And Then It's Spring cover
Cover illustration
See permission.
The Bulletin
of the Center for Children's Books

The Big Picture, a regular Bulletin feature both on-line and off, is an in-depth look at selected new titles and trends. See the archive for selections from previous months.

And Then It's Spring

by Julie Fogliano; illus. by Erin E. Stead

Oh, spring. At first it’s muddy and drab and grim, and it seems like the green, growing things may never return. The slow change of season is particularly hard for gardeners, like the boy in this picture book. Amid the brown “all around,” he plants seeds, and he waits hopefully for the miracle of their growth; he trudges through in the rain and squelches out in the post-rain puddles to check, but there’s no sign of progress. As the weeks of waiting go by and the earth remains stubbornly brown, the boy fears that disaster (“maybe it was the birds . . . or maybe it was the bears and all that stomping”) has befallen his would-be crop. Eventually, though, spring, real spring, comes, greening up the earth and sprouting the young gardener’s young seedlings.

The subject is a perennial, if you’ll pardon the expression, favorite, and Fogliano treats it with a tenderness and homey conversational lyricism that recalls Margaret Wise Brown and her picture-book-text compatriots of the mid-twentieth century. The direct second-person address (“and you worry about those little seeds”) enhances the quiet intimacy of the prose; the text breathes just a few words per page, returning to “brown” and “green” as almost incantatory (“It is still brown, but a hopeful, very possible sort of brown”) and upping the suspense with the recurring phrase “and then it is one more week.” Yet there’s a sturdy simplicity to the description that ensures it’s never precious or fussy, and even the touch of fancy in the worry about randomly marauding bears enhances the shine without diverting the story’s trajectory. It’s also an effective representation of the kid viewpoint, where a week is unbearable and two weeks eternity, and each plodding day seems to get you no closer to the desired outcome.

The illustrations reflect the unassuming poetry of the text and expand it into a humble yet miraculous world; they’re where the story’s real drama takes place as the quiet text is made fascinatingly particular with the cast of a spectacle-sporting boy, his amiable yellow dog, and a collection of unexpected animals. Kids will especially latch onto the critters subtly and humorously tucked into the spreads: the turtle that trudges along faithfully after the boy, the twitchy-eared rabbit who pokes his nose into various aspects of the enterprise, the rotund little birds that perch on the fenceposts and supervise the proceedings; even the worms who periscope up inquiringly from underground. Audiences will particularly delight in the cutaway spread revealing a host of rodents and worms listening for spring in their underground burrows while the boy and his friends—dog, turtle, rabbit—press themselves to the ground to detect sounds from below. Caldecott winner Stead employs delicate colors in her woodblocks, pale slate blue for the sky and sandy brown for the soil, subtly transitioning from flat, grayed tones to clearer and more hopeful blues and greens. Their subtlety makes them an effective backdrop for her soft, nimbly modeled pencil-drawn figures, captured in enchantingly offhand and personable poses: the rabbit peers into a flowerpot as he valiantly hangs onto its rim; the dog snoozes bonelessly in the red wagon, his paw dangling over the edge; even the imagined bears are marvels of character as they indolently, insolently disrespect the hopeful mounds of seeds.

With its close, confiding gentleness, this will be at its best in quiet one-to-one sharing. It could also be an imaginative introduction to a seed-planting project, a spring hike or park trek, or just a session of nature-watching with noses pressed to the window.

--Deborah Stevenson, Editor

And Then It's Spring cover

Cover image from And Then It's Spring ©2012 by Erin E. Stead.  Used by permission of Roaring Brook Press.

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This page was last updated on March 1, 2012.