Lois Ehlert

Lois Ehlert

Door’s left open,
just a crack.

My cat is out
and he won’t
come back!

We discovered Lois Ehlert when librarian Miss E. read Feathers for Lunch at our library’s story time. It’s a simple little story about a cat who gets out and tries to eat the various backyard birds:

He’s snooping and sneaking—those birds sure look good.
If he could catch one, he’d eat it, he would!

Unfortunately for him, his bell sounds a warning and the birds all get away, leaving him with only a mouthful of feathers.

What I love about this book are the gorgeous collage illustrations. They are bright and colorful and the birds aren’t generic birds, but realistic, recognizable species—12 of them: cardinal, oriole, red-winged blackbird, blue jay, robin, mourning dove, hummingbird, goldfinch, sparrow, wren, flicker, woodpecker. All are actual size and are shown with their distinctive calls. The red-winged blackbird says “O-ka-lee, o-ka-lee”. The cardinal says “What cheer cheer cheer”. Most of these birds are already familiar to me and to the girls from our backyard birdwatching.

Additionally, all of the plants and flowers are recognizable (and labeled): geraniums, tomato plants, forsythia, tulips, apple-tree branches.

At the end of the book there is more information about the various birds: size, food, home (eg: gardens, parks, suburban shade trees, open woodlands, etc), area (eg: eastern United States).

Waiting for Wings is a treasure we just found at the library last week. My girls both love butterflies (what little girls don’t?) especially because of the butterfly song that Dom used to sing for Bella when he was doing her hair at night and which I have since taken over as part of my lullaby repertoire.

This beautiful tale told in a series of collages tells the story of the life cycle of a butterfly from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to adult butterflies who lay eggs again. I love that the pages are cut in different sizes. (I’m not sure I can explain that; but it’s a neat effect.)

I also really like that the story doesn’t take the kind of flight of fancy that Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar takes with eating the cupcakes and sausages et al. It probably says a lot about me that I get annoyed at details like that and like the seeds that fly too high and burn up in The Tiny Seed. I want books that seem to present realistic life cycles of plants and animals to actually get the facts right. Ehlert does.

As with Feathers for Lunch, there is a sort of appendix section with more identifying details. In this case with information about the four butterfly species featured (the kind of leaves they eat, what their caterpillar, chrysalis and adult forms look like), with information about butterflies including labels of the various body parts, with identifications of the various species of flowers that appear in the book, and with information about how to grow a butterfly garden. I could use this book to help my girls learn about the butterflies we’ll be seeing in our yard this summer and to begin their journey to becoming little naturalists. 


Other Ehlert titles we’ve also enjoyed:

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf, which follows a Sugar Maple tree from seed to seedling in the forest to plant at a nursery to a garden center where the narrator and narrator’s dad buy it and take it home to plant. Collages are beautiful and I like the child’s-eye views.


Planting a Rainbow in which a child narrator and mom plant a garden from seeds, bulbs and seedlings.


Eating the Alphabet, a fun alphabet book that goes well beyond apples and apricots.

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