Saturday, January 5, 2013

Books About Winter and Snow

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
Cover art of Children's Picture Book Owl Moon
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen; illustrated by John Schoenherr, Caldecott Medal WinnerPenguin Putnam Books for Young Readers.   
John Schoenherr received the 1988 Caldecott Medal for his Owl Moon illustrations and it's no wonder. The artwork and the story beautifully show us a child's thrill at finally being old enough to go "owling" with her father. The little girl beautifully describes their night walk through the frigid and snowy forest. Jane Yolen's words capture the mood of hushed expectancy while John Schoenherr's lovely watercolors capture the beauty of the walk through the woods. It's obvious that the trek with  her father is what's important and getting to actually see and hear an owl is the icing on the cake. Both the art and the words show the love between father and child and the importance of their time together.

Snowballs by Lois Ehlert
Cover Art of the children's picture book Snowballs by Lois Ehlert
Snowballs by Lois Ehlert
Harcourt Brace & Company
Lois Ehlert is a master of collage and Snowballs is a delightful look at a variety of snow people and animals that can be made with snowballs and household items like mittens, buttons, and nuts. Snowballs is told in the words of a child who, along with the rest of the family, has "been waiting for a really big snow, saving good stuff in a sack." The good stuff includes corn, bird seed, and nuts for the birds and squirrels to eat off of the snow creatures; hats, scarves, bottle caps, plastic forks, buttons, fall leaves, a man's tie, and a lot of other things. The photo collages feature fabric circles as snowballs that are transformed when stacked and decked out with features and accessories.
At the end of the book, there is a two-page photo feature showing all of the "good stuff," with captions, that the family used to make the snow people and animals. That's followed by a four-page section about snow, including what it is and what makes it snow and featuring photographs of snowmen and other snow creatures. This book will appeal to children of all ages who enjoy playing in the snow, making their own snowballs and transforming them with good stuff.

Stranger in the Woods
Cover art of children's picture book Stranger in the Woods
Stranger in the Woods by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick
Carl R. Sams II Photography, Inc.
The full-page color photographs go a long way in telling the story of the Stranger in the Woods. In the woods, the bluejays caw, "Take care!" All of the animals are apprehensive because there is a stranger in the woods. The bluejays, chickadees, deer, owl, squirrels and other animals are not sure how to react. Little by little, starting with the birds, the animals in the forest follow the snow trail and come close enough to examine the stranger. They find a snowman.
Unbeknowst to them, a brother and sister had crept into the woods and built the snowman. They gave him a carrot nose, mittens, and a cap in which they make a dent so it could hold nuts and bird seed. They also left corn for the animals. A doe eats the snowman's carrot nose, while the birds enjoy the nuts and seed. Later, when a fawn finds a mitten on the ground, the animals realize that there is still another stranger in the woods.
Stranger in the Woods is a beautifully photographed, captivating book that will appeal to three- to eight-year olds. The book was written and illustrated by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick, who are professional wildlife photographers. Younger children will enjoy their book Winter Friends, a board book, which also includes exceptional nature photography.

Snow Crazy
Cover art of Snow Crazy by Tracy Gallup, a children's winter picture book
Snow Crazy
Mackinac Island Press
Author and illustrator Tracy Gallup celebrates the joy of snow - waiting for snow and playing in the snow when it finally arrives - in Snow Crazy, an appealing little picture book. A little girl is eagerly awaiting the snow that has been forecast. She makes paper snowflakes, and she and her mother "laugh, drink hot chocolate, and stand in a [paper] snowdrift." Finally, the snow comes, and the little girl has a wonderful time playing in the snow with her friends, sledding, skating, making snow angels and building a snowman.
The illustrations are what make this story so appealing. They feature sculpted and hand painted dolls and props created by Tracy Gallup, who has been a professional doll maker for more than 25 years. I recommend Snow Crazy for three- to six-year-olds.

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
Cover art for The Snowman picture book
Random House
The Snowman by English author and illustrator Raymond Briggs has intrigued and delighted young children since it was first published in 1978. At first sight, the book looks like a typical picture book. It's not. While it is a fully developed story about a little boy who builds a snowman and then, in his dreams, provides an adventure for the snowman when he comes to life one night and the snowman then provides an adventure for the boy, it has an unusual format.The Snowman is a wordless picture book, with significant comic-book aspects. The book is the size, shape and length (32-pages) of a typical picture book. However, while it does include a few single and double-page spreads, almost all of the illustrations are done in comic-book format, with multiple panels of sequential art on each page (about 150 in all). The softly rounded panels and the misty illustrations create the sense of peacefulness that often comes after snow falls, making it a good book to enjoy at bedtime. In discussing his use of pencil crayons and the absence of words, Raymond Briggs said, "You can draw lightly in colour, then gradually make it sharper, clearer and darker, while colouring it at the same time. Furthermore, for this book, crayon has a softer quality, ideally suited to snow."The wordlessness also seemed right for snow, which always brings with it a feeling of silence and peace. The house in the book is my own house here, at the foot of the South Downs, a few miles from Brighton." I recommend The Snowman for ages 3 to 8. (Random House Books for Young Readers, 1978. ISBN: 9780394839738)

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