A Polar Bear in the Snow by Mac Barnett

Cover image for A Polar Bear in the Snow

A Polar Bear in the Snow by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Shawn Harris (9781536203967)

A polar bear emerges from the snow, only appearing when he lifts his black nose to the air and opens his black eyes. He journeys across the snowy polar landscape. The narrator wonders where he is going. Maybe to visit the white seals also playing in the snow? No, he is not hungry. Maybe he will hide from the snowstorm in a cave? No, his fur protects him. He also won’t meet a man out on the ice, opening his mouth to growl loudly. It turns out, he is heading for the water to swim and play. After that, who knows where he is heading next.

Barnett uses so few words on the page here. His restraint and focus are masterful, keeping the word count low. His questions about what the bear is doing also invite young readers to ask questions about this book and others they read. To have plenty of curiosity and wonder about books and the world around them. The ending too allows for that curiosity to continue after the book is done.

Harris’ illustrations are subtle in their use of white and shades of white. He uses paper collage to create caves, subtle changes of angle and texture, mountains, and more. When blue is introduced as the bear reaches the sea, there is a tranquility from that color, a celebration that the bear enjoys too.

Restrained, gorgeous and full of amazing moments. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Candlewick.

Ten Ways to Hear Snow by Cathy Camper

Ten Ways to Hear Snow by Cathy Camper, illustrated by Kenard Pak (9780399186332)

When Lina woke up in the morning, snow had fallen and the street was quiet and hushed. Despite the snow, Lina headed out to visit her grandmother. She loved helping her grandmother cook and today was grape leaf day, when they would make warak enab. As Lina walked to her grandma’s, she heard all sorts of noises. There was her neighbor scraping her shovel on the sidewalk. There was the crunch of her own boots in the snow. A blue jay knocked a soft ploompf of snow down from a branch, a quiet sound. People swept off their cars, others scritched past on skis. Mittens patted newly-built snowmen. Lina reached her Sitti’s apartment and the two worked together filling grape leaves with lamb and rice. Lina could hear the snow melting off her mittens and coat. Her grandmother showed her the tenth way to hear snow, one you had to slow down to notice.

This picture book is beautifully cozy and warm despite being mostly set in the outdoors on a snowy day. The sense of discovery as Lina hears the snow in various ways is great fun. The marriage of a weather event and the use of one specific sense adds to the fun and the curiosity as Lina walks to see her grandmother. The Lebanese family and food is front and center here too, warming the beginning and end of the book with a glow.

Pak’s art moves from the cozy home setting out into the cold and then back into a different warm home. His characters are diverse with their neighborhood filled with people of different races. The outdoor light, filled with blues and whites, contrasts with the yellows, reds and golds of the interior settings. It’s a celebration of the beauty and sounds of winter.

This book encourages us all to slow down and listen. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Kokila.

On a Snow-Melting Day by Buffy Silverman

On a Snow-Melting Day by Buffy Silverman

On a Snow-Melting Day: Seeking Signs of Spring by Buffy Silverman (9781541581180)

This picture book captures the joys of early spring. Using skilled photography as well as rhyming text, explore the various elements of spring’s arrival. Icicles begin to drip, snow becomes slushy, lakes thaw and snowmen droop. Animals react too with birds singing more and sipping from icicles, frogs peeping, and salamanders emerging. Crocuses start to bloom along with other flowers too. The entire landscape is waking up and celebrating spring!

The photos in this book truly capture that tantalizing moment where spring arrives. The majority of them combine ice and snow with signs of spring, offering those fleeting moments of discovery for readers of the book. The text is simple and reads aloud well. It lets readers get glimpses of animals in thrilling ways from piles of sleeping snakes to the chickadee in flight to snatch a drink.

Spring into action and grab this one to make your winter days a little shorter. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Millbrook Press.

Review: My Winter City by James Gladstone

My Winter City by James Gladstone

My Winter City by James Gladstone, illustrated by Gary Clement (9781773060101)

Experience the wonder of a snowy day in the city with this picture book. Told in poetic text, the story invites you to journey with a child and their father through the snowy streets early in the morning. There is slush and moving buses, plenty of footprints from other people. The bus is crowded and steamy as it takes them to the sledding hill. There they sled and have plenty of snowy fun, even stopping to make snow angels in the park. They return home, sleepy from all of the cold activities outside.

