cover image Gem


Holly Hobbie. Little, Brown, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-316-20334-0

Two letters—from grandmother to granddaughter and vice versa—frame this otherwise wordless story of a toad named Gem. Over a spread of a New England cottage in the midst of a snowstorm, a letter from “Gram” to her granddaughter Hope explains the book’s genesis: the girl’s discovery of a toad the previous spring (“I wanted to tell the story of Gem’s spring journey—all the way to my garden”). At the end, a thank-you note from Hope reveals her as a thoughtful, strong-spirited child (“Toads are not pets,” she writes, explaining why she let Gem go. “They want to be free, like everything does”). Hobbie’s (Everything but the Horse) watercolor and pen-and-ink closeups are done with care that recalls Beatrix Potter’s. Some are filled in with generous backgrounds of flowers and greenery, while others show Gem alone on the white page, leaping, courting, and sitting among his offspring. The view of Gem on the last page, reveling in the garden’s moonlight, will convince readers that Gem is better off in the wild. Hobbie clearly delights in painting the arrival of spring, and Gem is its living embodiment. Up to age 3. (Apr.)