Seaside Stroll by Charles Trevino

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Seaside Stroll by Charles Trevino, illustrated by Maribel Lechuga (9781580899321)

Told with only words that begin with “s” this picture book is superbly surprising. A little girl and her mother bundle up for a winter visit to the seaside. The little girl brings along her doll, and they explore the snowy sand together. She finds a stick, swings it at the seagulls. There are shells, stones, seaweed and more to discover on the sand. She is surprised when a surge of water takes her doll away and into a tidepool. The doll is soaked and after the doll is saved, the little girl is sopping wet too. Cold and shivering, they leave the beach and head home for a hot shower and a cozy story before bed.

Trevino creates an entire story here, not just a series of words that begin with the same letter. Based on poetry designed in American Sign Language, his book is thoughtful and fascinating. Using clever and smart punctuation, he creates a world of snow and sand for readers to explore alongside his young character. Amazingly, the book reads aloud brilliantly and aloud shows the dynamic nature of language and letters.

The artwork tells much of the story, since the text is so focused and brief. The joy of exploring the cold seaside, the pleasure of discovery and the return home to cozy warmth, all are depicted with bright colors, sunshine and then warm firelight.

Something special. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Charlesbridge.

Seeking an Aurora by Elizabeth Pulford

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Seeking an Aurora by Elizabeth Pulford, illustrated by Anne Bannock (9781733121279)

A child is awoken by their father in the middle of the night. They head outside into the winter darkness, past the dogs and the cows. The father explains that they are going to see an Aurora, but the child doesn’t know what that means. Are stars in the Aurora? Is the moon? They head up the hill, their breath steaming in the icy air. They sit on the stony ground and look up, marveling together at the colors that streak the sky as the aurora borealis appears. They are silent until their walk back to the house, when the father shares what he knows about the aurora.

Originally published in New Zealand, this picture book is quiet and focused on a specific natural phenomenon. The book is told in very simple language, making it accessible for small children. The gender of the main character is never revealed, since the book is told from their point of view. The anticipation of discovering what the aurora is isn’t lessened by knowing about it ahead of time. The amazement and delight are infectious.

Bannock’s art is full of color even in the nighttime home. Warm reds, bright yellows, deep purples all fill the pages. The colors become more muted as they head outside, the night sky black above them and the stars vivid against it. The icy winter night is shown with a sickle of a moon, bare tree branches, and a layer of snow. The colors of the aurora are captured beautifully in a grand and stirring way that lifts the heart.

Quiet, personal and incredibly moving, this is a glimpse of a natural wonder. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Blue Dot.

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.

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: Wintercake by Lynne Rae Perkins

Wintercake by Lynne Rae Perkins

Wintercake by Lynne Rae Perkins (9780062894878)

Thomas lost his basket of dried fruit for his wintercake that he had planned to make for Winter’s Eve. His friend, Lucy, the cardinal heads off into the growing snowstorm and takes shelter at a tea house. There she sees another animal with Thomas’ basket of dried fruit. She just knows that he has stolen it to keep for himself! So when he leaves the restaurant, Lucy follows him, all the way to Thomas’ door, where he returns the fruit and the basket. Realizing how wrong she was, Lucy and Thomas decide to make a wintercake for the stranger. They follow his footprints in the snow to an empty hollow where he sits alone in front of a small fire. The two friends approach, accidentally scaring everyone and drop the cake. But there is still cake to be shared and new friends to meet.

Perkins creates her own solstice-like celebration with animals in a forest setting that will work equally well for other winter holidays. She tells a detailed story, showing how assumptions about strangers can be very wrong and also showing how to make up for thinking that way about someone. The sharing, giving and friendship shown here are rich and detailed. It is a picture book that celebrates new friends and new traditions built upon old friends and long-standing traditions.

Perkins’ art is interesting. There is no real clarity of what sort of animal Thomas is, rather like a bear or a groundhog type of creature. The stranger is more of a weasel, which works well with the story. That lack of clarity is part of the charm of the book. Perkins has also created a warm neighborhood of tea houses and cozy homes in trees. The bare hollow is shown in real contrast to those other spaces, making it all the more cold and lonely.

