Caldecott-winning artist of A Sick Day for Amos McGee, Erin Stead, dazzles once again in this ode to the first stirrings of spring.
Publishers WeeklyReaders of Shaun Tan’s The Red Tree will recognize the glum-to-radiant trajectory of Fogliano’s soft-spoken debut, subtly illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Stead (A Sick Day for Amos McGee). Unfolding as a single sentence that carries readers from late winter to spring (almost every page opens with an “and,” pushing things along), the story focuses on a boy in blank-eyed glasses, who slouches in barren farmland with a dog, a turtle, and other assorted animals and birds. “First you have brown,/ all around you have brown.” The boy plants seeds in the packed earth and waits for the plants to grow. Worry and waiting are recurring themes: did birds eat the seeds? what about that trio of bears, seen happily ignoring the boy’s “please do not stomp here” sign? Pale blue sky and tawny drabs flood Stead’s block-print-and-pencil images, which yield not a sprout until the closing spread, “and now you have green,/ all around you have green.” In an understated and intimate partnership, Fogliano and Stead conjure late winter doldrums and the relief of spring’s arrival, well worth the wait. Ages 4–7. Illustrator’s agent: Emily Van Beek, Folio Literary Management. (Feb.)
Children's Literature - Toni JourdanHere is an ode to nature, simplicity itself with few words on each page, illustrated with appropriately earthy tones as brought forth by the illustrator. This is a visual treat, with sky to earth renditions of a boy planting seeds and then patiently wait…wait…waiting for Mother Nature to push the plants upward through the brown earth that cannot be rushed. The boy is joined by his dog, a rabbit, a tortoise, some birds, and wonderful bears that may have absentmindedly stomped upon the seeds, potentially stunting their growth. My favorite page shows our cast of characters, ears to the earth, listening to a “greenish hum” as below ground activities are shown in a slice of underground mappings. Just as the boy in the book learns you must be patient because nature cannot be rushed, the reader plods along at a zen pace, until the final reveal of the highly anticipated arrival of green. A highlight is the phrasing that the seeds are “trying” and that one must be both patient and careful of their tenuous growth in the uncertain earth. I like the care demonstrated by the boy, his dog, the rabbit, the turtle, the writer, and the illustrator. They have lovingly nurtured a story of nature at its best. Accompanying the book was a read-along CD offering an interpretation brought to life on two tracks, with and without page-turn alerts. I enjoyed the disc’s few sound effects (e.g., whimpering dog, groaning rope swing). This is an excellent book with which to slow down the pace. Take your time, turn the pages slowly, and you too will find that before you know it, there will be…spring. Reviewer: Toni Jourdan; Ages 4 to 7.
Children's Literature - Marilyn CourtotIn winter in the colder parts of the northern hemisphere, the ground, if it is not snow covered, is brown. The vegetation is dormant or dead. The young boy decides to dig a hole in the ground and plant seeds. He wishes for and gets rain, but the ground is still brown. A week goes by and still, the ground is brown; will the seeds make it? Not only is the young boy concerned but his animal friends are too and the image of a turtle looking at a potential seedling through a magnifying glass is quite amusing. Perhaps the birds are eating the seeds or maybe the stomping bears are damaging the seedlings. Signs go up warning the bears, a birdfeeder is hung on a tree to keep them from eating the seeds in the ground. Another week passes and the sky is getting bluer and the ground however, is still brown. Then another week and a sunny day following a rainy one brings a surprisethe ground is green. Nature's cycle may be slow, but how wonderful to see the green everywhere. The illustrations have been produced using woodblock printing and pencil and the illustrator won a Caldecott along with her husband for A Sick Day for Amos McGee. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
School Library JournalPreS-Gr 2—The lowercase letters in the title and the theme immediately bring to mind "in just spring" by e. e. cummings. That association continues while experiencing the book's economy of words and construction as a single, lyrical rumination (one initial capital letter; one concluding period). If that earlier poem celebrates the fullness of the season, this one re-creates the moment before—the faith-hope-doubt-worry stage that a gardener experiences after planting: "First you have brown,/all around you have brown…." A bundled and bespectacled boy, his dog, a rabbit, and a turtle, all sporting red knit hats, survey the barren soil, bare trees, and dried stalks. Stead's warm, finely textured scenes, printed from wood blocks and enhanced with pencil, are imbued with realism and quiet humor. The second-person narrative and immediately recognizable emotions pull readers close, as do the delicate details and nuanced expressions that grace the interplay between the characters and their subtly changing surroundings. Fogliano takes seriously the concerned flights of fancy a child conjures while enduring the interminable progress of a seed: "…maybe it was the bears…/because bears can't read signs/that say things like/ 'please do not stomp here—/there are seeds/and they are trying….'" Children will intuitively relate to both the agony of anticipation and the effort of growing. This seemingly real-time experience of getting to green is a droll, wistful ode to the stamina behind wanting, will, and perseverance.—Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
Kirkus ReviewsA boy plants seeds in late winter's brown, barren earth and vigilantly watches for green sprouts alongside his companions (a dog, turtle, rabbit and bird). Rambling narration, elasticized with many ands, thats, commas and a boy's earnest concerns for his seeds, runs on, leaving readers waiting and waiting and waiting--just like the child gardener. The boy's oversized glasses, his tilted, blank face (we never see his eyes) and tiny chin melt hearts instantly. Stead wisely withholds his features, letting Fogliano's babbling stream of small worries and staggeringly sharp imaginings flesh him out. Silly bears might tread on the plantings, unaware of signs that read "please do not stomp here-- / there are seeds / and they are trying." Germinating seeds issue "a greenish hum / that you can only hear / if you put your ear to the ground / and close your eyes." This elaborate inner world and darling voice reverberate in muted wood-block prints and empathetic pencil illustrations as well, its timbre and tone unchanged. Delicate lines run like fine veins, describing animals, trees, plants and fences with intricate and intentional specificity. Sizable, scalloped cloud formations, whose flat panes of white widen double-page horizons, offset both the scrupulous line-work and abundant regions of brown and blue. Their simplicity ventilates these pictures, allowing readers to note amusing secondary animal activities in the dirt. Many treasures lie buried within this endearing story, in which humor and anxious anticipation sprout alongside one another. This sweet seedling will undoubtedly take root and thrive. (Picture book. 3-8)
Kristi JemtegaardErin Stead understands the power of judiciously applied color and uses repeated dollops…to draw the reader's eye across each double-page panorama…As seeds sprout into plants, so these simple words grow through each carefully detailed scene into a tale filled with the joy of being alive.
The Washington Post
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