Easter: Sorrow & Celebration

Spring Easter titles explore the sorrowful origins of the holiday, as well as its more celebratory aspects. In the poet Nikki Grimes's opening author's note for her extraordinary collection At Jerusalem's Gate: Poems of Easter, with woodcuts by David Frampton, she points out that "there are as many questions in the Easter story as there are answers." Her statement sets the stage for a respectful treatment of how Jesus came to be arrested ("This troublemaker/ rabble-rouse,/ thinks he will/ disturb the order/ by displays of/ healing power") in "A Conspiracy of Priests"; and covers the central liturgy in "The Passover" ("I soon will be betrayed/ by one of you," says Jesus"). Frampton's elegant woodcut to illustrate the treatment of Christ ("Call it what you will—/ lash, scourge, whip") shows a dove flying through curling barbed branches. These images in words and pictures will keep readers thinking about the book—and the Passion—long after the covers are closed. (Eerdmans, $20 48p all ages ISBN 0-8028-5183-5; Feb.)

In the paper-over-board Bright Easter Day by Julie Stiegemeyer (Baby in a Manger), illus. by Susan Spellman, rhyming verse relates the story of the Passion. ("With his hands bound and tied,/ And with guards at His side,/ Jesus chose not to fight,/ Hid His power and might.") Soft-edged watercolor-and-pastel artwork, featuring crowds alternately cheerful and solemn, accompanies the text. (Concordia, $9.99 32p ages 5-up ISBN 0-7586-0818-7; Jan.)

A glittery, shaped board book heralds an Easter Egg Surprise by Salina Yoon. The top of the pleasingly decorated egg featured on each page lifts to reveal a surprise appropriate to its recipient (e.g., a teacher bunny gets an apple and pencil inside her egg). (Penguin/ PSS!, $5.99 12p ages 3-7 ISBN 8431-1364-2; Jan.)

Foil accents decorate the cover of Happy Easter Eggs by Joan Holub, which trumpets all things ovoid ("Eggs dressed in polka dots./ Eggs dressed in stripes and spots") until they nestle down for the night "in their basket beds." (Little Simon, $5.99 12p ages 2-5 ISBN 0-689-86476-0; Feb.)

A quartet of die-cut Mini Egg books, illus. by Lucinda McQueen, star popular spring animals: Little Bunny's Easter Surprise by Tara Doyle, along with Little Duck's (by Nancy Krulik), Little Lamb's (by Gina Shaw) and Little Chick's Easter Surprise by Karen Backstein. Each of the stars has an adventure: in the first title, for instance, Little Bunny's special egg unexpectedly hatches; in the second, Little Duck waits by Mama Duck's newly laid egg for her new sibling to emerge. (Scholastic/Cartwheel, $1.99 each 8p ages 6 mos.-3 yrs. ISBN 0-439-69682-8; Duck 0-439-69681-X; Lamb 0-439-69680-1; Chick 0-439-69728-X; Feb.)

A die-cut cover and water-filled windows give readers a peek at rabbits in a field in Easter Is Coming by Marion Dane Bauer, illus. by Jayoung Cho, a board book showing the first signs of spring. The gelatinous windows contain glitter and movable objects, adding a tactile component to a tale that espouses the day's attractions. (Little Simon, $6.99 10p ages 1-4 ISBN 0-689-86385-3; Feb.)

It's Easter!, illus. by Brenda Sexton, invites readers to don an Easter bunny finger puppet, attached to the book with a string, and solve the puzzles in the pages. The puppet's magnetic nose comes in handy when attempting the activity pegged for each spread, such as finding the "pink baby chicks" or "green jelly beans," whose embedded magnets lead youngsters to the right answers. (Innovative Kids, $14.99 10p ages 3-up ISBN 1-58476-308-6; Feb.)

Ambitious children can roll up their sleeves for some Fun-to-Make Crafts for Easter, ed. by Tom Daning. From classic tips on how to decorate eggs and design a "Goodie Basket" to fashioning holiday jewelry (a "Bunny Pin or Necklace") and mobiles, it's all here with step-by-step instructions and photos of the finished projects. (Boyds Mills, $15.95 64p ages 5-10 ISBN 1-59078-340-9; paper $7.95 1-59078-365-4; Feb.)

