November 20, 2017

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7 Snowy Picture Books | SLJ Spotlight

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As autumn gets in full swing, the nip in the air is a reminder that winter is just around the corner. From frolicsome foxes to elegant ice skaters, the characters in these snow-filled books will have young readers dreaming of snowball fights and winter nights.

Bauer, Marion Dane. Winter Dance. illus. by Richard Jones. 40p. HMH. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544313347.

PreS-Gr 2 –Winter approaches with the arrival of a solitary snowflake, while a young red fox questions what to do when the air grows colder and the ground slowly covers with snow. A softly painted palette that gently mimics a snowy landscape presents the change in seasons and the still quiet of nature through varied perspectives as, one by one, the fox asks the creatures of the forest, “What should I do?” Each answers with the instinct or innate behavior of their species—helpful advice comes from a caterpillar, turtle, bat, squirrel, goose, and snowshoe hare. Lastly, a “great black bear,” advises “Curl beneath the roots of a toppled balsam tree, and tuck all your growls away.” No advice seems quite right until another fox invites him to watch as “a million snowflakes fill the air” and join in a celebratory dance. Inspired by the author’s discovery of the foxes’ dance in the woods of the North, the descriptive, lyrical text and its placement imitate the dance’s movement. VERDICT A suggested first purchase suitable for young readers in libraries and classrooms studying seasons and animal behavior.–Mary Elam, Learning Media Services, Plano ISD, TX

Claire, Céline. Shelter. tr. from French. illus. by Qin Leng. 42p. Kids Can. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781771389273.

PreS-Gr 2 –Woodland animals ready themselves for an approaching winter storm, but a little fox is concerned: “What if others are still outside?” he asks. He is right to worry. Soon two bear brothers come into sight with a bag of tea leaves and an entreaty to share food, shelter, warmth. They are turned away by animals who clearly have enough of whatever is requested, until the little fox rushes out to give them a lantern. Grateful and hopeful, the bears move on. The tables are turned when the fox family’s shelter collapses and they are forced into the cold to seek shelter. The bears do not hesitate to share their cozy snow berm and the light of the lantern. (In a bit of literary license, the bears have got hot water and mugs for tea.) Claire writes in spare prose elegantly translated from French and Leng’s loose pen-and-ink drawings capture the mood of the story while offering lovely little woodland details. The messages of compassion, acceptance, and forgiveness are interwoven, if a little muddled. Young readers will have an opportunity to see all the sides of the experience—the stranger in search of shelter, the animals protecting themselves against danger, the compassionate little fox, and the closed circle of the ending. VERDICT An excellent conversation starter about the vagaries of life and our responsibilities to one another. Recommended as a strong purchase.–Lisa Lehmuller, Paul Cuffee Maritime Charter School, Providence

Jackson, Richard. Snow Scene. illus. by Laura Vaccaro Seeger. 40p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Nov. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781626726802.

PreS-K –A guessing game leads youngsters from winter to spring in this quiet tour de force. The question, “What are these?” appears on a close-up of bark. A page turn reveals the answer, “Trees,” as a stand of birches deep in snow-filled woods stretches across a spread. The questions continue: “And those?” next to purple splotches. The answer: “Shadows./Of crows.” Each question is printed near a partial image that is completely revealed with its answer on the following page. Ice-covered branches and a girl with snow-flecked hair are included among the snowy landscapes that follow. Finally, dark, silent winter evening scenes give way to light, as the palette changes from deep purplish-blues to the bright blues, pinks, and greens of spring. Creatures appear after a winter sleep and earth surfaces through winter snow. A striking close-up of May flowers soon follows. All that’s left of winter is a snow-capped mountain, described in delightful metaphor: “Winter’s hat!” The acrylic paintings, all spreads, are lush and textured. The boy and girl who enjoy the winter woods and making a snowman reappear to relish such spring joys as romping in the rain and reading under a tree. The text is large and spare with one or two words on a page. VERDICT This perfect marriage of stunning illustrations and brief, often rhyming text in a question-and-answer format that will engage the lap set from the start is a first purchase.–Marianne Saccardi, Children’s Literature Consultant, Cambridge, MA

Lee, Suzy. Lines. illus. by Suzy Lee. 40p. Chronicle. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781452156651. POP

