- The Berenstain Bears in the Bears' Almanac by Stan and Jan Berenstain: The Almanac, included in this case in The Berenstain Bears' Science and Nature Super Treasury, explains weather, seasons and natural cycles with the usual effervesence of Stan and Jan Berenstain. I had the Bears' Almanac as a child and I know every page like the back of my hand. The other two books in the Treasury are The Berenstain Bears' Nature Guide and The Berenstain Bears' Science Fair, which are new to me and I feel lucky to have them. Nature Guide is more my personal style than Science Fair, but Science Fair does a great job of explaining stuff like levers and pulleys and, you know, physics. So far we've just looked at the entries for winter and spring, but we'll progress as the year does.
- A Child's Calendar, poems by John Updike, illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman. This book is so unique and superlative I don't even know where to start. The month-by-month poems are pitch-perfect, but it's the slice-of-life portraits of two biracial New England kids (and in the background, their parents) that really sets this book apart. The details and nuances of the watercolors are just remarkable, and I could look at this book every day for months and not get bored. Trina Schart Hyman is one of my favorite illustrators of all time, thanks in no small part to her cover for Ronia, the Robber's Daughter, and this book just makes me happy. (Jackson liked seeing the kids sled through January.)
- The Year At Maple Hill Farm, by Alice and Martin Provensen: This is another one from my childhood. I have read it literally hundreds of times. The spread for July is burned into my soul, and the bit about feeding animals their medicine is something I think about strangely often. It's a sequel to another even more wonderful book called Our Animal Friends At Maple Hill Farm, which I just read for the first time this year with Jackson. We both love Animal Friends dearly and can page through it for hours, and now that I know both books, I love finding the connections between them and knowing more about scenes and animals I feel like I've known my whole life.
- Last but not least, we're reading the New Year's page from the ever-reliable Illustrated Treasury of Poetry for Children, which seems to always have a note-perfect selection for an occasion on the calendar. In this case there is an old-year poem, a new-year poem and Tennyson's evocative "Ring Out, Wild Bells," which I reprint here for your reading pleasure:
The flying cloud, the frosty light :
The year is dying in the night ;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring, happy bells, across the snow ;
The year is going, let him go ;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
For those that here we see no more ;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
And ancient forms of party strife ;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
The faithless coldness of the times ;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
The civic slander and the spite ;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold ;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
The larger heart, the kindlier hand ;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.