Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Monday, January 10, 2011


This painting by Kay Crain reminds me of the
rare snow days we'd get during my childhood in Tennessee!
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Summer fading, winter comes--
Frosty mornings, tingling thumbs,
Window robins, winter rooks,
And the picture story-books.

Water now is turned to stone
Nurse and I can walk upon;
Still we find the flowing brooks
In the picture story-books.

All the pretty things put by,
Wait upon the children's eye,
Sheep and shepherds, trees and crooks,
In the picture story-books.

We may see how all things are
Seas and cities, near and far,
And the flying fairies' looks,
In the picture story-books.

How am I to sing your praise,
Happy chimney-corner days,
Sitting safe in nursery nooks,
Reading picture story-books?

Today I'd like to highlight some exceptional picture story-books about snow and winter. Depending on your local weather and where you live,  January can be a month when you're either loving the snow, hating it, or longing for it!  From where I live on the West Coast, if it gets rainy with cold enough temperatures, snow appears on our local mountains. We can load up the kids and be playing in it within a couple of hours...or if the weather is mild, we can just curl up on the couch and enjoy a good picture book about snow!

Those of you who may be snowed in, or facing a looong winter, might - as Robert Louis Stevenson suggests in his cozy verses - try to find some picture story-books that will take you to another place, devoid of snow.  (But I hope you'll still peruse the books I've listed below.  I tried to choose some that might distract you from the coldness and gray slush of winter - that can sometimes feel like an eternity - and instead remind you of winter's haunting beauty and fun - that won't last an eternity!)

SNOW by Cynthia Rylant, illustrations by Laura Stringer. (Pre-S-Grade 3) Few picture books about snow have both the grace and joy of this lovely collaboration featuring Rylant’s and Stringer’s thoughtful words and dreamy artwork. This celebration looks at snow in all its slight variations and considers the effects it has on those it falls upon... There is “the snow that comes softly in the night . . . the snow that brings you peace”, the heavy snow that sends you home from school, and the delicate snow that drifts down, lacey on the trees. In the midst of all this, Rylant reminds readers “that nothing lasts forever except memories.”  Thank goodness for the memories preserved in this wonderful book!

SNOWBALLS by Lisa Ehlert (PreSchool-Grade 2) Ehlert puts a creative twist on one of the favorite traditions of winter - building a snowman, or, in this case, a snow family, including pets. Children who believe snowmen must have charcoal eyes and carrot noses will be inspired by the unique adornments, for each creation here is decorated with the narrator's cache of "good stuff in a sack." Mom's hair is a Guatemalan belt; boy's nose is a toy compass; baby's arms are plastic picnic forks; dog's spots are a collection of buttons.  The bold, rhyming text describes the simple pleasures of the season. The contrasting sensations of the crisp iciness and dreary isolation of winter are effectively created by placing the colorfully decorated white figures against a textured gray background on double-page vertical spreads. The background glows bright orange as the sun appears. Ehlert concludes her book with some winter facts, photographs of snowmen, and a recipe for popcorn balls. -from School Library Journal

IT'S WINTER by Linda Glaser  (Pre-S-Grade 1).  It's Winter is the third book in a series of four titles on the various seasons, and is full of insights about winter.  Its beautiful cut-paper art work, and suggestions for activities to enhance an appreciation of the season will delight your child. All this comes in the form of a first-person story of a girl who observes and appreciates the pleasures of winter.

WINTER: An Alphabet Acrostic by Steven Schnur, illustrated by Leslie Evans. (PreS-Grade 2.) The beauty of a snowy winter contrasts with the warmth of a cozy, country home in this playful picture book. On each page, a winter-related word provides the basis for an acrostic that reads like a short poem. For the letter C, the verse reads, "Crystals / Of ice as delicate as / Lace ring the / Duck pond," forming the word cold in uppercase letters. A striking, hand-colored linoleum print illustrates each small, boxed acrostic. A girl and her black dog appear in many of the pictures... As the season progresses, the child sleds and skates, then snuggles up indoors by a fire. The final illustration launches the girl into spring with a soccer ball. Younger children will enjoy studying the details and spotting the dog; older ones may be inspired to try their hand at the pleasure of acrostics.  -from American Library Association.

WINTER POEMS by Barbara Rogasky, illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman.  (Reading level: Gr. 3-6, younger for reading aloud.) Beautifully designed and illustrated, this short anthology of poetry celebrates winter.  The selection ranges from ancient Japanese verse through Shakespeare to Wallace Stevens, Richard Wright, Ogden Nash, and David Kherdian. While much of the poetry was not originally written for children and some of it is excerpted from longer works, the clarity of concrete images and the sounds of the words make the verse accessible to young people, particularly when it is read aloud. Hyman's line-and-watercolor images evoke the quiet beauty of winter landscapes and interior scenes as well as the child's experience of winter.

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