Chilly weather is here and so are many books to help celebrate crunchy snow, blustery winds and icy cold temperatures. All of these are picture books and are good for all ages.
Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold, beautifully composed by Joyce Sidman, and creatively illustrated by Rick Allen, is probably my top contender for this year’s Caldecott Medal, which will be announced on February 2nd. Poetry channels our beautiful language succinctly and eloquently helping to enhance youngsters’ minds toward all that God has created. Ms. Sidman writes with majesty as she explores winter’s elements. Poems include subjects of animals, insects, plants, trees and even winter itself. Each poem has background information about the subject on the opposite side of every two-paged display. The illustrations were uniquely made using a time-consuming process of digitally scanning pictures that were cut, inked and printed from linoleum blocks and hand-colored and finally layered. There’s also a glossary found in the back. A truly miraculous final picture shows a wintery tree limb with a tiny green bud showing forth.
Up & Down, (A Lift-The-Flap Book), by Britta Teckentrup, is actually an exercise in teaching opposites and direction. The lift-the-flaps are inventive and help enforce the concepts being taught. Little Penguin heads out from her iceberg to cross the sea to meet her friend. The artwork, along with the text, is minimal which helps keep away distractions. The clever flaps open from many different locations and directions, including the middle of the book. The final happy reunion of these friends is so sweet!
Katy and the Big Snow and Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel, both classics by Virginia Lee Burton, have recently been reissued. The first book was published back in 1943 and “Mike Mulligan” was published back in 1939. Ms. Burton won the Caldecott Medal for “The Little House”. “Katy and the Big Snow” has now been made into an over-sized board book. Katy is a snowplow and hasn’t been used for years due to the lack of big snowstorms. But when a big storm finally comes, the entire town is shut down and needs her help. I especially love the detailed map and informational pictures bordering some of the pages. Mike Mulligan dearly loves his steam shovel, Mary Anne. But it seems that newer and larger gasoline, electric or diesel shovels have replaced her. But Mike decides to go to another town where he finds work for them. When they run into trouble, a young boy solves the dilemma and helps decide Mary Anne’s future. The end pages display a diagram of steam shovel components.
Outside, by Deirdre Gill, is filled with the glories of being outside after a snowstorm. A young boy tries to urge his big brother to come outside with him, but his brother looks almost hypnotized as he stares at a computer screen. The young boy explores the snowy outside and begins to build a world out there. His imagination is enticed by everything surrounding him. The breathtaking oil paintings fill the entire spread of each open page. What a terrific book to get your kids to close their devices and open their eyes and minds by merely going outside!
Stormy Night, by Salina Yoon, showcases a sweet bear as he comforts his little family through a frightening storm. When the crashing sound of thunder brings out a large “Boom”, he holds his parents tightly. It’s evident that a strong bond of love abounds in this home. The descriptive language during the storm helps build anticipation. Yoon includes her trademark brilliant colors for illustrations. The opening end-pages show a furious storm and the ending end-pages show a starry calm night.
What Forest Knows, poetically written by George Ella Lyon, and gorgeously illustrated by August Hall, opens to a snowy day in the woods. “Forest knows / icy branches / frozen waterfall”. There is a fox trail in the snow and you find the fox throughout the book as you begin to learn what the forest knows throughout the seasons. The end-pages begin with early morning in the snow and end with a snowy nightfall. This book is beautiful and eloquent!
Boom Boom, by Sarvinder Naberhaus, and illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine, sets the stage for a story of simple onomatopoeias exclaiming the seasons throughout the year. Each season has a select sound limiting the words you hear. Winter has an opening page with snow falling everywhere. “Swirl Swirl” is what you see. The pictures are made by using nontraditional materials, including textured wallpaper, stencils, plastic lace and vinyl fabric all making the illusion of the seasons simple and fresh.
Blizzard, by John Rocco, is based on a true event that happened to the author when he was a child living in Rhode Island. When school was canceled due to the huge amount of snowfall, John was thrilled. But when the snow kept coming and his family began to run out of food, he put on tennis rackets and walked on top of the snow to get groceries for his family and their neighbors. The text is simple, yet full of impact of the situation in the town. The combination of Rocco’s rich watercolor and the great story will likely have kids wanting to read this book over and over again.