How the Easter bunny came to have his job is told with child-like wonder in The Story of the Easter Bunny by Katherine Tegen, illus. by Sally Anne Lambert. When a "round old couple" who diligently worked year after year painting eggs, weaving baskets and making chocolates can no longer do the work, their pet rabbit takes on the task himself. Muted watercolors of an endearingly antiquated town and the couple's cozy home add to the sweetness of the story. (HarperCollins, $12.99 40p ages 3-8 ISBN 0-06-050711-X; Feb.)

Readers who wonder how the Easter Bunny can fill everyone's baskets in a day will find the answers in The Truth About Easter Rabbits, ed. by Blue Lantern Studio, which suggests that a team of furry males and females band together to make the rounds. Vintage illustrations from the first half of the 20th century (credited at the end) depict the rabbits in their day jobs and enjoying family life, as well as making their preparations and contributions to the holiday festivities. (Laughing Elephant/Green Tiger [800-354-0400], $17.95 48p all ages ISBN 1-59583-011-1; Feb.)

In the newest Look Again Book by Michael Garland, The Great Easter Egg Hunt, Tommy's Aunt Jeanne beckons the boy into a land where the Easter Bunny hops the whole year through (hmm, it's a white rabbit that goes through a hole...). A message cryptically spelled out on a decorated egg, chocolate hares and a Jelly Bean Machine number among the prizes that await readers. (Dutton, $15.99 32p ages 3-up ISBN 0-525-47357-2; Feb.) Two bovine buddies don rabbit suits when the farmer says he's too old to be the Easter Bunny in the paperback edition of Minnie and Moo: The Attack of the Easter Bunnies by Denys Cazet. (HarperTrophy, $3.99 48p ages 4-8 ISBN 0-06-000508-4; Feb.)

Basket Bounty

Other ducky titles that may fit well in Easter baskets include a bevy of board books and interactive titles. In Five Little Ducks, Dan Yaccarino paints an endearing quintet of wayward ducklings who, one by one, drift away from their mother. But after the lone "Sad mother duck went out one day,/ over the hill and far away," and states her refrain ("Quack! Quack! Quack!"), "all the little ducks came back!" (HarperFestival, $5.99 26p ages 6 mos.-3 yrs. ISBN 0-06-073465-5; Mar.)

Hop! and Quack! by Phyllis Root, illus. by Holly Meade, take a playful look at the behavior of energetic rabbits ("Bunny bouncers/ all play tag./ Bunnies zig,/ bunnies zag") and new hatchlings ("Baby ducklings/ in a heap/ tumble out/ peep peep peep!"). Winsome watercolors make the creatures come alive. (Candlewick, $6.99 each 16p ages 6 mos.-2 yrs. ISBN 0-7636-1794-6; 0-7636-1793-8; Feb.)

A pair of Finger Puppet Books allow youngsters to stick a finger through a die-cut opening in the back of the board books that reaches through to the cover, to literally "inhabit" the star of Little Duck and Little Ladybug, illus. by Klaartje van der Put. When readers turn the page, the interactive character remains on each spread. Little Duck swims in the pond and plays peekaboo, while Little Ladybug "flies... from place to place, from tree to tree." (Chronicle, $6.95 each 12p ages 6 mos.-4 yrs. ISBN 0-8118-4847-7; 0-8118-4848-5; Mar.)

More puppet fun awaits in a pair of Hand-Puppet Board Books by Michelle Berg: This Little Piggy and Old MacDonald. A glove attached to the tiny board book's back cover allows little hands to animate all five piggies, from the first that heads to market to the fifth saying, "Wee, wee, wee," all the way home. And readers inhabit a quintet of farm animals (cow, dog, pig and more) in the second. The pastel illustrations in the tiny board books are just as inviting as the puppets themselves. (Scholastic/Cartwheel, $12.95 6p ages 6 mos.-3 yrs. ISBN 0-439-69149-4; 0-439-69392-6; Feb.)

For those who'd rather cover their toes than their fingers, there's Funny Bunny Feet by Roberta Edwards, illus. by Claudine Gévry; the back cover of the board book (which tempts readers to dance) extends to a clear plastic case with bunny-shaped socks that rattle. (Penguin/PSS!, $9.99 10p ages 6 mos.-2 yrs. ISBN 0-8431-1277-8; Feb.)

