SHARED By: Katherine Grier, Librarian at York Avenue Preschool

April is National Poetry Month, as well as the month we celebrate the Earth and all its resources, gardens, flowers and parks. April also is School Library Month and a time for paying tribute to the essential role that strong school library programs play in a student’s education. Why not seek out some of the special books recommended below at your own school or local library? If they don’t carry copies, you might even consider donating one to them in honor of spring!

My Garden by Kevin Henkes
The young girl in this book loves to help in her mother’s garden by watering and weeding. She thinks her mother’s garden is nice, but imagines a very different garden of her own. In her garden, she grows wonderful things, including jelly bean bushes, tomatoes as big as beach balls, flowers that change color and seashells. Her carrots are invisible and weeds are nonexistent. Although the girl knows this garden is make-believe, she decides to plant a seashell in her mother’s garden before she goes to bed. Just in case…

As with many of Kevin Henkes’ books, the size and shape of the book itself, as well as the size of the inside text, helps to make My Garden a perfect choice for story time. The rich illustrations are done in pastels and faded primary colors, but are as full of life as any done in brilliant neon. While each page focuses on one aspect of the girl’s garden, the story also is very much about her interaction with it; so that by the end, we feel we know both the garden and the gardener intimately. For extra fun with this book, go to the publisher’s website and print the two activity pages offered there.

The Happy Day by Ruth Krauss
Although the premise of this book is simple and familiar—hibernating animals awaken from their winter sleep to find a beautiful first sign of spring on the still snow-covered ground—I highly recommend it for how that story is conveyed.

First, the use of color is very important. All of the illustrations are black and white except for the one on the very last page. The black/white contrast is not stark or boring, however. The animals are cuddly and playful and full of energy and life. Each one is introduced on its own two-page spread, from the smallest snail (I was surprised to learn these creatures hibernate!) to a big fuzzy bear. At the end of the story, all of the animals come together and are pictured dancing and laughing around a bright yellow flower. It’s the perfect sunny ending to this old-fashioned, happy book.

We are Extremely Very Good Recyclers: A Charlie and Lola Book” by Lauren Child
Charlie and Lola are beloved characters in our household (both in print and on demand), but I am partial to the books because of their unique illustration style that combines drawings and collage in a way that allows opportunities to look for interesting details with young readers. Fun to look at and read means you will absolutely never, not ever go wrong sharing a Charlie and Lola book with your 3- to 6- year- olds. In this installment, big brother Charlie convinces his “small…and very funny” sister Lola to recycle her old toys instead of throwing them away. When she receives a comic book about helping the planet, she learns about a recycling competition.If she can recycle one hundred plastic, metal, and paper items, she can get her very own real live tree to plant. But she only has two weeks. So Lola decides to ask her classmates to help her. Good thing she does because Marv, Lotta and the rest of the class turn out to be extremely very good recyclers indeed! The back of the book contains recycling tips, as well as a cute tree poster that your whole family can use to keep track of its own recycling projects the same way Lola and her classmates do in the story.

The Earth Book by Todd Parr
I take care of the earth because I know I can do little things every day to make a BIG difference…”
So begins this picture book that is ideal for introducing toddlers to Earth Day and the idea of taking care of the Earth. In signature Todd Parr style, the people and animals in The Earth Book are bursting with color and pride. The book uses simple text and wonderful childlike drawings to talk about all the big and little (and sometimes silly!) things that kids can do to help make a difference in protecting the environment. It teaches these lessons in positive terms that even young kids can relate to:  “I use both sides of the paper and bring my own bags to the market because… I love trees and I want the owls to have a place to live.”  There is a cool “Go Green” poster included at the end of the book, too.

Big Book of Poetry by Bill Martin, Jr.
Poetry is often overlooked as a bedtime reading option, which is a shame because poetic rhyme schemes are often what appeals most to young children in picture books (think Dr. Seuss!). One of my favorite poetry anthologies for Pre-K and Kindergarteners is Big Book of Poetry by Bill Martin, Jr. Not only are these poems amazing and appealing to younger readers, but the illustrations that accompany every poem are really attractive and are sure to hold a child’s attention, as well. One thing that I love about this book is that different artists have contributed illustrations (including Lois Ehlert, Chris Raschka, Steven Kellogg, and Dan Yaccarino), so various materials and media are represented, including watercolors, colored pencils, wax crayons, collages and many more. Another thing that makes this book great for younger children is the fact that all of the poems are grouped by themes they can relate to, such as animals, nature, feelings, food, school, family, and nonsense. There is even a section of Mother Goose rhymes. I highly recommend this book as a great gift book, an introduction to poetry, as well as a “must have” for  home and school.