First you have brown,
all around you have brown
The snow may be gone but a bespectacled boy, his dog, pet turtle and an onlooking rabbit see no sign of new life as a few birds hang on dried-up cattails nearby. As the days get warmer he and his companions haul pots, seeds, seed markers and garden tools in a red wagon to a plot of ground beyond the plowed fields surrounding his home. Rain is needed and it comes, but there is still so much brown.
As a week passes the foursome watches, waits and plants some more. As with anyone who waits, the more time passes, hopefulness is replaced by worry. But worry can be replaced too, by a stillness, a quiet necessary to feel the beat of the heart, the heart of the world around us.
Week after week of expectant observation leads to activities in preparation for the arrival, the arrival of a new season. When one least expects the anticipated event, it can pleasantly surprise. The right combination makes all the difference. The all around is no longer brown but green.
Julie Fogliano's beautiful ode to a boy's trust in the fruits of his endeavors is told using peaceful prose with a hint of fancy. Initially her narrative goes from brown to seeds to a wish for rain; a single word choice reflective of her command of language used throughout. Her passage about the bears depicts the musings of a boy whose imagination is stretching for an answer; their lack of reading skills might be an explanation. Even without the accompanying illustration the image conjured by her words at this point, as well as others, is a delightful daydream.
Using woodblock printing techniques and pencil pictures Erin E. Stead colors in a world where readers will long to linger. At each reading new details will reveal themselves; the turtle wearing a red ski cap as does the boy, as the weeks progress the smoke from the house's chimney decreases until it disappears, the dog's hole (a resting place for his bone) holds a marker picturing a bone or the rabbit standing on a smaller clay pot to peer into a larger version. Readers are endeared to the boy and his companions by the delicate depiction of each.
The book's jacket and cover foreshadow the events found in the story as do the endpapers' colors; front endpapers are a smoky blue-green and the back endpapers are a brighter, darker hue of the same color. Earthy blues, browns, greens, some blue and those red highlights ( the boy's home, the umbrella, the winter clothing) are softly outlined. Clouds in the background accentuate the characters, their activities and the landscape while unifying.
The winsome words penned by Julie Fogliano for And Then It's Spring even without the pictures are lovely, a mind melody. The illustrations painstakingly created by Erin E. Stead need no words telling a story, And Then It's Spring happens on their own. Together the result is in a word...stunning. To view interior images please visit the publisher's website.