A lovely addition to holiday books. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

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: Bear Is Awake: An Alphabet Story by Hannah E. Harrison

Bear Is Awake An Alphabet Story by Hannah E. Harrison

Bear Is Awake: An Alphabet Story by Hannah E. Harrison (9780399186660)

When bear wakes up in his den under a tree, he heads down the road to find a cabin. He rings the doorbell and meets the little girl who lives there. After he devours all of her food, she is rather grumpy, but she has an idea. She gives the bear a hat and they head to town. They first go to the library to listen to stories. Then to the market where the bear must learn to be nice. They head back to the cabin and feast on pancakes together. After some quiet time, the little girl and the bear head back to his den. He is sulky and uncertain, but she helps him along. In the end, he is happily back asleep under a new quilt and with some treats ready for spring.

As with most alphabet books, this one is not about the writing really and features words that match each of the letters of the alphabet. The design of the book is more inventive than one might expect with sometimes multiple words being used or the same word over and over again to convey excitement. The real treat here are the illustrations which are completely winning. The relationship between bear and girl develops quickly with the bear far more hungry than frightening in any scenario. His hesitation to return home at the end also makes him a character children will love rather than fear. The huge bear is drawn realistically and dominates the pages, add the yellow hat with pom poms and he quickly becomes more approachable, though many in town don’t see him that way.

A wintry alphabet book about making new friends. Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Dial Books for Young Readers.

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.)

3 Wintry Picture Books

Two of these picture book welcome winter while another sends it on its way:

Spring for Sophie by Yael Werber

Spring for Sophie by Yael Werber, illustrated by Jen Hill (9781481451345)

Sophie is waiting for spring to come, but she’s not sure how to tell when it arrives. Her mother explains that she should be able to hear the changes, so Sophie is patient and listens while she is outside. Eventually she starts to hear more and more birds in the trees. Still, it was snowy outside. Her father explains that she can use her feet to feel spring coming. So Sophie paid attention to how soft the snow was and eventually, it was less icy and more soft. Still, the snow was there. Her mother tells her to use her eyes and nose. Sophie watches the snow melt, the green return and one day her nose tells her that spring has finally arrived! This picture book celebrates the change of season in a tangible way that children will love. The focus is on the child experiencing the changes themselves with gentle guidance from loving adults. The illustrations celebrate both winter and spring, the slow but steady transformation between seasons. A perfect book to invite exploring outside. Appropriate for ages 3-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

William_s Winter Nap by Linda Ashman

William’s Winter Nap by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Chuck Groenink (9781484722824)

This rhyming picture book tells a story of a boy who is ready for bed. But just as he is about to fall asleep, there comes a tap, tap, tap at his window. It’s a chipmunk and William invites him into his bed to sleep. Again and again, William is about to fall asleep but another animal needs shelter from the cold and the snow. When the last animal knocks, the other animals insist that there isn’t any more room, but somehow they find room for the very large bear with a little help from William. The series of drowsy moments interrupted makes this a great bedtime tale but also a lovely one to share with a group. The illustrations are friendly and inviting, just like William himself. There are opportunities for counting, naming animals and thinking about napping yourself in this very appealing read. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from copy provided by Disney Hyperion.)

Winter Dance by Marion Dane Bauer

Winter Dance by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Richard Jones

Fox wakes up to snowflakes falling and wonders what he should be doing to prepare for winter. A caterpillar suggests that he wrap up in a chrysalis and wake in the spring while the bat thinks a cave would be best. Turtle heads to the bottom of the pond to sleep in the mud and squirrel quickly gathers food. The geese fly south and the snowshoe hare turns white like the snow. Bear falls asleep in a log. But none of those solutions is right for Fox! He finally meets another fox in the woods who knows just what to do. Beautifully written by Bauer, this book uses repetitive structures to evoke a timeless feel that will be welcoming for the youngest listeners. The illustrations by Jones have a lovely softness to them while also showing the changing season and the beauty of the natural setting. A great pick for celebrating the coming winter. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)