What month produces the most snowfall? It depends. One year, I was in Minnesota for a library conference and a record-setting snow was the trick or treat. Another year, our family went to downtown Chicago for a matinee show during spring break. The five-hour ride home that evening on the Kennedy Expressway was quite an April fool. One of the worst Chicago snowstorms arrived the February I was born. But whatever the weather, February is a good time for some good snow stories. Start with the 1962 Caldecott winner The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats and then enjoy these new winter tales.
HELLO, SNOW!, by Hope Vestergaard, illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16; ages 3-6.
How exciting for children to wake up one morning and look out the window and see that it has snowed over night. The little girl in this story can’t wait for her dad to get out of bed, for them to get dressed in all their heavy clothing and go outside. Several neighborhood children join them as they build a snowman and go sledding. The story is told in rhyme with watercolor pictures illustrating the afternoon’s adventures. What a perfect ending when the afternoon is finished and the two are greeted by mom, who is ready with the hot cocoa.
NOW IT IS WINTER, by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Mary Newell DePalma, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, $16; ages 3-7.
Little Mouse wants to know, “Will spring ever come?” Mother Mouse answers, “Yes, but now it is winter.” I like the way Mother Mouse couples each summer activity with one that takes place during the winter. Little Mouse wants to look for the garden fairies, but his mother tells him he can look for the snow angels. Instead of listening for the rain, they hear the sleet on the roof. Raspberries and cream in his breakfast bowl are now replaced with hot oatmeal and brown sugar. After the story is read notice all the snowflakes throughout the pages. Now would be a good time to go outside and catch a few on black paper to observe the differences and then fold some white paper to cut your own designs.
SNOW DUDE, words and pictures by Daniel Kirk, Hyperion, $16.99; ages 3-8.
Nick and Kara have a good time building a snowman. When they are finished, they wish the snowman could talk and run. Along comes a gust of wind to warn them they better be careful what they wish for. Before they realize what is happening, their wild little snow dude is off and running. The snow dude meets an elderly couple, a baker, a circus lion tamer, various zoo animals and many children as they all go down snowboard hill. Just like the gingerbread man, nobody can catch him. When they all end up by the lake in the park everyone stops to build their own snow dudes, which are shown in different shapes and sizes. Check out www.DanielKirk.com for a list of his other books, along with some discussion questions and activity pages. If you had your own snow dude, how would he look and what game would you play with him?
THE GRUFFALO’S CHILD, by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, Dial, $16.99; ages 4 and up.
Never go into the deep dark woods, warns Father Gruffalo, because you don’t want to meet the Big Bad Mouse. Baby Gruffalo wants to know what the mouse looks like. His father tells him that it is terribly strong, has a long scaly tail, with eyes like pools of fire and whiskers tougher than wire. So, of course, one night while his dad is asleep, the Gruffalo child sets out to find this terrible creature. In his search, he finds a snake with a scaly tail, an owl with fire eyes and a fox with whiskers. Not exactly what he thought he was looking for. When he meets up with a little mouse, the Gruffalo child decides it was all a trick, until the mouse gets in the shadow of the moon which makes him look big and strong. He decides his home in the cave is not such a boring place after all.
THE SNOW PRINCESS, by Ruth Sanderson, Little, Brown and Co., $16.99; ages 6 and up.
The Snow Princess is the daughter of Father Frost and Mother Spring. She is given her name because she can call up snowstorms. As she gets older, she wants to see the world. Mother and Father give her permission to leave, but warn her that she must never fall in love or she will no longer be safe from death. She wanders the wooded areas enjoying living with all the forest animals until she comes upon a small village. One afternoon, she notices the people are all dressed in their festive clothing on their way to the winter festival. A young shepherd named Sergei encourages her to join him. The Snow Princess tells him her name is Katia, the name she had heard one of the children called. On another occasion, while following a lost lamb, Sergei gets lost in the woods. In spite of Mother Spring’s warnings, Katia finds him and realizes she is in love. Katia feels more alive then ever before. The author leaves us guessing about the ending as they walk out of the forest into the warm sunshine. Several of Sanderson’s other books are fairytales, and this one is based on a Russian opera.
Judy Belanger is a retired elementary learning resource center teacher who lives with her husband in Addison. They have two grown children and four grandchildren. She continues to substitute in grades K-6 in the school where she taught.
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