One Frozen Lake by Deborah Jo Larson, illustrated by Steven Johnson and Lou Fancher
A boy and his grandfather head out on the frozen lake to go fishing. They drill through four inches of ice and set up their canvas ice shack. Inside they open their tackle box and have four watery holes to fish through. Other join them out on the ice and cocoa is shared, but after seven hours they haven’t seen a single fish. They play cards together and wait until night falls then, a fish! A ten incher and a keeper! But the boy has different ideas than a fish dinner. This picture book captures the quiet times spent fishing out on the ice with a loved one. It’s sure to appeal to children who have headed out themselves and waiting those long hours for just one bite.
Larson nicely weaves numbers and counting into her words in this book. One frozen lake, two friends, three bundles of gear, four inches of ice, five hours to wait. Then she starts again from one, building her poetic story upon the foundation of counting. But this is not a counting book, instead it is a celebration of Minnesota winters and family.
The art here is exceptional. The story above the ice is shown in realistic paintings that show with accuracy the relationship between grandfather and grandson. The tones are bright, sun-filled but also cold as a northern winter should be. Below the ice is a completely different world. There the images are done as collages with whimsical old-fashioned touches taken from signs and flyers. The result is a pairing that shows the stark difference between surface and depths.
Growing up on a Wisconsin lake, this picture book brought back many memories of walking the frozen lake and seeing the shanties. It’s sure to do the same for many grandparents and grandchildren. This is definitely a keeper! Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
My Father’s Arms Are a Boat by Stein Erik Lunde, illustrated by Oyvind Torseter, translated by Kari Dickson
Published on February 5, 2013.
There are some picture books that you read the first few lines and you realize you are somewhere new and unknown. This is that sort of book. It is the story of a young boy who is unable to fall asleep. His father is there, sitting in the living room by the fire. The boy returns to his father and climbs onto his lap. His father talks about cutting down a big spruce together the next day. The boy asks about the red birds that they left bread for. He worries about the fox stealing their bread too. His grandmother told him that the red birds are dead people and then the book turns and is about the loss of his mother and grief. It is handled with such care and delicacy and the young boy is surrounded with such obvious love that it is achingly exquisite.
This book is not really about what I captured in the paragraph above. It is about sorrow and grief, the sort of sorrow that can only be fleetingly captured in a silent flight of birds or a lone fox in the snow. It is about the loss of a mother, but also about the days following when grief is all you can bear and think of. This book reads like a beautiful ache, a heartbeat of grief where life must go on. The writing is expressive and poetic, just like the title.
Torseter’s illustrations are also unusual and amazing. Done in folded paper and collage, they have a 3-dimensional quality to them that invites in shadows. Most of the images are black, white and grey, though the red birds and the orange fox are pops of color. Beautiful and delicate, the slumps of the shoulders of the characters tell of the sad truth before the words do. The winter setting too is cold and a bit wild, reflecting the mood of the story.
Stunning in its writing and illustration, this is a picture book that is noteworthy and memorable. Appropriate for ages 6-8.
Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.
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.
Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead
Fall was ending and winter was coming, but before he hibernated, Bear had a story to tell. Unfortunately, the other animals were too busy to hear the story. Mouse was gathering seeds and when Bear helped Mouse find lots of seeds, Mouse tunneled underground for the winter. Duck was getting ready to fly south and all Bear had time to do was check the wind direction for him and say he would miss Duck before he flew off. Frog too was looking for a warm place to sleep. Bear helped dig a hole for him to sleep in. Mole was already way underground and asleep. So Bear too headed off to sleep. When spring came, Bear still had a story to share. Soon his friends were gathered around him to listen, and you will have to read the book to find out what story he shared!
The husband/wife team behind the Caldecott winning A Sick Day for Amos McGee have returned with a book that has a quiet, contemplative beauty that is haunting. It’s one of those picture books that can be read as a quick bedtime story, but has so much more depth than that. Bear’s rather lonely start to his hibernation also has a series of close connections to friends. His spring wake up is filled with a warmth that echoes the seasonal change.
The writing is gentle and filled with small details that really show the slowing nature of the start of winter. There is time to count the clouds and look at the color of the leaves, at least for Bear. The connections between Bear and his many friends are also written with a richness that adds much to the story. The circular nature of the ending is also an invitation to start the book all over again. One that readers will be happy to accept.
Erin Stead’s illustrations have a beautiful delicacy to them. The rounded shoulders of the very furry Bear show a patience and yet a weight too. There are moments of celebration, when Bear is rolling in the newly lush grass that are filled with cheer. It is especially remarkable near the lonely and poignant image of Bear alone as the first snow begins to fall. Lovely.
