The best picture books about spring

I spent the final weeks of winter reading all the picture books I could find about spring.

Here are my favorites.

They’re simple, they’re deep, and they’re as gorgeous as the season.

City Dog, Country Frog

This poignant tale of love, loss, and renewal is told with a few well-chosen words and a bounty of vibrant, exquisitely detailed watercolor paintings.

One fine day in early spring, City Dog visits the country and spots a funny-looking creature on a rock in a pond.

“What are you doing?” City Dog asks.

“Waiting for a friend,” replies Country Frog, smiling.

“But you’ll do.”

Throughout the spring and summer, the dog and the frog bond and frolic. But in the fall, the frog gets tired, and in the winter, he disappears.

Mournfully, City Dog sits alone on the rock where they first met.

“What are you doing?” a chipmunk asks him.

“Waiting for a friend,” says City Dog sadly.

“Then he smiled a froggy smile and said … ‘But you’ll do.’”

Written by Mo Willems • Illustrated by Jon J. Muth • Disney-Hyperion, 2010 • Good for babies, preschoolers & grade-schoolers

And then it’s spring

Written in free verse and illustrated with painted woodblock prints, this book is a tender portrait of a hopeful, hardworking boy who’s patiently waiting for spring.

At the tail end of winter, when “all around you have brown,” he plants his garden.

Then he watches and worries, uncertain if anything will bloom.

“[A]nd then it is one more week,

and the brown,

still brown,

has a greenish hum

that you can only hear

if you put your ear to the ground

and close your eyes

and then it is one more week

and a sunny day,

that sunny day that happens

right after that rainy day

and you walk outside

to check on all that brown,

but the brown isn’t around

and now you have green,

all around

you have

green.”

Written by Julie Fogliano • Illustrated by Erin E. Stead • Roaring Brook Press, 2012 • Good for preschoolers & grade-schoolers

Miss RUMPhiUS

When Alice Rumphius was a little girl, she lived with her grandfather, an artist, by the sea.

During the day, he let her help him with his paintings. In the evening, he told her about his childhood in a faraway land.

Afterwards, Alice would say, “When I grow up, I too will go to faraway places, and when I grow old, I too will live beside the sea.”

“That is all very well, little Alice,” her grandpa told her one day, “but there is a third thing you must do.”

“You must do something to make the world more beautiful.”

Alice grew up, became a librarian, and traveled the globe. When she was ready, she settled in a house by the sea.

But how, she wondered, could she make the world more beautiful?

Finally, she got an idea.

She ordered bushels and bushels of lupine seeds, and for months, she sowed them near and far. Some of her neighbors called her “That Crazy Old Lady,” but she persevered.

And the next spring, when the hills and meadows were a jamboree of color, she knew she had done “the third, the most difficult thing of all.”

More than just a beautiful story, Miss Rumphius is a passionate exhortation to live well and do good.

Written and illustrated by Barbara Cooney • The Viking Press, 1982 • National Book Award • Good for grade-schoolers

Really spring

In this postwar classic, spring isn’t just a season; it’s also a state of mind.

It’s the end of March, but the world is still gray, and everyone is wearing a frown.

So a little boy gets an idea: “Why wait for Spring to change everything to grass and flowers? Let’s change it ourselves right now!”

His mayor agrees, and the next morning, kids and grownups alike get to work.

“They painted climbing vines on the fences, and daffodils on the houses.

They painted flowers on the awnings over store windows. They painted lampposts and fire hydrants bright colors.

On the big buildings, they painted whole fields of spring daises, with brooks and rivers running between hills covered with dandelions.

Beside a lake, a sign said, ‘No Fishing!’

On the pillars in front of the bank, they painted bluebirds hunting for breakfast in make-believe grass.

Pussy willows grew on mailboxes, and a border of tulips bloomed on the bakery!”

Finally, “everything that could be painted had been painted,” and finally, people are smiling.

That evening, a hard rain falls, and the paint washes away.

But that doesn’t matter, because, nurtured by water, the plants and trees start to grow and bloom.

The next day, “it was really Spring!”

Written by Gene Zion • Illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham • Harper & Row, 1956 • Good for preschoolers & grade-schoolers

Frog and Toad Are Friends

When the snow finally melts and the sun finally shines, Frog can’t wait to start playing with his best friend, Toad.

But when he shows up at Toad’s house, he’s still hibernating in his cozy bed.

“‘Toad, Toad,” shouts Frog. “Wake up. It is spring!”

Frog pushes Toad out of bed and onto the front porch.

“‘Help!” says Toad. “I cannot see anything.”

“Don’t be silly,” replies Frog. “What you see is the clear warm light of April.”

“And it means that we can begin a whole new year together, Toad,” Frog says. “Think of it … We will skip through the meadows and run through the woods and swim in the river. In the evenings we will sit right here on this front porch and count the stars.”

“You can count them, Frog,” says Toad. “I will be too tired. I am going back to bed.”

So begins “Spring,” the first of five stories in this timeless celebration of friendship and adventure. (The Frog and Toad series also includes three other great volumes: Frog and Toad Together, Frog and Toad All Year, and Days With Frog and Toad.)

Like most young buddies, Frog and Toad often argue, make bad choices, and get in trouble. But, invariably, they find a way to work things out.

Written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel • HarperCollins Children’s Books, 1970 • Caldecott honor book • Good for preschoolers & grade-schoolers