Gladstone’s text really makes this a special day. He creatively shows the beauty of snowfall in the city, including all of the sights and sounds of the experience. Readers will love the descriptions of “crinkly ice crystals” and “light powder pillows” of snow. At one point, they walk past a greenhouse which is “like a warm, rainy summer in a country far away.” All of these small elements and quiet touches add up to a full experience of a wintry day.

Clement’s illustrations embrace the falling snow from a variety of perspectives. He makes sure that the urban setting is central to all of the images, showing the bustle and busyness around the pair of characters. There is a sense of warmth and community here as well.

A snowy day filled with urban delights. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: A Big Bed for Little Snow by Grace Lin

A Big Bed for Little Snow by Grace Lin

A Big Bed for Little Snow by Grace Lin (9780316478366)

This follow-up to the award-winning A Big Mooncake for Little Star focuses on wintry weather. Little Snow is given a great big bed by his mother, perfect for jumping on! His mother tells him not to bounce on it though and just sleep on it. But Little Snow just can’t resist bouncing and jumping a little bit. When he jumps, feathers fall out of the big bed and drift down. Little Snow does sometimes get a bit more excited and then jumps so hard that the bed bursts open and a lot of feathers come out. By the end of the winter, the bed is entirely empty, just a shell of what it once was.

In the same playful way as the first book, Lin captures a natural phenomenon with a gentle joy. Both books have the attentive mother, who sets rules which are broken by the children. But in both instances, the mothers are fully aware of what is actually happening and the tone is one of merry acceptance rather than frustration.

The illustrations here show exactly what is happening long before the larger reveal of snow falling on earth. The bed is shaped like a large blue cloud and the snowflakes on everyone’s clothes make it very clear as well. The use of the white background with the clothing that disappears into it is beautifully done, offering a magical border-free feel.

Another winner from the multi-talented Lin. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Little Mole’s Wish by Sang-Keun Kim

Little Mole’s Wish by Sang-Keun Kim

Little Mole’s Wish by Sang-Keun Kim (9780525581345)

Little Mole was heading home alone on the first day of snow, when he met a snowball on the path. He brought the snowball along with him to the bus stop. He waited for a bus, but the driver wouldn’t let him on with a snowball. So Little Mole sculpted the snowball into a bear. But the next driver realized it was still a snowball. So Little Mole gave the snow bear a backpack. The two waited a very long time together for the next bus, long enough that Little Mole shared his hat in case the bear was cold. That bus allowed them both to board. On the warm bus, Little Mole fell asleep and when he woke up his friend was gone. The bus driver urged him to head home, saying his friend must have gotten off at another stop. Little Mole got home and told his grandmother all about his day. When he went to bed, he wondered where his friend had gone. In the morning, his grandmother called him with a big surprise!

There is so much magic about this picture book that was originally published in South Korea. Little Mole is an entirely winning character who problem solves along the way, creating a bear just as charming as he is. The words and illustrations work seamlessly together here as Little Mole builds a friend from snow. Readers will have a series of surprises as the book goes on, including the two riding the bus together and then the final surprise that ensures everyone will know that wishes come true.

Kim’s illustrations are soft and dreamy, done in colored pencil, pastel, pen and digital. They are full of small touches that bring the entire world to life with an owl sleeping in the hollow tree, Mole having a similar teddy bear to the bear he builds from snow, and each bus matching its driver in design, including the final bus having deer antlers.

A perfect read for the first snow. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Schwartz & Wade.

Review: Good Morning, Snowplow! by Deborah Bruss

Good Morning Snowplow by Deborah Bruss

Good Morning, Snowplow! by Deborah Bruss, illlustrated by Lou Rancher and Steve Johnson (9781338089493)

When the snow starts to fall, a snowplow driver and his dog head out into the night to clear the roads. They do safety checks and get the hopper filled with salt and sand. Then they are off into the dark to clear the snow from the roads. Giant drifts are formed as they plow past while branches grow heavy with snow. When a car goes by too fast and ends up in the ditch, the plow calls dispatch for a tow for them. At the railroad tracks, the plow driver also stops, stepping out of the cab of his truck into into the hush of the night. The train goes by, creating a cloud of white. The driver heads home just as others start to wake and falls asleep in bed as the sun rises.

