Simona Ciraolo: If Winter Comes, Tell It I’m Not Here

Illustrated by the author

Published by Walker Books, London, 2020

There is nobody like your big sister to tell you the bad news straight up.

In this charming picture book, we meet a young boy who is loving the season of summer and all the cool things there are to do while the weather is hot and balmy: swimming, eating ice cream, feeling that warm sun on his skin and being outdoors almost every day. His big sister, however, has some developing news and is quite happy to pass it on:

“You’d better make the most of it while it lasts. Summer’s going to end soon.”

And she almost delights in the apprehensive reaction she gets from her young brother! There will be shorter days, chillier weather, and trees will lose their leaves. Days and days will go by inside with nothing to do but watch the rain and feel cold and miserable…well, that is certainly a lot to be unhappy about.

But as winter approaches, something amazing happens. It’s just as his big sister says, but there is something wonderful (and not terrible) about snuggling up on the couch with his family, crunching through the colourful autumn leaves, splashing in puddles, skating on ice, and enjoying a big warm bowl of soup.

Yes, life is constantly changing, but if we bend into the change and embrace each new way of living, then sometimes, just sometimes, we can find our silver linings.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 3-6 years to introduce them to the wonder of our changing seasons and below are more suggestions for picture books which focus on that theme, for both northern and southern hemispheres:

Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit
by Il Sung Na

Tap the Magic Tree
by Christie Matheson

Tree by Britta Teckentrup Illustrated by Patricia Hegarty

Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter
by Kenard Pak

My Boots in Season
by Kerryn Pascoe
Illustrated by Elise Hurst

Sing Me the Summer
by Jane Godwin
Illustrated by Alison Lester

Our Seasons by
Grace Lin & Ranida McKneally Illustrated by Grace Lin

Ruby & Rufus Love the Water!
by Olivier Dunrea

When Spring Comes
by Kevin Henkes
Illustrated by Laura Dronzek

Lift-the-Flap Seasons and Weather by Holly Bathie

Dry to Dry by Pamela Freeman Illustrated by Liz Anelli

A Year on our Farm
by Penny Matthews
Illustrated by Andrew McLean

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

That’s Not a Daffodil
by Elizabeth Honey

Spring for Sophie by Yael Werber Illustrated by Jen Hill

and then it’s spring
by Julie Fogliano
Illustrated by Erin E. Stead

All the Year Round by John Yeoman Illustrated by Quentin Blake

In the Garden by Emma Giuliani

Millie-Mae in Autumn
by Natalie Marshall

The ABC Book of Seasons by Helen Martin and Judith Simpson Illustrated by Cheryl Orsini

Claire Saxby: Iceberg

Illustrated by Jess Racklyeft

Published by Allen & Unwin, NSW, 2021

Like many unique environments, the flora and fauna of that southern, icy and ever- changing continent of Antarctica is threatened by pollution, global warming and climate change. This picture book helps us to understand what we might lose if sea ice continues to diminish across this vast and seemingly uninhabitable land.

Following the life cycle of an iceberg as it shears off a glacier in spring, we are encouraged to look closely at what appears to be, at first glance, an empty continent.  As summer nears, animals appear underwater and on shore: leopard seals, penguins, krill, terns, cormorants, humpback whales, squid and orca. All of them dependant on one another and the ice that surrounds them, for food and a place to rest, eat, mate and reproduce.

The illustrations in this picture book have been made using a combination of water colour, acrylic paint, collage, pencil, ink and digital aids. It is wonderful to see so many different shades of blue. The central pages fold outwards to a double spread revealing some of the creatures living in the ocean. Unfolding it, helps us to reflect upon the immensity of this continent, which is almost twice the size of Australia, by that feeling that it is almost too big to hold on your lap!

Accompanying the illustrations, the text is informative, thoughtful and expressed with poetic clarity. For younger readers, visual imagery is captured with creative descriptions:

Terns wheel overhead. Blue-eyed cormorant too, their wingspans wider than outstretched arms….

Penguins dive deep for fish. Seals dive deeper to twitch-whisker hunt.

