Finding Spring by Carin Berger
Maurice is a little bear cub who can’t stop thinking about spring. It may be time for him to go to sleep in the warm cave with his mother, but he stays awake and sneaks out of the cave to search for signs of spring. As he heads through the forest, he meets other animals all busily preparing for the winter. They don’t have time to talk to him for long but find time to warn him that spring’s arrival will take some time. Maurice smells something new on the air and runs towards it, thinking it is spring. When a snowflake falls, he is sure it is spring arriving so he scoops up some snow to keep spring with him and heads back to his mother to sleep. When he awakes in the warmer weather though, his piece of spring has disappeared. But in the end, Maurice manages to find spring all around him.
This picture book has a very simple story with elements that children will relate to. From not wanting to go to bed to the beauty of nature, this book celebrates it all. It is a book of curiosity, adventures and making your own discoveries along the way.
What makes this book exceptional are the illustrations. Berger works in cut paper and collage, creating dioramas that have dimension and shadows. The cut paper contains fragments of words and lovely textures. I particularly love the reverse side of a letter on gray paper being the flowing water in a stream. Throughout the book there are touches like this that work beautifully visually and are artistically inspired.
A lovely new springtime read, this picture book celebrates the seasons of winter and spring side by side. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Greenwillow Books.
First Snow by Peter McCarty
Pedro is visiting his cousin Sancho. While he is there, snow starts to fall, something that Pedro has never seen before. But he knows already that he won’t like the snow since it’s so cold. The next morning, his cousins are thrilled to head outside into the fresh snow that fell all night long. Pedro is very doubtful, saying again how cold it is. When the other children make snow angels, Pedro doesn’t even want to try. Other children in the neighborhood arrive with their sleds. One of them shows Pedro how to catch snowflakes on his tongue. They all take their sleds to the top of the big hill. Pedro is too cautious to go first, but soon he finds himself joining everyone else riding down the hill. He is thrown off his sled and lands in the cold snow, but he no longer finds it too cold to have fun.
McCarty deftly shows the reluctance of a child experiencing something for the first time. He handles it with a delicacy that shows the hesitation clearly and the hanging back. Yet Pedro still tries things as the day goes on, and the other children don’t force him to try anything he doesn’t want to. By the end of the day, Pedro is just as merrily playing in the snow as the others. This book shines with a gentle spirit and allows children to see themselves clearly on the page.
As always McCarty’s illustrations are a treat. I particularly enjoy seeing characters from his other picture books in this story. Plus you have the added bonus of little creatures in snow suits with room in the hoods for their ears!
An ideal pick for snowy days or a way to discuss trying something new in a gentle and supportive way. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Supertruck by Stephen Savage
There are many brave and hard-working trucks in the city. There are trucks that help put out fires. There are trucks that tow. There are trucks that fix power lines. And then there is the quiet little garbage truck that just picks up garbage. Then one day a snow storm hits the city. All of the trucks are stranded in the snow and unable to move. All but one little truck, who takes off his glasses and trades in a snowplow. The little garbage truck heads off to save the day!
This very simple picture book has a radiant appeal to it. It combines very cleverly the appeal of trucks and superheroes without it feeling forced at all. With just the right amount of text for toddlers, even the youngest of children will find lots to love here.
A lot of the appeal of this picture book is in the illustrations which are bold and colorful. The boxy trucks are shown against silhouettes of the city, allowing them to really shine. Perhaps the best touch are the large glasses on the garbage truck before he transforms into Supertruck. Fans of Superman will find that little touch completely endearing. And am I the only one who can see a line of toys coming straight out of these illustrations?
Clever, dynamic and heroic, this picture book will please little truck and superhero fans alike. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.
Blizzard by John Rocco
Rocco tells a story from his childhood of the blizzard of 1978 that dumped 53 inches of snow on his Rhode Island town. The story begins with just a few flakes in the air and by the time school closes and the children make their way home, the snow is getting deeper and deeper. The next morning, the drifts were so high that they had to leave the house through the window rather than the door. The snowplows stopped running because the snow was too deep. They were isolated and at first it was great fun with days of playing in the snow and drinking mugs of hot cocoa with milk. Then after a few days, food got scarcer and the cocoa was being made with water. It was up to a ten-year-old John to make his way to the grocery store pulling his sled with tennis rackets strapped to his feet.