It’s the perfect time of year to read this book, ease yourself into the winter months and quietly wish autumn farewell. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed, illustrated by Barbara McClintock
Oh my. There are few books that leave me with tears standing in my eyes at the end, especially books of a spare 64 pages. This one did.
I suppose I could leave my review at that, but here are some details for those who need more. This tightly written and beautifully illustrated small book looks at the twelve kinds of ice that happen in the course of a winter. It all starts with the first ice which is the thin ice on top of a bucket in the barn that breaks when you touch it. From there excitement builds as slowly the ice gets thicker and more able to be skated on. Some ice like field ice and stream ice can be skated on, but it’s tricky. Garden ice is the ice rink that the Bryan family created in their garden, made by packing the snow very firm and then spraying it with the garden hose. It is that family skating rink that is really celebrated in the book, showing a strong family and their mutual connection through ice skating. Even the ice skaters and hockey players get along. Most of the time!
Obed is telling the story of her own family and their love of skating. Her writing is so beautiful and strong. She tells a story with depth and feeling, celebrating winter, ice and the thrill of skating. Seeing how short the book is, one wonders how she managed to tell so much in so few pages. Her prose invites us into her family and onto ice skates. Alongside her, we don’t so much as wobble but instead skim across the ice at her side. It’s an exhilarating and intensely personal read.
McClintock’s illustrations are entirely black and white in the book. She captures a timelessness in her images, celebrating the family and natural surroundings. She also shows the movement of skating and its thrill.
This is a quiet book, one that will need some push to get it into children’s hands. I can see it being part of anyone’s holiday and also a great gateway to talking about your own memories of childhood and special things your family does together. Quiet but powerful and immensely satisfying. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from library copy.
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.
The Iciest, Diciest, Scariest Sled Ride Ever! by Rebecca Rule, illustrated by Jennifer Thermes
Released November 9, 2012.
After sleet and snow have created a thick crust of ice on the ground, what are Lizzie and her friends going to do? It’s almost impossible to even walk on the stuff! They slide downhill on their backs and it was a lot of fun, but they wanted to really find a good place to slide. Snow saucers just spun on the ice, and that’s when Lizzie remembered the sled with metal runners that her grandpa had, a travis sled with an extra long seat. Grandpa remembered his own childhood when they were able to sled down the roads on days like this. He warned them to stay off the roads, stay safe, and not go too fast. But when the children finally reach the summit of the huge hill, they wonder if they will be able to keep that promise!
Rule has created a book that captures the wildness and pure joy of sledding. Growing up in Wisconsin, we had a sledding hill that we would build ramps on and have a great time. My father also had his childhood runner sled that could only be used in perfectly icy conditions. So this book took me right back to those childhood memories of days that were blistery cold and icy, but you were having too much fun to care. Rule builds suspense really well here, having the children figure out what sled to use, where to get it, and then the puzzle of how to climb an icy hillside without all sliding back to the bottom.
Thermes’ illustrations have a wonderful old-fashioned quality to them but also show modern sledding and a modern community. The colors are bright and fun, the sky often adding a punch of coral to the white landscape. There is also plenty of action and movement throughout, creating a perfect pacing along with the text.
Get this one on your shelves for the holidays and sledding season. You may just see your breath in the air as you read it aloud. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Islandport Press.
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.
No Two Alike by Keith Baker
Starting with the fact that no two snowflakes are alike, though they almost are, this book merrily explores the snowy woods. Things are found in pairs, and pointed out to be different from one another. No two nests are the same, no two tracks in the snow. Branches and leaves are all different from one another. Throughout nature it’s the same. Even the two very similar little red birds who accompany the reader on the trip through the snow are shown in the end to be different from one another, “Almost, almost… but not quite.”
Just right for toddlers, this book looks at things that may seem the same but upon closer inspection are actually different. Baker’s writing is simple and effortless, gliding through the story with just enough support to carry the book. The rhythm and structure of the book also help make it a great read aloud.
His illustrations are equally light and cheery. The two red birds are merry companions for young readers as they explore the snowy woods together. Readers can stop and take the time to see the differences between things for themselves.
This book could be used in several ways. It could be used to explore differences in objects or for walks in nature to explore how each object is different. It can also be used as a gentle way to enter conversations about how we as people are all different too in many ways.
This sweet, jolly book makes is worth a warm snuggle on a wintry day and a walk in the winter weather to look up close at nature. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from library copy.