Thursday, January 3, 2019

Sing A Song of Seasons (and Other Books to Welcome the New Year)

As one year ends and a new one begins, it is always fun to read children's books that explore the months and seasons of the year. When I worked in the library, one of my go-to January themes for story time was the calendar, and even now, in our homeschool, I try to bring out those books at the start of the year as a means of charting the course for the year ahead and explaining how things begin anew with each new year.

This summer, we were lucky enough to receive a review copy of Sing a Song of Seasons, which is a beautiful collection of nature poems, one for each date on the calendar. (The collection was edited by Fiona Waters and illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon, and published by Nosy Crow.) We have a lot of poetry collections, and I really didn't think we needed more, but this is one for which it is definitely worth finding a little extra shelf space. Not only does it include a diverse selection of poems, it also has cheerful and colorful illustrations to set the mood for each one. I doubt I'll be disciplined enough to read each poem on its appointed day, but I do like to use poems to talk about the seasons with the girls, so it's really useful to me to have them organized according to the calendar. I also love that there is a two-page spread at the start of each month showing all the poems for that month. I appreciate that the book is designed to be useful even if you're not going to read one poem per day.

The girls looked through the book with me and we looked up the poems associated with each of their birthdays as well as the birthdays of other people in our family and circle of friends. They loved discovering that some of the people we knew had familiar and beloved poems listed under their birth dates, and they were interested in learning more about the poems associated with their own birthdays. Though they are young now at 1, 3, and 5 years old, and the illustrations appeal to them at these ages,  I also appreciate that the pictures are not cutesy and will not be out of place on their bookshelf even ten years from now. This is not just a kids' book, but a family book that can be enjoyed again and again year in and year out.

Here are some other children's books I like for exploring and celebrating the months and seasons of the calendar year:

Chicken Soup with Rice
by Maurice Sendak

This classic is fun to chant or to sing (using the tune from Really Rosie, where it's sung by Carole King). We recently upgraded from a small paperback edition to a larger hardcover picture book, and I'm looking forward to being able to read it aloud to all the girls at once more easily. I also have fond memories of my first grade teacher bringing out the new rhyme for each month and having the class do a choral reading.

A Year of Birds by Ashley Wolff
This book traces the year by describing the birds a young girl can see outside of her window in each month. The illustrations also tell a secondary story of the girl's mother welcoming a new baby to the family. We received a birdfeeder from my mother-in-law for Christmas, so I think it will be fun to read this book this year and compare the birds in the book to the ones who visit our feeder.

Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
You can never go wrong with Joyce Sidman when it comes to poetry, and this book is no exception. This 2010 Caldecott Honor book looks at color not from the preschool perspective, when kids are simply learning the names of the colors, but from the point of view of an artist. I know not everyone enjoys Zagarenski's esoteric artwork, with its inexplicable crowns and other seemingly random imagery, but I find it charming. Inexplicably, I don't own this book. I may need to fix that.

A Year with Friends by John Seven, illustrated by Jana Christy
This sweet picture book illustrated with cheerful pastels includes a two-page spread for each month of the year that shows a group of friends doing a seasonal activity together. I like this book a lot for toddlers as it gets across the concepts of months and seasons with very little text. Sadly, our copy is not as sturdy as it once was, so my one-year-old doesn't get to handle it as much as her sisters did, but I will read it aloud to her so she can still enjoy it.

A Child's Calendar by John Updike

We have two editions of this poetry collection: one illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, which is a Caldecott Honor book, and one illustrated by Nancy Burkert. I guess if I had to choose one, I'd stick with the Hyman, but both are well-done. The poems are short, and often funny, and the illustrations in both editions provide festive accompaniment to the text.

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