Rocco embraces the wonder of a huge snowfall in this picture book. The delight of a landscape and world changed into something foreign and incredible. The changes to routine, the cancelation of school, families stuck inside together, the futility of trying to dig out paths. He celebrates it all on the page and then moves the story to an arctic exploration of one boy against the elements, complete with a map of his route to the store. There is a rich humor throughout the narrative that reassures children that the family is not going to starve but also offers real reason to travel to the store, watery cocoa!
Rocco’s art cleverly incorporates the days of the week in the art, from snow on branches spelling out the word to a squirrels trail on the roof. The cool white and blues of the outdoors are contrasted fully with the yellows of the indoor world of the family. The disjointed attempts at clearing the snow are cleverly done, speaking to the power of intent but also the depth of the snow and the effort required to clear it.
Perfect for folks in Buffalo, but also a great story to read when any snowstorm is drifting your way, preferably with mugs of milk hot cocoa. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Fox’s Garden by Princesse Camcam
Gorgeously illustrated, this wordless picture book invites readers into a snowy world. A fox finds her way into a village, warm lit against the cold snow that is falling. She is shooed away by several people but discovers an open greenhouse. A little boy sees her enter and brings her a basket of food. Now there is a fox with four baby foxes nursing. Soon after, the mother fox leads her kits to the boy’s room where they plant flowers from the greenhouse into his rug which he discovers in the morning. The five foxes disappear back into the woods.
Done in cut-paper illustrations, the images have a beautiful 3-D quality to them. You want to stroke the page and think that you will be able to lift flaps, so strong are the images. Against the white and gray snow and woods, the characters pop. The fox gloriously orange in the snow and the little boy wearing red.
Camcam lights her paper work beautifully as well, almost as if it were a stage. She conveys the welcoming warmth of the light in the village, the yellow of the windows lit against the storm. More subtly, she plays with shadows and underlighting in specific scenes, showing the cold and the night clearly.
This is a haunting picture book, done with an immense delicacy and skill. Simply beautiful. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.
Big Snow by Jonathan Bean
It is very hard to wait for the snow to come, as David discovers in this picture book perfect for the snowy season. David is waiting for the snow to start, so he helps his mother bake cookies. But then the flour reminds him of the snow so he heads out to check on it. It’s fine and dusty in the air. He heads back inside and helps clean the bathroom, but then is reminded of snow from the bubbles. When he checks, there is more snow but it’s still light. He helps his mother change sheets and is reminded of snow blanketing the ground, when he checks outside that’s exactly what the snow is doing! Then it’s naptime, and David dreams of snow, lots and lots of snow. Will his dream come true?
Bean creates a book not only about waiting for a big snow, but also about the different types of snow that arrive in the course of a storm. It is a wonderful tribute to loving snow and wintry weather and hoping for the white to cover the barren landscape. Bean cleverly ties in David’s reminders of snow with the level of snow outdoors. Children will immediately get the connection and will enjoy watching the storm outside progress.
Bean varies the illustrations from close ups of David helping his mother and their cozy home interiors to distance images of their home and neighborhood as it transforms under the snow. One can see the magic of snow happening firsthand. I also love the humor of David disappearing to check on the snow, only the end of his scarf still in the room. And bravo for Bean creating a family of color in a book that doesn’t have anything to do with race.
Even with the icy temperatures outside, this is a book that will get everyone looking forward to the next big snow. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Farrar Straus Giroux.
Winter Is for Snow by Robert Neubecker
A brother and sister have very different reactions to the newly fallen snow outside. The boy opens the curtains and quickly announces that “Winter is for snow!” But his younger sister is not convinced. The boy tries and tries to explain how wonderful winter can be, but she remains grumpy. She does get on her coat, books, hat, mittens and more to head outside though, still protesting about how it is too cold outside and she’d rather watch TV. Once the two reach the sledding hill, her resistance is starting to crumble and she puts her tongue out to catch some snowflakes. Back home warm in front of the fire, it is now her turn to talk about how amazing winter and snow are.
