Spurr's earlier board books (In the Garden and At the Beach, both 2012; In the Woods, 2013) featured an adventuresome little boy. Her new slice-of-life story stars an equally joyful little girl who takes pleasure in flying a new kite while not venturing far off the walkway. Oliphant's expressive and light-filled watercolors clearly depict the child's emotions—eager excitement on the way to the park, delight at the kite's flight in the wind, shock when the kite breaks free, dejection, and finally relief and amazement. The rhymes work, though uneven syllable counts in some stanzas interrupt the smooth flow of the verse. The illustrations depict the child with her mass of windblown curls, brown skin, and pronounced facial features as African-American. Her guardian (presumably her mother) is also brown-skinned. It is refreshing to see an African-American family settled comfortably in a suburban setting with single-family homes and a park where the family dog does not need to be leashed.
Unobtrusive rhymes on every other page flow easily off the tongue. The simple, direct language mirrors language patterns of very young children, with one clear idea per page. One stanza says, “Water flows. / Make a boat. // Sail in stream. / Off it floats.” Accompanying pictures of a gutter downspout, a leaf boat, and the rivulet made by water from the gutter hint at details to come and will inspire conversation and simple science explorations. Is the water coming from the rain or from the garden hose lying in the grass? And who will use that hose later? Muted colors match the rainy day until the sun breaking through the clouds reveals a brilliant rainbow that fades at dusk. Where exactly all this takes place is open to interpretation. It could be a modest city neighborhood, a suburb, or a small town. What matters is that this bit of nature is right outside this young black girl’s home. Her glee as she stomps in puddles with her dog is palpable. That her mother seems to share her delight is refreshing.
Here, he delights in a day at the beach. One, two or three words on each page make up the rhyming text: “Sun Sky / Shore Boy // Sand Pail / Spade Toy.” The youngster makes a sand birthday cake with his shovel and pail, but an inevitable wave destroys it. His mother, nearby, comforts him with a picnic lunch and a “Lap Nap” as he dreams of the sea. Oliphant’s soft drawings, which look to be a mix of watercolor and colored pencil, capture the flow of sand and water well, though beach-going children will wonder at the pair’s solitude on this apparently perfect summer day.
Simple, evocative text and gorgeous artwork capture the delight of a young, black girl upon waking to a thick cover of freshly fallen snow in this beautifully designed board book. Together with her mother and her dog, she puts in a full day of winter play: gliding across frozen puddles, drawing in the snow, building a snowman, sledding, and, of course, making snow angels. Oliphant’s illustrations are primarily two-page scenes, occasionally broken up into separate, sequential panels, with the text flowing beneath, one line of a rhymed couplet per page. “Clouds glide over hills. / Snow falls. All is still. // Open window. Shout, ‘Hooray!’ / Dash outside. Time to play!” The accompanying illustrations convey the silent stillness of a pre-dawn snowfall as well as the eager excitement of the girl and her canine companion at their first glimpse of snow and as they race outside to revel in it. Text and pictures flow smoothly from scene to scene and from one activity to the next. The illustrations and their subject matter have a beauty, realism, and simplicity that evoke another era and will surely make caregivers nostalgic for the pleasures of their youths. Children, meanwhile, should find this daylong romp in the snow exhilarating.
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