Center for Children's Books
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And Then It's Spring
by Julie Fogliano; illus. by Erin E. Stead
Oh, spring. At first it’s muddy and drab and grim, and it seems like
the green, growing things may never return. The slow change of season
is particularly hard for gardeners, like the boy in this picture book.
Amid the brown “all around,” he plants seeds, and he waits hopefully
for the miracle of their growth; he trudges through in the rain and
squelches out in the post-rain puddles to check, but there’s no sign of
progress. As the weeks of waiting go by and the earth remains
stubbornly brown, the boy fears that disaster (“maybe it was the birds
. . . or maybe it was the bears and all that stomping”) has befallen
his would-be crop. Eventually, though, spring, real spring, comes,
greening up the earth and sprouting the young gardener’s young
The subject is a perennial, if you’ll pardon the expression, favorite,
and Fogliano treats it with a tenderness and homey conversational
lyricism that recalls Margaret Wise Brown and her picture-book-text
compatriots of the mid-twentieth century. The direct second-person
address (“and you worry about those little seeds”) enhances the quiet
intimacy of the prose; the text breathes just a few words per page,
returning to “brown” and “green” as almost incantatory (“It is still
brown, but a hopeful, very possible sort of brown”) and upping the
suspense with the recurring phrase “and then it is one more week.” Yet
there’s a sturdy simplicity to the description that ensures it’s never
precious or fussy, and even the touch of fancy in the worry about
randomly marauding bears enhances the shine without diverting the
story’s trajectory. It’s also an effective representation of the kid
viewpoint, where a week is unbearable and two weeks eternity, and each
plodding day seems to get you no closer to the desired outcome.
The illustrations reflect the unassuming poetry of the text and expand
it into a humble yet miraculous world; they’re where the story’s real
drama takes place as the quiet text is made fascinatingly particular
with the cast of a spectacle-sporting boy, his amiable yellow dog, and
a collection of unexpected animals. Kids will especially latch onto the
critters subtly and humorously tucked into the spreads: the turtle that
trudges along faithfully after the boy, the twitchy-eared rabbit who
pokes his nose into various aspects of the enterprise, the rotund
little birds that perch on the fenceposts and supervise the
proceedings; even the worms who periscope up inquiringly from
underground. Audiences will particularly delight in the cutaway spread
revealing a host of rodents and worms listening for spring in their
underground burrows while the boy and his friends—dog, turtle,
rabbit—press themselves to the ground to detect sounds from below.
Caldecott winner Stead employs delicate colors in her woodblocks, pale
slate blue for the sky and sandy brown for the soil, subtly
transitioning from flat, grayed tones to clearer and more hopeful blues
and greens. Their subtlety makes them an effective backdrop for her
soft, nimbly modeled pencil-drawn figures, captured in enchantingly
offhand and personable poses: the rabbit peers into a flowerpot as he
valiantly hangs onto its rim; the dog snoozes bonelessly in the red
wagon, his paw dangling over the edge; even the imagined bears are
marvels of character as they indolently, insolently disrespect the
hopeful mounds of seeds.
With its close, confiding gentleness, this will be at its best in quiet
one-to-one sharing. It could also be an imaginative introduction to a
seed-planting project, a spring hike or park trek, or just a session of
nature-watching with noses pressed to the window.
--Deborah Stevenson, Editor
Cover image from And Then It's
©2012 by Erin E. Stead. Used by permission of Roaring Brook Press.
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This page was last updated on March 1, 2012.