Even if the weather is still cold, it’s time to start thinking about the change in seasons. Springtime means new beginnings and the chance to play outside and appreciate nature. Preschoolers and their parents and teachers will love these three new picture books that celebrate the joys of nature.

Jennifer Ward teams up with master paper artist Steve Jenkins in Mama Built a Little Nest (ages 4 to 8). From the title page, where a cactus is used as a wren’s nest, to the final spreads where the reader realizes that a bed is a nest for a person, the young lap listener can celebrate nests of all sorts. The gently rhyming text (which can be sung to the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”) is easy to follow and is presented in a generous typeface. Smaller type follows later, and this is where the author presents the book’s more scientific information.

Budding bird lovers will find lots to appreciate, from woodpeckers and hummingbirds to cowbirds and penguins. Jenkins’ cut-paper collages, so familiar in many other nature books, are stunning and make excellent use of white space. Ward’s light humor makes these short poems unforgettable: “Daddy built a little nest— / now don’t gross out—with spit. / Who would have thought that spit would make / the perfect place to sit?”

A BUG’S WORLD

Some Bugs (ages 4 to 8), written by Angela DiTerlizzi and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel, is another fine book for the very youngest reader. Bugs—insects and spiders alike—are endlessly fascinating, aren’t they? With the simplest of text and effortless rhyme, DiTerlizzi tells a lot: “Some bugs sting. Some bugs bite. Some bugs stink.” Turn the page for the kicker: “And some bugs fight!” The collage, crayon and paint illustrations show bugs in their natural environments and are sure to bring a chuckle to the reader, no matter how old. Each insect is shown with exaggerated bug eyes (pun intended), often looking directly at the reader. The final page reveals a marvelous surprise: The previous spreads have been close-ups of the child’s backyard, which is now shown in its entirety. Delightful!

GROWING UP

Seeds live in the soil and are reluctant to make their way to the surface in Rooting for You (ages 3 to 5), written by Susan Hood and illustrated by Matthew Cordell. One little green seed (a pea?) is NOT coming out of the earth. Alone with the earthworms and cicadas, he seems nervous and worried. Just like teachers and parents cheer for children, all the little earthy critters cheer on our little pea as he sticks out one little root—and then a shoot, and so on.

The book works regardless of whether young readers recognize the seed as a symbol for new experiences, so it’s no big deal if the message goes unnoticed. Whether your little one is heading for preschool or for college, let her know that you are rooting for her!

 

Robin Smith lives in Nashville, where she teaches second grade, knits and reads, sometimes all at the same time.

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