Written in clever rhymes, the book also has a wonderful rhythm to it that makes it great fun to read aloud. The entire book is written in the dialogue of the two children as they go back and forth about winter. The little boy has so many examples of why winter is incredible, including ones from the Arctic, sledding and skating, snowmen, and holidays. It is a wonderful, jolly take on winter that we don’t see enough.
Neubecker’s illustrations are simple and large, perfect for sharing with a group. The two children have bright orange hair, and more colors come in when the outdoors is shown. I love that winter outside is more than blues and whites, it is filled with the colors of a community celebrating snow themselves.
This is a great book to share for a non-holiday winter story time with its rhyming text and exuberant love of snow. Appropriate for ages 2-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Once Upon a Northern Night by Jean E. Pendziwol, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
This glimmering book takes a lingering and loving look at a Canadian winter night. It starts just before the snow begins to fall, one flake then more. Then the ground is covered with a snowy blanket, a blanket just like the one you are sleeping under. The book goes on to talk about the beauty of the winter forest, snow that will dust your head and nose as you pass under the trees. Animals appear; the deer munch on the frozen apples, a great gray owl silently drifts by, rabbits scamper only going still when the fox walks past. The book continues to talk about the beauty of the snow once the sky clears, the patterns of frost on window panes. It ends with the dazzle of the snowy morning.
As a native of Wisconsin, this Canadian import speaks directly to my love of winter evenings, nights and days. This lullaby of a book opens each poetic stanza with “Once upon a northern night…” and then leads into another beautiful wonder that is present there. Northern readers will see their own love reflected here, others will start to understand the beauty and exquisite nature of winter. Pendziwol plays with imagery and truly finds the wonder in each moment she captures. It is pure beauty, glittery as snow but oh so much warmer.
Arsenault’s illustrations are done in nighttime sepia tones, the color drained away except for pops of frozen apples, owl eyes, fox orange and deep night sky blues. The snow itself makes up much of the images, dancing in the air, covering branches, capturing footprints. One can almost feel the coldness seep from the page. Then there is the final page with morning arriving that is suddenly color and ends the book just perfectly with its icy shimmer.
This picture book is perfect for a bedtime story curled up near the fire or under toasty warm blankets as the snow falls. It is a quiet and lovely book, one to treasure and share. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Reader by Amy Hest, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
A young boy walks through the snow with his dog and a suitcase in his hand. He gets his red sled with runners and heads out. They climb a large hill, leaving straight lines in the snow from the sled as the dog bounds ahead. Once at the top, they stop for a snack of toast and warm drinks. Around them the snow continues to fall. Finally, the suitcase is opened. The boy pulls out a book to share with his dog, about friendship. He reads it aloud, the two of them together at the top of a snowy hill. When they are done, they pack everything back up and climb on the sled for the ride back down the hill. Together.
Hest has written a book that is filled with falling snow but also warmed by the friendship of a boy and his dog. Though the title gives a hint at what is in the case, readers will still be surprised to have them read it out in the falling snow. Hest incorporates beautiful little details: the sound of crunching and sipping, the sound of the boy reading at the top of the hill, the hard work of getting up the high hill. These all create a feeling of time, moments that are to be treasured because they are so beautiful.
Castillo’s illustrations are done in pen and ink and watercolor. Against the white of the snow, all of the colors pop. The brown of the dog, the red boots, the smears of color on the suitcase: all are cheery bright against the white countryside. The illustrations have a wonderful jaunty feel to them, celebrating this close friendship and reading books.
A wonderful mix of snow and story, this book is a rich winter delight. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
A Perfect Day by Carin Berger
Celebrate a wonderful winter day in this picture book! Join the children as they make the first tracks in the snow, glide on skis, and lose their dog in the drifts. There are snowball fights and building snowmen too. Others make a fort in the snow and sled down big hills. There is ice skating, snow angels, and even an icicle stand. This is one gorgeous snowy day.
Told in very simple words, this picture book really shows what makes for an exceptional wintry day. The collage illustrations are really what make the book shine. The snowy hills are textured by the faint lines on pages and by the words that had been written on them. Against this subtle background, the bright-colored and sharp-edged characters pop. The trees too stand dark and strong against the white.
A wonderful winter read, this picture book is a perfect ending to your own snowy day. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Greenwillow Books.