recommendation blogs, The Kiddosphere @ Fauquier. I also happen to especially like PASSOVER: A TRUE BOOK by Nancy Sanders (Children's Press), a great introduction for children (and others who) are not familiar with this holiday that celebrates the freedom of Jewish people after being enslaved by the Pharaoh in Egypt, and a nifty non-fiction emergent reader text as well. It's never too late to add great books to our collections!

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Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves said...

Go spring go!!!!

Swati said...

Jan Brett's books are beyond awesome, truly.

Becky said...

Cute books- it is giving me spring fever! I collect springtime children's books- I just love the vibrant graphics and the fun springtime stories. I am especially excited about a fun Disney Tinkerbell comic book coming out April 13th! It is definitely a book that I will keep for my kids and their kids to look at for years to come!


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