The Forever Garden by Laurel Snyder and illustrated by Samantha Cotterill
This is a lovely book about intergenerational friendship and continuity. The book is narrated by Laurel, a little girl who is friends with her adult neighbor, Honey. Honey is an avid gardener and Laurel enjoys spending time with Honey in her yard as she tends to her garden. Honey shares her bounty with Laurel and her family. But then Honey’s mother gets sick and Honey has to move to care for her. The friends miss each other, but Honey helps Laurel understand that the garden will still go on: though Honey will not get to enjoy the berries that will fruit on the new strawberry plants she plants before she moves, others will benefit from her work just as she enjoyed the grapes that were planted by another before she moved in. Together, the two of them plant an apple tree before Honey leaves. When a new family with children moves in, Laurel befriends them and helps them tend to the garden, picking up some of Honey’s habits, such as singing to the kale. I like how the book displays the ways in which friendships change us, as we absorb some of our friends’ interests or traits that help to shape who we are. A warm-hearted and touching story. With colorful and cheerful pen and ink illustrations.
Bunny’s Book Club by Annie Silvestro and illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss
Bunny falls in love with books when he hears the librarian reading to children outside the library during the summer. But when summer is over, story time moves back inside. Bunny finds a way to sneak into the library (through the book drop!) and get his fill of books. Reading sparks his imagination – he especially loves adventure books. As his friends visit him, he turns each one of them into a reader also. Soon a menagerie of animals are breaking into the library and taking books – until the librarian catches them one night! Her solution – give each animal a library card. Now the animals regularly visit the library and meet at Bunny’s house for Bunny’s Book Club. A sweet, comforting book about the joy of reading with cute and detailed watercolor illustrations.
Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper
This is a gentle picture book about the cycle of life, appropriate for young children. It tells the story of a household with a lone cat who add a second cat to their family. The two cats spend their time together and are happy. Many years go by, then the older cat passes away. The younger cat and the human members of the family are all sad, but then another cat, young like the surviving cat used to be, joins the household and the cycle repeats with an older cat and a younger cat bonding. A touching story about loving and grieving and life going forward after loss told with respect. Illustrated mainly in black and white, with one black cat and one white cat, and hints of color in the background.
Caterpillar Dreams by Clive McFarland
This is a sweet and gentle picture book about a caterpillar with big dreams and the adventure he goes on. Henri lives in a garden, but he dreams of flying and seeing the world beyond his garden. Some of his friends discourage him from embarking on an adventure, but Toad tells him, “Here’s the thing with dreams….If you don’t chase them, they always get away.” So with the help of some new friends, Henri makes it over the garden wall, across the road, and across the lake. There he discovers a hot air balloon and is about to take off on his great adventure when a cocoon forms around him. Henri thinks his dreams are done. Children will delight in having knowledge that Henri doesn’t – knowing what change is coming to Henri. When Henri emerges from his cocoon, he is of course a butterfly and his dreams of being able to fly are realized. In a charming ending, Henri chooses to fly back home, “the most amazing, incredible, impossibly possible place of all.” A feel-good read with a message about chasing your dreams as well as appreciating what you already have.
A Tiny Piece of Sky by Shawn K. Stout
This book is set in the summer of 1939, leading up to the start of World War II in Europe. Ten-year old Frankie Baum is the youngest of three sisters in a small American town. Her middle sister is spending the summer on their aunt’s farm while Frankie is stuck helping her father get his new restaurant ready to open. When Mr. Baum refuses to support the powerful president of the town’s chamber of commerce who is running for mayor, he begins a smear campaign against Mr. Baum, whispering that he is a Nazi sympathizer. When Frankie hears these rumors, she is confused. Her beloved father couldn’t be guilty of wrongdoing, could he? We see the evils of the world, such as discrimination against Germans and the inferior treatment of black citizens of the town, through the eyes of a child, who in the end knows in her heart that her father is a good man. A heart-warming novel with an inspiring message of loyalty and strength in the face of adversity.
Someday a Tree by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Ronald Himler
A poignant story about the death of an ancient oak and a young girl’s hope for the future. Alice lives with her parents and dog in the country. An oak tree that has been standing for generations is on their land. The tree is important to their family: Alice’s parents stopped there to have a picnic one day, which led to them purchasing the land and house, and Alice was christened under the tree. One spring day, Alice notices yellowing grass under the tree, then the tree’s leaves begin to wither and fall. A horticulturist is called in and discovers that the tree is dying due to chemicals in the soil, likely dumped there illegally. Alice and her family, as well as numerous neighbors, try to save the tree, but it is too damaged. Everyone is sad and angry at the fate of the tree, but then Alice has an idea. She takes one of the acorns from the tree and plants it a little distance away, far enough to be out of the contaminated zone. Published in 1993, but unfortunately still relevant today, this is a good way to introduce children to conservation issues. The watercolor paintings that accompany the text are soft and lovely.
Red Fox Running by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Wendell Minor
A realistic look at the hardships faced by wild animals in the winter, accompanied by exquisite watercolor paintings. The story, told in rhyming text, follows a hungry red fox as he searches for prey. His desperate hunger and its toll on his body are conveyed through the descriptive and lyrical language. When he finds prey, his relief is palpable and we see him bring the food to his den to feed his mate and kits (not too graphically for young children). A book to teach children compassion and to help them understand the ways of nature – that one creature dies to keep other creatures alive. The paintings show the fox, other wild animals, the woods, and the sky and are very beautiful.