Welcome to KidLit Gems, a coffee-style chat about favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.
This month’s theme: Planting Seeds
Text and Illustrations © 2014, Lori Nichols
NANCY PAULSEN BOOKS
An imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group
and there was just enough room under the tree for Maple and her little sister . . . Willow. ~ Maple
Maple will charm anyone who loves Kevin Henkes’ Chrysanthemum. Lori Nichol’s début picture book also has the sweet promise of new life; the struggles and rewards of friendship, growth, and self-identity; and a curious female protagonist who loves her name. Nichols skillfully communicates innocence and calm through white and blue space, then embraces her characters and readers with translucent leaves. The pages, with their recurring themes will make you go back to revisit. Was a bird’s nest there before?
Growing up in a family of die-hard tree-lovers, I appreciate how Nichols created special bonds between her human characters and their deciduous namesakes. I’ll admit, I’m relieved my parents didn’t do the same, because my name would be Spruce. And evergreens are harder to hug.
If you enjoyed Maple, you’ll also love Sophie’s Squash written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf.
When she was still a whisper, her parents planted a tiny tree in her honor! ~ Maple
Full disclosure here: Maple and Willow were both on my baby name list in case I had girls. But even without my inherent bias, this endearing story following a little tree-hugger through the seasons definitely holds its own. Sparse text and uncluttered illustrations work in harmony to parallel the growth of trees and families. Maple’s sometimes clumsy attempts to befriend her tree, and later her baby sister, are sweet but not sappy. Pun intended, fir sure!
Maple Book Trailer by Lori Nichols
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What children’s books plant seeds in you?
If you liked this book, there’s also the sequel, MAPLE AND WILLOW TOGETHER.
I don’t dare start spouting out titles about all the planting-themed picture books I love… I have so many that they take up their own section in our bookcase! Now I need to go back and weed out the super old ones I’ve been handed down; not the great ones, just the ones that make planting and the miracle of germination and growth about as exciting as a math test. They were written back in the day when getting kid lit published wasn’t so competitive, and unfortunately, a lot of junk got through.
I’d still love to hear some of those recommended titles.
A few favorites besides MISS MAPLE’S SEEDS, MAPLE, AND THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE: SOPHIE’S SQUASH by Pat Zietlow Miller (as mentioned above); THE CURIOUS GARDEN, by Peter Brown; THE GARDENER by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small; JUNE 29, 1999 by David Wiesner; STREGA NONA’S HARVEST by Tomie dePaola; A LEAF CAN BE by Laurie Purdie Salas; THE GIVING TREE by Shel Silverstein. And, two KidLit Gems from last year: GRANDPA GREEN, by Lane Smith and THE STORY OF FROG BELLY RAT BONE by Timothy Basil Ering.