PreS-Gr 3 –An unseen artist sketches a deft ice skater making beautiful lines on the ice. Straight lines, squiggles, and curls, the combinations are endless. Then, suddenly, the ice skater falls, disrupting the fluidity and gracefulness of the story. The artist seems displeased with this development and starts anew on the following page. In this wordless picture book by Lee, readers can tell when the artist is changing the story line by the crinkled sketch paper and erasure mark illustrations. Through drawings alone, the message that everyone falls, but it is important to get back up and try again is delivered flawlessly. Supremely crisp, clean, and appealing, this is the kind of artwork that will entice readers to return to the pages again and again to see what detail they may have missed. The pages of the book are mostly a bright white, touched by the gray lines of the pencil drawings. The tiny splashes of color pop in the wintry hats and coats of the ice skaters as more figures emerge and the scene unfolds. Somehow, even with the cool white pages and cold, wintry landscape, this picture book for all ages will make readers feel warm inside. VERDICT Any lover of picture books will appreciate this graceful wordless gem. A great discussion starter and drawing prompt to see where a single line might lead.–Amy Shepherd, St. Anne’s Episcopal School, Middleton, DE

O’Hara, Natalia. Hortense and the Shadow. illus. by Lauren O’Hara. 32p. Little, Brown. Nov. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316440790.

Gr 1-3 –This picture book, the first creation by the O’Hara sisters, has the look and feel of a classic fairy tale. Hortense, a young girl lives in a snowy woods filled with wildlife. She is kind and brave, but there is one thing she absolutely detests—her shadow. It is tall and crooked and constantly following her around. She tries to hide it and run from it, until fated a day in the park when she realizes that her shadow hates her, too. Hortense hatches a plan and finally separates herself from her shadow, severing it with a closed window pane. Life goes on and Hortense is seemingly happy, until she meets a group of bandits in the night. Luckily, her shadow saves the day by becoming different intimidating figures (even a bear) and scares the bandits away. Hortense is grateful and realizes that her shadow is indeed a brave part of her that shows her how big she can be and how far she can go. Dreamy, detailed artwork is stylized and evocative, playing with light and shadow in its minimal palette and impressionistic scenes. It is extremely well executed and does the heavy lifting in creating the mood and shifting emotions of the story. VERDICT A uniquely told tale with beautiful illustrations, this is a recommended purchase for all libraries. Great for reading aloud and discussing with students.–Jasmine L. Precopio, Fox Chapel Area School District, Pittsburgh

Ross, Tony. I Want Snow! illus. by Tony Ross. 32p. Andersen. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781512481259.

PreS-K –When Little Princess discovers that snow exists, she exclaims, “I WANT SNOW!” Unfortunately, because it is summer, she has to learn to be patient and imaginative. The large illustrations add humor to the story as her family and friends at the castle try to improvise winter conditions for her. But snow globes, rockmen, mud balls, and sand castles are no substitute for the winter wonderland that Little Princess sees on the postcard the Queen mailed to her from the South Pole. Children who are familiar with the “Little Princess” picture book series will not be surprised to learn that once she does get to play out in the snow, she quickly finds reasons to change her mind and complain about what she wanted for so long. VERDICT Children will have a laugh at the expense of Ross’s moody, prone-to-tantrums toddler princess. A suitable seasonal story selection perfect for storytime and one-on-one sharing.–Tanya Boudreau, Cold Lake Public Library, Alta.

Verdick, Elizabeth. Small Walt. illus. by Marc Rosenthal. 40p. S. & S. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481448451.

PreS-Gr 2 –The grit of the Little Engine that Could, the nostalgic illustrations of Katy and the Big Snow, and a touch of modernity from an accomplished author and illustrator, combine to become Small Walt. Walt is the smallest city plow on the lot. In the middle of a snowstorm, workers gear up to clear the streets, but none are willing to choose Walt to get the job done. That is, until Gus comes along. After checking Walt’s components, he determines that they are ready, and off they go. Walt’s route is treacherous, but he and Gus handle it with finesse. They never give up, even when faced with daunting tasks. The timeless messages that little people can do big things, one should never give up, and teamwork works best are pervasive throughout. Walt encourages himself with positive rhyming phrases such as “My name is Walt./I plow and I salt./I clear the snow/so the cars can go.” Young listeners will eagerly chime in to recite parts of this repetitive phrase, making this perfect as a read-aloud. The digitally colored artwork is delightfully old-fashioned. The snow is bright against the illustrations created mostly in shades of red, yellow, blue, and green, and outlined black. The accessible text and cozy pictures mesh seamlessly to become a new version of a familiar tale. VERDICT A warm and fuzzy dose of positive thinking perfect for seasonal storytimes and snow days.–Amy Shepherd, St. Anne’s Episcopal School, Middleton, DE

This article was published in School Library Journal's October 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Luann Toth About Luann Toth

Luann Toth (ltoth@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor of SLJ Reviews. A public librarian by training, she has been reviewing books for a quarter of a century and continues to be fascinated by the constantly evolving, ever-expanding world of publishing.

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