By April Wallace, nwaMotherlode Early Childhood Editor
On springtime afternoons, my boys and I settle onto a bench at the furthest edge of our yard. As the sun shines and the flowers bloom, while the birds chirp and bugs crawl around us, we read these spring-y books.
Here Comes Peter Cottontail! by Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins is a watercolor illustrated version of the classic song and it’s full of sweet little animal characters.
Llama Llama Easter Egg by Anna Dewdney captures the magic of spring as Llama happens upon a full robin’s nest and watches one of the babies hatch. What an Easter surprise!
Hop! Hop! by Leslie Patricelli introduces a typical toddler’s Easter experience. As the baby anxiously awaits the Easter bunny, he mixes egg dyes to create new colors, learns how to make paper bunny ears, attempts to stay up to see the Easter bunny and of course hunts for eggs. The final page shows a variety of Easter eggs—an easy way to talk about colors and patterns with your little one.
Happy Easter, Little Critter! by Mercer Mayer sums up all the typical ups and downs of Easter weekend: getting gifts from the Easter bunny, but knowing your sibling will look through them; landing a pile of candy, but not getting to eat it until after breakfast; having to get dressed up for church, but dyeing eggs once you’re there. One reason I love this series is that it always acknowledges the range of big feelings little ones experience. And in this one, they help the little kids find an egg of their own so they don’t feel left out.
As soon as I dug It’s Not Easy Being a Bunny by Marilyn Sadler out of the box, my 2-year-old, Elliott, grabbed it and didn’t give it up for a long time. PJ Funnybunny is sick of being a bunny, so he tries out being a skunk, moose and other animals instead.
In A Duckling for Daniel by Angela Santomero, we visit the Neighborhood of Make Believe to watch a baby duck hatch from its egg. Daniel is surprised by how long it can take for the duckling to be born and learns how to entertain himself while waiting.
(Here’s a recent pic of my boys “reading” on their own.)
A Book For Escargot by Dashka Slater is the story of a “daring French snail hero” who is bored with salad. She ventures to the library to peruse a cookbook and is alarmed to find a recipe for cooking herself, so what does she do with that? My boys love giving her a push so she can “fly,” and a kiss at the end, as per the book’s instructions. This silly tale is one we all enjoy.
The Box Turtle by Vanessa Roeder follows Terrance, the turtle who was born without a shell, as he tries to find a suitable shell replacement. I love this book for its themes of feeling comfortable in who you are and friends helping each other out.
Bugs by Anna Milbourne is a Little lift and look title by Usborne books that both of my boys adore. It’s small, the perfect size for my toddler’s hands, and the two fight over who gets to open the flower, lift the dirt, peek into the grass and gaze into a cocoon to find all the insects and their babies who live there.
We return to our daily bike rides and walks in the spring, and although we live in the middle of a town, I know my boys are itching for the chance to explore woods and fields. It feels like we do when we read The Hike by Alison Farrell, a book full of beautifully hand-drawn forest scenes as three kids go on a hike with their dog. All plants, birds and nature details are labeled (like a tree that’s been felled by a beaver), with some pages giving us a peek into what’s living underground or in high, unreachable tree branches. I like the little glances into Wren’s sketchbook and I hope it will encourage my boys to have one of their own field notebooks one day.
Nothing says spring like boys digging. Sam and Dave Dig A Hole by Mac Barnett is both a Caldecott Honor Book and an E.B. White Read Aloud winner, but even if it didn’t have those distinguishing it, I’d still know this was good by the sheer number of times Henry has hauled this to my lap. Grab your chocolate milk and animal cookies to follow Sam and Dave. They won’t stop digging until they find something spectacular!
Henry and Elliott both love Brown Rabbit’s Shapes by Alan Baker. They wait patiently as Brown Rabbit opens his package and reveals a balloon on every page, each one a different size, shape and color. The story gives us a more entertaining way to cover these important concepts, with the incentive of seeing that cute bunny curl up to sleep at the end.
In The Crunching Munching Caterpillar by Sheridan Cain and Jack Tickle, this little caterpillar envies the bumblebees and birds who fly past him as he’s eating leaves. He wishes he could float on the breeze like they do and is discouraged when they say he can’t. But soon he makes a wild transformation and is surprised by what it brings.
Little Blue Truck’s Springtime by Alice Schertle is a predictably beautiful lift-a-flap book. As good friends Toad and Little Blue Truck take a drive through the blossoming countryside, they meet new friends—all the baby animals that were just born.
Curious George Flies a Kite by Margaret Rey is full of springtime goodness: window watching, playing with bunnies, fishing with cake as lure, a helicopter ride and flying kites, of course.
Zinnia’s Flower Garden by Monica Wellington is a staple in our house that takes the reader through the cycle of planting, weeding, harvesting and making plans for a garden. Each page has one large animated garden illustration while the other side has the text and a variety of small realistic photos, of seeds and such, or of small illustrations of cloud types and thermometers or other instruments that are fascinating to young minds.
Spring Days/Winter Days by Kate Colley is a simple toddler book full of bright illustrations highlighting the joys of what we can do in spring. Halfway through, you flip the book upside down and can read about the fun of winter days. I like having an easy dichotomy in front of us, and they like turning this book around and around, knowing there’s no wrong way to hold it.
Wishing you and your little ones a vibrant spring and happy reading!
April Wallace is a stepmom to one smart, funny teenager, mama to two beautiful and curious baby boys and wife to a very kind and generous man. She spent the past decade as a news reporter, sometimes lifestyle writer, and recently left her job at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to be with her babies while they’re still babies. When she gets a few minutes to herself, April loves to run local trails and read fiction. For more of April’s posts on pregnancy, babies and toddlers, click here.