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.
Lemonade in Winter by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Pauline is the one who looks out on a blustery winter day and thinks of running a lemonade stand. Her little brother John-John immediately thinks it’s a great idea, but her parents are sure it won’t work. So the kids set out to collect enough money to open their stand. They dig in the couch, search pockets, and look in their piggy banks. At the store they spend 24 quarters or six dollars on supplies. They rush back home to make the lemonade, the limeade and the lemon-limeade and then out onto the street to set up their stand. But no one comes. Then they decide to start marketing their stand more, and surprisingly, there is a market for lemonade in the snow.
Jenkins has taken a picture book and inserted math in places that make sense of the story. This is one book where the math really works, the counting of coins, the discounting of items, and the profits made. It’s a book that can be read just for the cheery enjoyment of lemonade and snow too. The writing is clever with the adults constantly warning the children that it won’t work and an ending that is realistic, warm and refreshing.
Karas’ illustrations are done in his signature style. I enjoyed seeing children with brown skin in a story that is not about their brown skin at all, it’s just the way they look. Karas’ art is lively and rich with small details. The careful counting of the quarters at the grocery store is just one example of how he too skillfully melded in the math with the story.
A winning picture book with math at its heart, this is a story that will have you asking for some more lemonade on a winter’s day. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.
Everything Goes: Henry Goes Skating by Brian Biggs
This book follows the Everything Goes books by Biggs, but this time is in a format perfect for very early readers. When Henry wakes up, there is snow on the ground and more falling. He thinks it’s the perfect day to build a snowman, but his family decides to head skating instead. On their way to the rink, they see all sorts of vehicles, including a bus that is stuck on the ice. Luckily, there is a tow truck helping the bus get on its way. At the rink, they see a Zamboni and get to skate in the snow. When they get back home, it’s snowman building time!
Done in the style of Biggs, this book is not actually written or illustrated by him. It does capture the busy and bright style of the earlier books by Biggs that had lots of vehicles and movement. The illustrations here are filled with color and motion. The writing is simple enough for the earliest of readers.
Combine basic words with the popularity of cars and trucks and you have a winning early reader. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.
Peter and the Winter Sleepers by Rick De Haas
This snowy book is the story of Peter, who lives with his grandmother and pet dog in a lighthouse. One day, it snowed, a wonderful clean fluffy snow that was perfect for making snowmen. But then it just didn’t stop snowing. They moved the chicken and goat inside to be safe, and then there was a scratching at the front door. It was a rabbit. Peter made a bed on the stairs for the rabbit when there came another noise at the door. It brought more animals: squirrels, mice, hedgehogs, birds, a bat. It got hard to sleep at night and the droppings were smelly. After a few more days, the came another knock on the door. It was a fox. At first, Peter was eager to welcome a new animal to the lighthouse. But how in the world was a fox going to live with the animals that it usually eats?
De Haas has created a friendly, cozy world here. There is a gentle feel to the entire book, a hominess. Anyone who has been stuck at home during a blizzard will recognize the feeling, and will probably start to wish that the animals would knock at their door next time. The text of the book has a gentle quality as well, a quiet building as animals enter the lighthouse.
The lighthouse is filled with curved lines from the arched doorways to the curve of the stair to the gentle arc of the walls. Complementing the curves is the warm yellow tones of the interior, that contrasts well with the cool blues of the snowy landscape outside. This is a haven that is deliciously warm and welcoming.
A great pick for wintry story times, this book is quiet, gentle and welcoming just like its storyline. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from NorthSouth.
The Smallest Snowflake by Bernadette Watts
Far above where the geese were flying, the snowflakes were waiting to fall. The Smallest Snowflake wants just to land somewhere special. Each snowflake fell in a different place. One fell on the top of a mountain, another sparkled in the branches of a tree, another at the top of a building in a city, and still another on the wall of a castle. The Smallest Snowflake kept on flying on the wind until it landed in a window box of a cottage where a merry fire burned in the fireplace, paintings hung on the wall, and another painting was in the process of being painted. The snowflake had never seen this sort of thing before. The snowflake watched day to day until one day from underneath came a pushing and green shoots appeared as spring arrived.
