One year into the pandemic, the holidays have not yet returned to their full festive scope, but there’s still cause to celebrate the coming season. The arrival of spring brings a parade of Easter and Passover titles, as well as books on baby animals. In addition, Margaret Wise Brown’s classic Runaway Bunny, illustrated by Clement Hurd, is hopping over to HBO Max in a musical adaptation. We’ve gathered a selection of new and noteworthy springtime picture books for young readers, both secular and spiritual.
Caryn Yacowitz, illus. by Julie Downing. Candlewick, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5362-0609-8. Ages 3–7.
This book opens with a moment of intense drama: a woman looks anxiously over her shoulder while extending her arm toward a basketed infant carried away on a river. But as Moses floats toward yet-unknown safety, he enters a world far more benevolent than what he faced on shore. By the time Pharaoh’s daughter lifts Moses from the water in this quietly beautiful story, it seems that all of nature has determined to protect the infant.
Alice Lindstrom. Scribble, $12.99 (20p) ISBN 978-1-950354-43-6. Ages 5–7.
This intricately illustrated board book is a kid-friendly introduction to the long history of egg decoration, which spans several cultures and countries: the Czech Republic, Greece, Japan, Latvia, Mexico, Slovakia, and Ukraine. On each page, die cut–style capital letters announce the name of the specific culture’s practice, while Lindstrom offers a few lines of free verse detailing the decorations. It’s an informative book that may provide further inspiration for Easter festivities.
Mieke Goethals. Clavis, $18.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-60537-620-2. Ages 4–9.
This interactive seek-and-find volume by Goethals invites readers to follow the Easter Bunny, helper mice, and a chicken throughout the book. With “one night to visit all the homes” and only three mice to help him on his “present hunt,” the Easter Bunny visits various locations, hiding sweet treats in anthropomorphic animals’ residences, including “deep in the jungle” (monkeys) and “in an igloo in the South Pole” (penguins).
Rosanna Battigelli, illus. by Tara Anderson. Pajama, $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-77278-177-9. Ages 3–6.
The creators of Pumpkin Orange, Pumpkin Round reunite for this easy-to-read secular celebration of Easter, which features a community of multicolored cats. Battigelli uses two-word lines to compose paired rhyming couplets, following the felines throughout their day of Easter traditions. Expressive characters mark Anderson’s approachable art, rounding out this simple seasonal offering. Back matter includes instructions for Easter egg dyeing.
Pamela Moritz, illus. by Florence Weiser. Kar-Ben, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5415-8897-4. Ages 4–9.
When Passover comes around, Ellie the elephant and Kang the kangaroo, residents of Jerusalem’s Biblical Zoo, are determined to escape and see a seder for themselves. But their holiday knowledge is riddled with malapropisms: Ellie is convinced that God sent planes rather than plagues, while Kang is certain it’s plates. Fortunately, they enlist Chimp as an accomplice, who facilitates the escape and possesses a comparatively rabbinical level of Passover knowledge. This earnest but nonsensical Passover tale may well become the basis for many a holiday in-joke.
Judith L. Roth, illus. by Melanie Cataldo. Flyaway, $18 (32p) ISBN 978-1-947888-30-2. Ages 3–7.
Confiding text and tender drawings distinguish this version of the story of Moses in Exodus. Writing in the voice of Moses’s sister Miriam, Roth immediately places the reader in the action. Cataldo’s drawings focus tightly on the family as they move from their home through the marketplace to the grassy banks of the Nile. When Pharaoh’s daughter and her entourage appear, there’s a sense of destiny being set in motion.
David McPhail. Holt/Godwin, $18.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-250-22291-6. Ages 4–8.
The confused bird who stars in this latest creation by McPhail is a personable fellow with a glittering eye who, having hit his head, can’t remember what kind of bird he is. In a wildland setting that’s home to many different species, he approaches all the birds he can find, parroting their actions to see whether he’s of their type. Gently tinted ink and watercolor spreads give readers reason to linger, and humorous remarks appear via speech balloons. The story offers a good place to start conversations about observing differences in nature.
Jamie Kiffel-Alcheh, illus. by Lauren Gallegos. Kar-Ben, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5415-8668-0. Ages 4–9.
Any school-age Jewish kid who observes Passover understands the lunchroom situation in which Noa finds herself. She can’t make any food trades due to Passover dietary rules, and when she opens her lunch box, her tablemates see a large crackerlike food: “All week long, I don’t eat bread./ Matzah’s what I eat instead.” Noa tells her friends the story of Passover, and for the rest of the week, she brings in a different matzah treat to share with her now-enthralled classmates. Gallegos’s peppy illustrations depict an inclusive student body eager to learn—and to nosh.
Susan Kusel, illus. by Sean Rubin. Holiday House/Porter, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8234-4562-2. Ages 4–8.
In this picture book retelling of I.L. Peretz’s “The Magician,” it’s the height of the Great Depression, and young Muriel and her family are facing a bleak Passover. They “didn’t have enough to eat even on ordinary days,” writes debut author Kusel, and there’s certainly no wine for Prophet Elijah’s cup. As Muriel walks home, she encounters a clownlike man on the Lincoln Memorial steps and shares her plight; that evening, he reappears at her family’s door, conjuring up a magnificent Passover meal. When their rabbi confirms it’s not an illusion, it dawns on Muriel that the fellow was Elijah himself. An enchanting addition to the Passover shelf.
Erin Dealey, illus. by G. Brian Karas. Atheneum/Dlouhy, $9.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4814-6489-5. Ages 4–8.
In this charming holiday story for animal lovers, Peter Easter Frog loves Easter—enough to make moves on the Easter Bunny’s job and hand out eggs to the other animals. “Here comes Peter Easter Frog,/ hopping down his favorite log,” Dealey begins. Peter chats with a hat-wearing Turtle, who expresses suspicion (“Hey! You’re not the bunny”) before hearing out Peter’s cheery rebuttal (“Why should Bunny have all the fun?”) and joining it on its Easter rounds. The pattern continues in this way, Peter accruing additional animals until the group meets the Easter Bunny himself.
Glenys Nellist, illus. by Elena Selivanova. Zonderkidz, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-310-76906-4. Ages 4–8.
In this companion to ’Twas the Evening of Christmas, Nellist offers a creative spin on the biblical Easter story by employing the sprightly rhyme scheme of Clement C. Moore’s “ ’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Nellist visits the guards posted outside of Jesus’s tomb, the 12 disciples, and Mary, before encountering the empty tomb and a resurrected Christ. Selivanova contributes atmospheric digital art to this engaging retelling of the Resurrection.
Lori Joy Smith. Tundra, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-7352-6653-7. Ages 3–7.
This sweet narrative nonfiction primer on lamb ownership evokes the joys of spring. In the picture book equivalent of a show-and-tell presentation, a child named Ila introduces Albert, an orphaned lamb. Addressing the reader directly, she explains how her family came to adopt him and how they care for him. Smith, the real-life Ila’s mother, employs straightforward prose to relay their true experiences, sharing both the delights of living with a lamb and the behind-the-scenes labor.