The winsome feathered fellow first introduced in Little Quack returns in a board book edition and in a third hardcover companion book, Little Quack's Bedtime by Lauren Thompson, illus. by Derek Anderson. PW said of the debut book, "Anderson's depiction of the adorable ducklings, working up their courage to join their fuzzy siblings will keep toddlers coming back." And the feathered quintet is every bit as adorable in Bedtime as, one by one, Mama dispels their fears of the night. (Little Simon, $7.99 32p each ages 2-5 ISBN 0-689-87645-9; Bedtime S&S, $14.95 0-689-86894-4; Feb.)

With a rounded right edge that resembles an egg, the oversize paper-over-board Duckie's Ducklings: A One-to-Ten Counting Book by Frances Barry does for numbers what her Duckie's Rainbow did for colors. As Duckie searches for her missing darlings, the graduated pages reveal first one, then another, all the way to 10. (Candlewick, $7.99 32p ages 2-4 ISBN 0-7636-2514-0; Feb.)

A welcome reissue teams a text by Ruth Krauss (A Hole Is to Dig) with the artwork of her husband, Crockett Johnson, The Happy Egg (1967). Recalling his illustrations in The Carrot Seed, Johnson uses deceptively simple line art and white space along with backdrops of gold (and blue he uses for the egg). Krauss, with her usual understated humor, observes the egg without losing sight of its potential ("It couldn't walk./ It couldn't sing./ It couldn't fly./ It could just get sat on"). When the newborn hatches ("It could walk./ It could sing./ It could fly"), the artwork depicts the tiny blue fledgling soaring off the upper right-hand corner of the spread. A small gem. (HarperCollins, $12.99 32p ages 2-8 ISBN 0-06-076005-2; Feb.)

Passover Titles

Additional Passover titles include This Is the Matzah by Abby Levine, illus. by Paige Billin-Frye, latest in this duo's holiday picture-book series. As told in rhyming couplets, Max and his younger sister Ruth prepare for and celebrate Passover with their family, from shopping for matzah with Mom to asking the Four Questions to searching for the afikomen that Grandma has hidden. Chipper watercolors keep the festivities bright. (Albert Whitman, $15.95 32p ages 3-7 ISBN 0-8075-7885-1; Mar.)

The board book A Touch of Passover (A Touch and Feel Book) by Ari Sollish, illus. by Boruch Becker, will keep toddlers' fingers busy. A basic, generally upbeat description of the holiday and Seder traditions is accented by such ready-to-explore textures as Daddy's "leather" Haggadah, bumpy matzah and a soft, silk afikoman bag. The book is also available in Spanish. (Merkos [Baker & Taylor and Ingram, dist.], $8 12p ages 2-5 ISBN 0-8266-0021-2; Span. ed. ISBN 0-8266-0022-0; Mar.)

A joyous family Seder is at the heart of Passover Is Here! by Bobby Pearlman, illus. by Christel Desmoinaux, an unusually informative lift-the-flap title. A boy explains the preparations, food and religious traditions as his cheery clan gathers. "Flashback" illustrations of Moses, the Pharaoh and other key elements add some depth here. Kids will enjoy lifting the flaps to learn more about the holiday's history and to playfully advance the action in the story. (Little Simon, $6.99, paper 16p ages 5-8 ISBN 0-689-86587-2; Feb.)

Beyond Chocolate and Roses

What little is known about Saint Valentine, in whose honor we exchange cards, gifts and romantic pleasantries on February 14, is woven into this picture book by Ann Trompert (who has penned biographies of Saint Patrick and Joan of Arc), illus. by Kestutis Kasparavicius. The author builds on facts—that Valentine was a Christian priest in third-century Rome, for example—and combines them with legend to offer a portrait of a man steadfast in his religious beliefs and his duty to share his faith with others, even in the face of persecution. The people in Kasparavicius's watercolors have an odd stone-mosaic appearance, with lines emphasized on their faces and bodies. An instructive author's note is included. (Boyds Mills, $15.95 32p all ages ISBN 1-59078-181-3; Oct. 2004)


The Jewish festival of Purim (March 25) takes center stage in a preschool classroom in this photo-essay introduction to the history and customs surrounding the celebration in It's Purim Time! by Latifa Berry Kropf, photos by Tod Cohen. This solid team, which also paired up for It's Hanukkah Time! and others in the holiday series, captures kids at their smiliest or deep in concentration as they make King Ahashuerus's crown, or Mordechai's beard for a play telling the heroic story of Queen Esther, who saved the Jews from evil Haman's death order. Ideas and instructions for crafts and snacks are included. (Kar-Ben, $12.95 24p ages 2-6 ISBN 1-58013-153-0; Feb.)