This is a gentle story about the journey of a snowflake to just the right spot. The cottage is where Watts used to live in Wales. Readers will see her at work, view her cozy home, and catch a glimpse on the final page as she takes her book to the mail. Watts creates a lovely picture of winter here as each snowflake finds just the right spot to land. Her illustrations capture the swirl of snow, the chill, and then the warmth of the cottage. Small touches throughout invite the reader to look closely at the pictures. A red kite flies high above orange roofs. Newspaper pages blow out of someone’s hands. Raccoons huddle together on a cold branch.
Best shared with a small group or just one child because of the great details and quiet story, this book is a real gem. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder by Mark Cassino with Jon Nelson, PhD.
This book covers snow from the way it begins with a tiny speck and how it turns into a snow crystal. Filled with delightful details like the types of things that form the tiny specks in the atmosphere. (It could be sea salt or plant leaf bacteria!) The book is a mix of drawings and snowflake photographs which works well. The images of the crystals are stunning and will have readers poring over the pages and discussing their favorites. The book talks about the different types of snowflakes, whether they are unique, and how you too can study their structure.
Snow is such an amazing weather phenomenon all on its own (or at least that is what I am repeating over and over again to myself as a winter storm bears down on Wisconsin.) This book will mix well with fiction books about snow and winter, though it is one that children will want to hold and look closely at.
Ideal for units on snowflakes and just for the pleasure of snow itself, this book has a place in all libraries. Appropriate for ages 4-9.
Reviewed from library copy.
Also reviewed by A Patchwork of Books.
Waiting for Winter by Sebastian Meschenmoser
As my son waited for the bus this morning, he asked when the snow was going to come. Here in Wisconsin in mid-November that is a very good question and the answer is “very soon.”
In this charmer of a picture book, Squirrel is told by Deer that it is going to snow. Squirrel hasn’t seen snow before, so he decides to wait for it. Deer explains that snow is “White and wet and cold and soft.” But it is very hard to stay awake, so Squirrel runs up and down the tree trunk. The noise wakes Hedgehog who agrees that he wants to see snow too. The two of them stay awake by singing – sea shanties. This wakes up Bear who waits with them for the snow. But what is snow has already arrived and they haven’t recognized it? So the three look around for items that match Deer’s description of snow with very funny results. In the end, they learn exactly what snow looks like.
Meschenmoser excels at telling a story through few words and wonderfully evocative illustrations. Just the appearance of the animals themselves shows how very tired they are. The close-up of Bear’s face after he is woken up perfectly captures the grumpiness and bleariness of that moment. All of the animals are wonderfully scruffy and real. Hedgehog always has leaves and other objects stuck in his spines, and Squirrels wild fur carries a lot of his frantic pace even when still.
The voice of the book is also right on the mark. Told with great excitement and delight, the tone conveys their wonder at being able to see snow even before they have caught a single glimpse of it. Meschenmoser’s pacing also works very well, filled with just enough tension but also forward movement.
A perfect choice for this time of year when snow would be met with cheers and joy by all of us who are waiting for winter. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from copy received from publisher.
Also reviewed by Fuse #8 and Through the Looking Glass.
The Mitten retold by Jim Aylesworth, illustrated by Barbara McClintock
This is a retelling of Ukrainian folktale made popular by Jan Brett whose beloved version is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. A little boy heads out to play in his new hat, scarf and mittens that his grandmother has knitted for him. While playing, he loses one of his mittens. The mitten is found by a squirrel, a rabbit, a fox, and a bear who manage to squeeze into the mitten and be nice and warm. But when a mouse comes by and begs to join them too, it is too much for even grandmother’s strong knitting. The mitten explodes with a satisfying burst. The boy and his grandmother find the scraps in the snow and the grandmother knits him another mitten.
Aylesworth changes the tone and style here with great skill, creating an American folktale feel that is filled with charm. McClintock’s art is perfectly matched here with her vintage feel. The bright red mitten is changed from the original white, adding a punch of color on each page. Her art and Aylesworth’s writing both evoke folktales, cold snow, warm firesides and the smell of damp wool mittens.
This is a retelling that is equal to the original, which is astounding. Because the text and art is reworked, it was able to take on the same story with a very different style and do it successfully. Appropriate for ages 2-5.
Reviewed from library copy.