The signs are so subtle when you do see them it's as if it happens overnight. Birds that for months have been looking for food are now also carrying grasses and twigs to places unknown. On close inspection peeking through the dirt are the red tips of leaves from tulip bulbs planted in the fall. Bare tree branches now bear buds ready to burst forth in blossoms. It's coming to us like a long-awaited whisper.
There will still be a teeter-totter game between winter and spring as days will fluctuate between chilly and balmy but change is in the air. When Spring Comes (Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, February 9, 2016), the newest collaboration between the husband and wife team of Kevin Henkes and Laura Dronzek, asks us to be patient. The reward for our patience will be the splendor brought by an abundance of new life.
Before Spring comes,
the trees look like
black sticks against the sky.
In our waiting (and watching) we will see those sticks fill with tiny flowers and tiny leaves announcing the arrival of spring. The last remains of our play in the snow will fade into the ground. A colorless landscape yields tiny hues of green, yellow, white, pink and purple.
Treasures tucked in nests and underground seek a release. Seemingly endless days of rain showers quench a thirst. Sown seeds line gardens in rows of green. Kittens enjoying this first seasonal change find places to roam and romp.
Sometimes spring disappears under a fresh layer of snow but it returns assisted by the sun's new warmth, gaining strength. When winter has been banished there will be no doubt. Be still and look, listen, smell, and touch spring. It's everywhere. Our anticipation is satisfied. Or is it?
Exquisite pacing is evident in the selected words and sentence structure used by Kevin Henkes. Each thought builds upon the previous one until a crescendo is reached. Henkes then writes in an alliterative celebration of the season. It's also interesting that spring is given a capital letter S to signify its importance. Here is a sample passage.
Do you like mud?
Do you like puddles?
I hope you like umbrellas.
Given the color selections, looking at the matching dust jacket and book case sends joy surging through your soul. Who can resist white kittens among the spring grass and flowers beneath blossoming trees, a bird and a bee? To the left, on the back, Laura Dronzek has placed a single circular image on the blue background. Snuggled in the tree branches is a bird's nest holding three blue eggs. It is a wonderful foreshadowing of events portrayed throughout the book.
The opening endpapers are awash is marbled shades of blue as a background with brilliant displays of kites, umbrellas, butterflies, birds, boots, flowers, buds, bees, bubbles, raindrops and a single white kitten. The closing endpapers are different reflecting the end of the book. Rendered in acrylic paints each image is an atmospheric enhancement of the text.
In the beginning Dronzek supplies single page pictures and a series of illustrations to extend the text. She then switches to large circle portraits with a tiny mouse as a character. Time lapse elements surrounded by large amounts of white space emphasize the beauty waiting brings. As the text takes us closer to full-blown spring, vibrant double-page spreads follow.
One of my favorite illustrations spans two pages. It's a panoramic view but shifts the perspective to bring us close to certain items in the image. As we move from the top of the page to the bottom we move more into the picture. Clouds nearly cover a blue sky as two bikers move down a path. A girl wearing pink wings over her yellow coat is flying a pink kite. Butterflies are being chased by a spotted puppy. In the foreground a garden shows sprouted seeds in rows and robins are looking at worms. Bees buzz. The three white kittens, looking directly at the reader, are squirming in and over a dusty red wheelbarrow.
With words and pictures author Kevin Henkes and illustrator Laura Dronzek ask us to enter their book, When Spring Comes. We are invited to enjoy every single page. In fact you can't help but want to jump into some of the illustrations to experience the happiness you see glowing there. This is a masterful expression of a season full of newness and renewal.
To learn more about Kevin Henkes please follow the link attached to his name to access his website. You can listen to the pronunciation of Kevin Henkes' and Laura Dronzek's names at TeachingBooks.net here and here. Laura Dronzek is interviewed about this title at The Horn Book.