Crafted as a story-within-a-story-within-a-story, the understated picture book A Telling Time by Irene Watts (Finding Sophie), illus. by Kathryn Shoemaker (My Animal Friends), focuses on a grandmother who tells her granddaughter how she first heard the Purim story from her rabbi when she was a girl. The grandmother's memories, tinged with fear, sorrow and hope, recall how German soldiers interrupted the story all those years ago in 1939 Nazi-occupied Vienna. Many of the evocative and delicate paintings take on an interesting vertical perspective, making readers feel as if they are watching from a lofty perch. (Tradewind [Baker & Taylor, dist.], $17.95 32p ages 4-8 ISBN 1-896580-39-4; Mar.)

Author Tommy Tenney adapts his bestselling adult novel Hadassah for younger readers in Hadassah: The Girl Who Became Queen Esther . His suspenseful writing style incorporates elements of intrigue, faith and feelings of teen angst for a fresh look at this Jewish heroine. (Bethany, $9.99 144p ages 10-14 ISBN 0-7642-2738-6; Feb.)

Prayers of All Sizes

Asking for God's blessing, guidance and help is as easy as praying Dear God, It's Me!, in the picture book of the same name by Lynn Hodges and Sue Buchanan (I Love You This Much), illus. by John Bendall-Brunello. Adapted from a song, the words here trumpet a comforting refrain "Dear God, I am calling... please listen... it's me! You know all about my day from A to Z.... Please stay close beside me. Make my heart your own." A young elephant, rendered in playful watercolor-and-pencil art, goes about its day in the jungle encountering situations frightening and fun, all with God's help. A music CD containing Hodges's performance of the song is included. (Zonderkidz, $14.99 32p ages 1-6 ISBN 0-310-70645-9; Jan.)

From "Morning Prayer" to "Good-Night Prayer," little ones will find selections familiar and new in the oversize board-book anthology Prayers for Children, illus. by Eloise Wilkin. A number of the entries here have author credits; some of the text is adapted from My Little Golden Book About God by Jane Werner Watson. (Random/Golden, $11.99 38p ages 2-5 ISBN 0-375-83158-4; Jan.)

In A Special Thanks by Karen Hill, illus. by Claudine Gévry, a girl thanks God for all the good things that touch her life. Rhyming couplets itemize said goodnesses in a pleasant, accessible way: "Thank you, God, for all my toys./ Making fun for girls and boys." This die-cut board book is one of the debut titles in the Little Simon Inspirations line of novelty titles (see News, Jan. 31), which carries the imprimatur of bestselling Christian author Max Lucado. (Little Simon Inspirations, $5.99 14p ages 1-4 ISBN 0-689-87818-4; Feb.)

Little Simon Inspirations also reissues two backlist favorites in new puffy-covered board books with gilded edge pages: Give Me Grace: A Child's Daybook of Prayers by Cynthia Rylant and A Little Book of Poems & Prayers by Joan Walsh Anglund. (Little Simon Inspirations, $7.99 32p each all ages ISBN 0-689-87885-0; Poems & Prayers $9.99 ISBN 1-4169-0009-8; Mar.)

For kids who have questions about prayer in their lives, SkyLight Paths offers Does God Hear My Prayer? by August Gold, illus. with photos by Diane Hardy Waller, designed as an introduction to prayer as well as a family discussion starter. Framed as a verbal exchange between mother and child, this lighthearted text explains prayer as an expression of friendship between a person and God, and ultimately suggests, "prayer isn't telling God what to do—/ it is letting God help you remember what's true." Photos of children from around the world illustrate the text, which includes an endorsement from "Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Buddhist religious leaders." (SkyLight Paths, $8.99 paper 32p ages 3-6 ISBN 1-59473-102-0; Mar.)

My Very First Bedtime Storybook by Lois Rock, illus. by Alex Ayliffe (the duo behind My Very First Bible and My Very First Prayers), collects 10 original stories with contemporary settings inspired by Jesus' parables. Each entry, with titles such as "The Sandcastle Game" and "When Lion Gave a Party" concludes with a simple blessing appropriate for quiet time and bedtime (i.e., "Bless the shore/ and bless the sea;/ God bless you/ and God bless me"). Ayliffe's bright cut-paper collages make this a cozy outing. (Good Books, $14.99 128p ages 6 mos.-4 yrs. ISBN 1-56148-448-2; Nov. 2004).