Bruss captures the quiet beauty of a snowstorm as she tells about the night work of clearing the roads. She writes with a poetic touch, creating dramatic moments in the story like the train going past and the car skidding into the ditch, but also embracing the silent work of the plow and the hush of the storm.

The illustrations are wonderful, offering looks at the big truck that will appeal to youngsters who love heavy machinery but also beautifully capturing the storm. One double-spread in particular has just the right light as the truck goes through town. Anyone living in a northern state will recognize that light and the quiet moment before the plow comes through.

Ideal for winter reading, curl up with this one before being plowed out yourself. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Scholastic.

Review: Captain’s Log: Snowbound by Erin Dionne

Captain's Log Snowbound by Erin Dionne

Captain’s Log: Snowbound by Erin Dionne, illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler (9781580898256)

All set to give his presentation on Ernest Shackleton, a boy is instead stuck at home due to a major snowstorm. The boy chronicles his adventure using journal entries like Shackleton’s to tell the tale. It all starts out fine with lots of food to share and a light heart. Then items begin to disappear and as the food dwindles, the boy must find out who the thief is before he ruins them all. Along the way, there is sledding, clearing the deck of snow and other merriment. Yet it may all lead to mutiny in the end.

Based on the author’s Facebook posts during the Boston snowstorm in 2015 that dumped 95 inches of snow, this book’s wry take on being stuck at home moves from being a joyous look at a snow day to a possible mutiny and lack of food. Still, the voice is always funny and the look at being a family stuck with one another for a length of time with resonate with children stuck home due to a storm or because of a holiday.

The illustrations are funny and detailed with cross-sections of the home, glimpses into windows, and vintage images from the Shackleton crew as well as objects of the time. The entire book cleverly plays on the Shackleton experience for laughter and context.

With a voice that makes for a great read aloud, this one is ideal to read with snow falling outside. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy provided by Charlesbridge.

3 Seasonal Picture Books

Good Day, Good Night by Margaret Wise Brown

Good Day, Good Night by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Loren Long (9780062383105)

A little bunny wakes up in the morning and greets the day, saying goodbye to the night. Trees, birds, kittens and more come to life as the day dawns. The day continues and then in the evening, the moon rises. Night begins and the bees and birds and town settle down once more into a quiet night. The poetry here by Brown is ever so lovely, lulling and sweet. It invites both a warm look at waking up but also a snuggly look at night coming. The illustrations by Long create a world of rabbits, a village filled with activity and a glimpse of nature responding to day and night as well. This is a picture book just right for bedtime or morning. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Small Walt by Elizabeth Verdick

Small Walt by Elizabeth Verdick, illustrated by Marc Rosenthal (9781481448451)

Walt is the smallest snowplow in the city’s fleet, so when the big storm arrives, no one wants to drive him. Soon the parking lot is empty with only Walt left behind. Then Gus arrives and merrily prepares to drive Walt into the storm. Walt works hard into the night to clear bridges and roads, trying to prove that he’s up to the big job. Then he reaches a big hill. They could leave it for a larger truck to handle, but Walt wants to try. He slips and slides all the way up, but getting down could be even worse! This picture book is a snowy riff on The Little Engine that Could, offering a bright red little hero willing to take on big challenges. The tone throughout is friendly and fun. Any little one who enjoys books about trucks will love curling up with this one during snow season. Appropriate for ages 3-6. (Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.)

Snow Scene by Richard Jackson

Snow Scene by Richard Jackson, illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (9781626726802)

Explore a snowy area with this inviting and engaging picture book. With very simple text that asks readers to guess at what is coming next, this book has a freshness that is very appealing. The simple text focuses on speaking directly to the reader, showing different aspects of a snowy day that slowly transitions to spring and then summer, where snow is only on the far mountain top. The art by Seeger has a strong textural element that will have small children running their fingers over the smooth pages. It is rich and inviting, sometimes close up and other times just hinting at what is to come. This seasonal picture book celebrates snow in all of its forms, winter and summer. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.)