A Seed Grows

A Seed Grows
Antoinette Portis
Scallywag Press

Brilliantly simple and simply brilliant is Antoinette Portis’s new picture book documenting the life cycle of a sunflower. With its pleasing rhythmic pattern, the entire written narrative comprises just two sentences, that are ideal for beginning readers. The first, which presents ten stages, starts with a single seed and brings us almost full circle. The second, ‘ And a seed falls’ completes that circle, setting the reader up to turn back to the beginning and start all over again. There’s a pattern too, to the whole story with almost every verso containing a single phrase – ‘and the sun shines’ … ’and the plant grows’ with the key word colour coded to match the illustration on the recto.

Beauty and clarity sum up Antoinette’s science-based introduction to one of nature’s wonders, about which readers and listeners will feel a sense of awe and wonder as they follow the falling seed, that settles, sprouts, roots and pushes its way through into the air, growing and growing, forming a bud that, almost magically, opens into a glorious tall flower

the centre of which becomes filled with seeds. These seeds fall to the ground, provide food for the birds and they in turn facilitate dispersal and the process begins again.

Before re-reading however, adults will likely want to share the information pages with young children – two spreads, one giving straightforward facts about a sunflower seed and plant opposite which is a visual life cycle; the other provides some botanical activities and five true or false questions.

I think this one even outshines the creator’s previous presentations of nature and its wonders.

A New Green Day

A New Green Day
Antoinette Portis
Scallywag Press

Since the lockdown, most of us with time on our hands have been taking much more notice of the beauties of nature no matter where we live and in A New Green Day, Antoinette Portis invites readers to do just that, to see things anew and to discover the joy and wonders to be found outdoors.

Using a sequence of short poems spoken by natural things both large and small, the author/illustrator gently leads us through a summer’s day in the company of a little girl.
Said child is gently awoken by sunlight on her pillow inviting,
“… Come out and play!”

Then at the behest of that which has scribbled “on the path / in glistening ink …”
it’s time to move outdoors and there, the playful guessing game continues as we see a sequence of things in an entirely fresh, creative way.

For instance “I’m a map of my own / green home. Follow my roads and climb,” reveals when the page is turned …

How cleverly imagined are Antoinette Portis’s trees, one of which is markedly similar to the veined leaf the girl holds between her two fingers.

Some riddles are easier to anticipate than others; one such is “I’m a comma / in the long, long sentence / of the stream. / Someday soon, / you’ll hear my croak,” is uttered by …

Then come the voices – cloud, rain, lightning and thunder – of a gathering storm and what child could resist this invitation, “I am cool pudding / on a muggy day. / Let your toes / have a taste! …”

Finally as Earth is wrapped in the black cloak of night, comes the gently spoken sound from a tiny insect “I am the engine / of the summer dark. / Sleep, while I thrum / in your tomorrow … “ I will leave you to work out that which heralds “A new green day.”

There is SO much to love about this lyrically written book that gently calls us to appreciate our world afresh. Rich in texture, both verbal and visual, Antoinette Portis’ A New Green Day offers fresh lenses through which to see the natural world and its beauty each and every time we set foot outside.

Hey, Water!

Hey, Water!
Antoinette Portis
Scallywag Press

In the company of young narrator Zoe, who speaks directly to water, young children can embark on a playful exploration of the element that can exist in different states.

She begins with introducing the variety of ways we might encounter this essential element in its liquid state – via the hose and its sprinkler, the shower, a stream, a river,

the sea, an ocean.

Then there’s a lake, a swimming pool, and much smaller but equally fun, puddles. Smaller still come dewdrops, tears and raindrops.
Water however isn’t straightforward for as she says, ‘Water, even when you try to fool me, I know you. You can blast and huff. You whistle and puff. You hide in the air and drift. You drift in the air and hide the world’

Then there’s that frozen form –ice cubes, icebergs, an ice rink and soft, frozen, feather-like snowflakes.

Indeed water is an essential part of every single living thing,

there to quench our thirst and help us keep ourselves clean; and for all that we need to be thankful.

It’s a kind of hide-and-seek game we’re involved in here, in Portis’ celebration of water that concludes with more in-depth explanation of water forms, ways to conserve water, a diagram of the water cycle and some simple experiments.

The author’s own illustrations accompany her chatty narrative making this a very useful book for parents and preschool teachers to introduce tricky science concepts to the very young. (alongside real experiences of course).