Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Winter Wonderland - 5 Favorite Picture Books About Snow

Sprout's so disappointed - he was really hoping for a white Christmas, but it never materialized. I blame all these Christmas specials that show evergreens strung with lights against the snow, kids building magical snowmen, families skating on ice-covered ponds. What a bummer when you live here in the Pacific Northwest, where snow on Christmas is a once-in-every-so-many-years occurrence.

No matter though, because we're reading snowy books instead! First up was Denise Fleming's The First Day of Winter. We're fans of Fleming's unique illustration style, which combines dyed pulp and hand-cut stencils to create pictures with the flavor of collage and the depth of paintings. Beautiful! In this outing, Fleming uses the basis of the "Twelve Days of Christmas" carol to count down twelve days of winter, and all the things that a young boy gives to his snowman friend. By the end the snowman is bursting with life and has several woodland creatures to keep him company. Sprout enjoys keeping track of what's given each day and pointing it out in the pictures - great reinforcement for counting, too!

Kate Messner's fantastic Over and Under the Snow has been a favorite around here for several weeks, and we're sad to see it finally come due at the library. Beginning from the perspective of a family out for an afternoon cross-country skiing, Messner examines all the secret activity that goes on beneath the blanket of white that covers the landscape. Squirrels are nesting, bullfrogs brooding, tiny voles making their way through hidden tunnels. Sprout was captivated by the images of all this, done in cut-away fashion by Christopher Silas Neal. Having a sneak peek at the world of hibernating animals gave us plenty to talk about when the first hard freeze hit: "Mama, are the squirrels staying home in bed today?"

The next pick is one we first read last year, but enjoyed so much that we had to have it again this winter. Keith Baker's No Two Alike is just beautiful, a vivid look at the winter landscape that is set off by the presence of a pair of scarlet birds. As the friends venture through the wintry day, they examine all the things that appear at first glance to be the same -- snowflakes, branches, houses, roads -- but really are not. This is a gentle choice for storytime, as it captures the hushed feeling of a winter snowfall, and ends on just the right note. Fans of Baker's previous books will happily find the same stellar illustrations in this effort.

Phillis Gershator's When It Starts to Snow is another great title for looking at how winter weather affects animals and people differently. As a young boy excitedly roams in the building snow, he asks each animal he encounters "What do you do? Where do you go?". There's a different answer from everyone, but all are looking for a warm place to wait out the chilliness. From the rooster crowing in the barn rafters to the bear heading for his den, everyone has a plan for when the snow flies. And that includes our hero, who is so thrilled by the presence of the white stuff that he can't sleep! This one's for the kiddo in all of us, spellbound by the sight of the whiteness building and drifting just outside our windows.

For older kiddos, and their readers, Snowflake Bentley is a unique and delightful choice. Jacqueline Briggs Martin examines the life of Wilson Bentley, whose quest to capture photographs of snowflakes consumed him entirely. Bentley loved the snow, and he wished from a young age to share the beauty of it in a more permanent fashion than the temporary nature of snowflakes would permit. What I love most about this story is the way Bentley's family supports him absolutely, though they didn't understand his obsession -- that's a message every child should get, I think. Illustrator Mary Azarian created gorgeous Caldecott-winning illustrations for this title, which bring Bentley's thesis, the uniqueness of each snowflake among millions of its kind, to brilliant life.

Whether you're surrounded by snowbanks or camped out on a sandy beach, these wintry storytime additions are all full of icy delight!


Rachel Schieffelbein said...

This is a good list. I'll have to check a couple of these out. :) Stella, Queen of the Snow is a favorite of mine.

mary kinser said...

We love Stella too! All the books about Stella and Sam are just delightful. :)

Susan Musser said...

Can't wait to share these with my "Firsties" (1st graders), especially the one about Bentley... did some research on him when I was teaching 4th grade....Thanks for the awesome list, Mary! :-)

Susan Musser said...

Can't wait to share these with my "Firsties" (1st graders), especially the one about Bentley... did some research on him when I was teaching 4th grade....Thanks for the awesome list, Mary! :-)

Amy said...

I've been looking for some more winter-themed books. We've read a few of these already but the rest I put on hold at our library. Thanks!

Em said...

Oooh! No Two Are Alike looks so cute! Will have to check that out!