Review by C.J. Bunce
Borrowing a phrase and idea from the song The Teddy Bear’s Picnic, a new storybook is coming next week for children four to six years old, and it is exactly the book to get your little kids excited about the coming spring, and maybe take some outings into the woods. Poet Rachel Piercey and artist Freya Hartas have created a perfect picture book, If You Go Down to the Woods Today, a story from the Brown Bear Wood, a beautiful, over-sized book of wonderful images of cute animals experiencing exciting parts of the year that echo events in your child’s life. Its classic design and interactive story is certain to be the favorite book of someone you know. Take a look at some pages inside below.
If You Go Down to the Woods Today hits superbly on several levels. Its beauty and poetry will create a sense of wonder for young readers. If someone told me this was created in the 1920s or 1930s, I’d believe it–it’s that classic blend of forest animals and ideas that could serve as a gateway to other classics, like The Wind in the Willows, The Secret Garden, and Winnie the Pooh. It could be read to a young one at one scene per day, stretching out the fun over time, as a single poem is paired with items that the reader is asked to find in the forest. One day finds all the animals at home, one day celebrates a birthday, another has the animals entertained in their own art class. My favorite shows the animals each in their unique versions of a school day. It’s like the art puzzles once found in Highlights magazine or Where’s Waldo, but with much more to take away, as kids follow animals as they change from layout to layout and interact with other animals experiencing similar seasonal changes. The animals are many and diverse and busily involved in their day, the kinds of experiences to help build empathy for furry critters and nature in the minds of its young readers.
Kids and parents will quickly find each setting has more than the animals and events in the list of what to spot on the pages. Readers can have more fun by making lists of everything they see, or taking turns spotting something new and seeing if their reading partner can also find it. A series of tails stick out from under a picnic blanket. What are they up to? What instruments are the animals playing in the Woodland Band? Which snail is going to win the relay race? A final chapter shows 20 images for kids to go back into the book to find, along with explaining objects they can find and record on their own nature trail adventure. For kids and parents wanting even more information, they can look to a page of online links to nature sites and poem sites.
Check out a preview of interior layouts below from If You Go Down to the Woods Today, courtesy of Magic Cat Publishing/Abrams Young Readers:
The preview images don’t do justice to the vibrant colors in person, the cheery bright orange end papers, the large colorful hardcover with soft blue binding and gold leaves and that look that evokes classic book from the ages like Marguerite de Angeli’s Book of Nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes