By Julie Fogliano

Illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Roaring Brook. $16.99. Ages 4-7

‘And Then It's Spring’ by Julie Fogliano; illustrated by Erin E. Stead. (Roaring Brook Press)

Anyone who’s ever lived in New England knows that spring is born ingloriously in mud. “First you have brown, all around you have brown.” So begins this quiet calibration of the infinitesimal degrees by which the much anticipated season arrives. After seed-planting and rain, “it is still brown, but a hopeful, very possible sort of brown.” While the text is mainly a series of gentle observations and musing questions, the story unfurls in carefully sequenced illustrations showing a young child absorbed in the intimate details of bringing a garden to life. Accompanied by a group of never-mentioned companions — a small green turtle sporting a red hat, a lop-eared dog, a diminutive brown rabbit — the young gardener sows and tends and frets and waits until finally there is “a greenish hum that you can only hear if you put your ear to the ground and close your eyes.” Erin Stead understands the power of judiciously applied color and uses repeated dollops — often red — to draw the reader’s eye across each double-page panorama. And although this is an entirely adult-free world, she perches a big solid red house on a distant hill, a stand-in for the watchful eye of a loving parent. As seeds sprout into plants, so these simple words grow through each carefully detailed scene into a tale filled with the joy of being alive.

Kristi Elle Jemtegaard