March 20th marks the Spring Equinox for 2016, and our family adores this time of year. Much like the traditions marking Christmas festivities in the U.S. and Europe, the symbols of pagan spring celebrations are reflected in Easter. While we throw around the name of goddess Eostre or Ostara around easily, the history and origins of many of our traditions aren’t actually so clear. Nevertheless, the symbols of seeds, eggs, rabbits, and baby animals remain a constant in modern practices, though their origins are scattered across multiple cultures and pre-Christian periods.
Though we discuss the history in our house, sometimes it’s just easier to call the holiday Ostara to differentiate it as both a sacred time yet somewhat separate from Easter, which comes relative to the Lenten calendar of the Catholic Church and subsequent Christian sects. Since our path is one embracing nature, these symbols are in line with the spring when seeds are planted, eggs are laid, lambs have gained their hoofhold on the land, and bunnies are, well, plentiful. At least in our yard.
To help you share the wonders of this season of rebirth and renewal, here are ten excellent books related to these symbols and ideas.
Duck & Goose (and its sequel Duck, Duck, Goose) by Tad Hills – Oh my goodness, these books are adorable. The first book in this series features a duck and goose who stumble across a polka dotted ball and believe it to be an egg, and they each wish to claim it. It’s not only amusing to see two birds the equivalent of children fighting over rights to an egg, as characterized in this bright, cheery artwork, but it teaches its readers how to collaborate and compromise.
The Boy Who Didn’t Believe in Spring by Lucille Clifton – It’s hard to see evidence of the changing of the seasons when one lives in a big city. A lack of exposure to green, growing things and the life cycles of animals can make spring feel like a fairytale adults tell children. A young boy and his best friend set out to find evidence of spring, convinced it’s all a lie. It takes pushing past the boundaries of what’s safe for them to find proof of what they seek.
How Robin Saved Spring by Debbie Ouellet and Nicoletta Ciccoli – Lady Winter doesn’t wish to pull back the blankets of snow and wake Sister Spring for she feels winter to be far more beautiful. Led by Robin, the animals join together to wake Spring or else have a year of winter. Sometimes a worthy cause requires a sacrifice. Lovely, gentle artwork accompanies this long tale of heroism.
Spring Equinox: The Greening of the Earth by Ellen Jackson – This lovely compendium of Spring Equinox traditions help showcase cultures across time and place. While a longer book, meant for 4 – 8 year olds, toddlers and preschoolers will enjoy the pictures, and can read two or three pages at a time.
Just a Duck? by Carin Bramsen – We didn’t know this was a sequel to Hey, Duck! until after enjoying it. These two sweet friends, a cat and duckling, are getting to know one another. Though Cat has learned what Duck enjoys playing, this book focuses on Duck attempting to play like Cat. Considering their different physiology, the challenge for Duck is considerable. Be warned, the cuteness factor is high with these illustrations.
Lob (a.k.a. Lucy and the Green Man) by Linda Newberry – Lucy helps in her grandfather’s garden, where his tales of the Greenman come to life through the invisible forces making the plants grow. Though people can’t see him, Lucy feels his energizing presence skipping through the garden. This is a chapter book and great for readers ready to branch out.
One Little Seed by Elaine Greenstein – We found this as a board book at the library. A sweet, simple tale of a seed selected, planted, nurtured, and grown until the next little seed can be collected for the following year. The cycle of life and the growing seasons presented simply enough for toddlers to appreciate.
Seeds of Change: Wangari’s Gift to the World by Jen Cullerton Johnson – Based on the true story of Wangari Maathai, who grew up with a curious mind and a reverence for nature. The rare opportunity to get an education as a girl helped ignite her passion for learning. After studying abroad and returning home, she used her wisdom to help her people recover their land from destruction. Wangari is the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Golden Bunny by Margaret Brown – A hard to find classic (KCLS doesn’t have it!) from the author of Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny, this collection of poems and short tales of rabbits continues to delight our family.
The Wonderful Habits of Rabbits by Douglas Florian – A playful book about the day in the life of rabbits. It has a happy rhyming rhythm perfect for young children. Since the day ends with the rabbits snuggling in to sleep, it makes an excellent bedtime story.