For older readers, there are enough hints in the text to embark upon their own research and investigate some of the complexities of this fragile ecosystem:

The iceberg is flat-topped, sharp and angular and carries ancient weather in its layers of ice-clothing; a coat for each year volcanoes blew and black ash fell like snow.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 4-8 years and below are more suggestions for picture books that delve into the problems of global warming and climate change:

Where’s the Elephant? by Barroux

The Great Kapok Tree
by Lynne Cherry

The Tantrum that Saved the World by Megan Herbert
Illustrated by Michael E. Mann

The Lazy Friend by Ronan Badel

10 Things I Can Do to Help My World by Melanie Walsh

The Trouble With Dragons
by Debi Gliori

Stand up! Speak Up!
by Andrew Joyner

Window by Jeannie Baker

Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish
by Michael Foreman

Greta Thunberg
by Isabel Sanchez Vegara
Illustrated by Anke Weckmann

One World by Michael Foreman

Curious George Plants a Tree by Margret & H.A. Rey

Mallee Sky by Jodi Toering Illustrated by Tannya Harricks

A Little Paper Caper
by Oliver Jeffers

The Polar Bear in Sydney Harbour by Beck & Robin Feiner

Who Makes a Forest?
by Sally Nicholls
Illustrated by Carolina Rabei

The Lonely Polar Bear by Khoa Le

The Pout-Pout Fish Cleans Up the Ocean by Deborah Diesen Illustrated by Dan Hanna

Sophie Blackall: Hello Lighthouse

Illustrated by the author

Published by Orchard Books, 2019

Have you ever wondered what it might be like to live and work in a lighthouse?

If you have, then this is the book for you. The illustrations are exquisitely detailed, you can see the minutiae of everyday life inside a light house over the seasons of the year. Sprinkled in between the pages are gems of information, like letters really being sent in bottles and visitors being winched from a swaying tender in a bosun’s chair to the lighthouse itself, all the while over rough and turbulent seas. Many of the drawings are illustrated from different perspectives: some from above, some in fog, some in roped circles and one in a pull out spread that captures the isolation of the lighthouse in glorious sunset colors. At the end of the story, the author tells us more about lighthouses, their function in days gone by, the faithful and constant maintenance of the lightkeepers, the hardships and loneliness that had to be endured. And how that all changed with the introduction of electric lights and automated machinery around the turn of the century.

So, why not grab your favourite person, head out to the coast and find a lighthouse to explore! While you are there, think about those brave men and women who lived and worked inside them, devoting their lives to be beacons of safety for sailors all around the world.

This book was the winner of the Caldecott Medal in 2019 and I would highly recommend it for children aged between 5-10 years old.

If you like this book, here is another favorite of mine by Sophie Blackall, telling the story of the inspirational beginnings of that famous bear, Winnie the Pooh.

Finding Winnie by
Lindsay Mattick
Illustrated by
Sophie Blackall

Laura Knowles: It Starts with a Seed

Illustrated by Jennie Webber

See the source image

Published by Words and Pictures, US, 2017

There are many books on the market that explore the theme of plant growth from seed to tree, but I have chosen this book because of its simple yet concise language and the expressive drawings that accompany the text. Each page explores the development of one seed with gentle rhyme and observation, helping the reader to understand how one tree can become home and habitat to many creatures, big and small. As well, the author explores the idea that a tree, grown from a seed, can throw its own seeds and that they can begin life all over again, an everlasting circle of life. The tree described in this picture book is a sycamore tree and at the end of the book, its life cycle is illustrated, with annotated facts, on a large pull out page.

Whilst many of us wouldn’t plant a sycamore tree in our backyard (they can grow to over 100 feet), there are many seeds that you can plant for almost instant pleasure. So, grab your little person and head off to the nursery, pick up a packet of sunflower seeds for a splash of colour or spinach seedlings for adding to your plate, some potting mix, a few containers, a watering can, some liquid plant food and watch the amazing transformation…and don’t forget to keep watering!

This book would be suitable for children 2-8 years old and if you would like to read more about seeds, here are some of my favorites:

A Seed is Sleepy
by Dianna Aston,
illustrated by Sylvia Long
See the source image
Seeds Move! by
Robin Page
See the source image
The Tiny Seed by
Eric Carle