In a beautiful new collaboration, writer Julie Fogliano and illustrator Erin E. Stead capture the long, slow season of renewal. Instead of eye-popping flowers and gobs of glorious greens, this picture book begins: “First you have brown, / all around you have brown.” This is the way spring is, especially around my home in New England, where April and even May can be dreary, cold and brown.

There’s nothing at all dreary, however, in And Then It’s Spring, as a boy and his dog plant vegetable seeds and wait for them to grow. The story follows the days of endless waiting, worry and hope as the boy and his dog stand patiently in sun and rain, waiting for signs of life.

This delicate tale is also filled with immediate, easily accessible fun. A bevy of animals—including birds, a rabbit, a turtle and even bears—helps keep watch over the seeds’ progress. The woodblock and pencil drawings by Stead, a Caldecott Award-winning artist, are pitch perfect, full of quiet anticipation. In one scene, Stead shows the boy, his dog and a rabbit with their ears to the ground, while below are labyrinths of activity as ants, worms, mice and chipmunks travel through underground tunnels, and garden seeds sprout deep roots.

Finally, of course, after weeks of waiting, there comes that magic day: “but the brown isn’t around / and now you have green, / all around you have green.” The boy lazily swings in a tire swing over his garden, barefoot and with his face turned gleefully upward, being warmed by the lovely spring sun. The garden finally comes to life in this subtle ode to hope, patience and rebirth.

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