April 27, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

On the Radar: Top Picks from the Editors at Junior Library Guild: Snow and Ice: Books for the Elementary Reader

Though the groundhog predicted an end to freezing temperatures, for much of the country, evidence of winter is just outside the window. Snowflakes fall softly, but the roar of a blower clears the driveway. Iced-over ponds mirror silver blades dancing figure eights. Elementary readers will want to check out these new books about snow and ice while they wait for spring.

HEST, Amy. Charley’s First Night. illus. by Helen Oxenbury. Candlewick. 2012. ISBN 9780763640552. JLG Level: K : Kindergarten (Grades PreK–K).

Sometimes a character’s voice, is so strong it transcends the page and pulls at a reader’s heartstrings. Henry has that kind of voice. The little boy finds a stray puppy on a cold snowy day. “We were new together and I was very, very careful not to slip in the snow and I thought about his name. Charley. Charley Korn. My name is Henry. Henry Korn.” Later he brings the puppy home to his parents, and we hear that voice again, “I would be in charge of walking Charley, they said, and I couldn’t wait to walk Charley forever.” Henry wants his new friend to sleep in his room, but his folks have another idea―probably a good one, as the illustration shows the boy should have taken his pet for a quick walk. As the family makes a bed for their recent addition in the kitchen, Henry fits the nook with his own beloved bear and a tick-tock clock, which provides “another little heartbeat in the night.” Night falls and Charley howls when he wakes. Henry tries to follow his parent’s rules, but the puppy wants to sleep on the bed. When both friends get sleepy, the reader can predict the outcome. Oxenbury’s gorgeous illustrations are framed by a border, helping to pace the gentle tale that warms your heart, even in the cold of winter.

MARKLE, Sandra. Snow School. illus. by Alan Marks. Charlesbridge. 2013. ISBN 9781580894104. JLG Level: NEK : Nonfiction Early Elementary (Grades K–2).

Markle’s latest informational picture book focuses on weeks-old snow leopard siblings. Mother has left them unattended when the inquisitive male cub is nearly captured by a hawk. Lesson learned: “Outside the den, it’s a dangerous world.” The two cubs follow their mother over the course of a year as they witness survival lessons in their snow school. One day they will catch food for themselves, so they learn to be quick on their feet, guard their prey, and quiet while hunting. Told in simple narrative vignettes, Markles’s text is illustrated by watercolor scenes that vary from rough-housing between the cubs to the mother’s kill.

PRINGLE, Laurence. Ice!: The Amazing History of the Ice Business. Calkins Creek. 2012. ISBN 9781590788011. JLG Level: NE: Nonfiction Elementary (Grades 2–6).

Heavily sprinkled with primary sources, Pringle’s latest nonfiction work centers on the history of the ice business. Even in Caesar’s time, ice was brought from cold regions to cool a beverage. In 1805 Frederic Tudor decided he could profit from shipping ice to the West Indies. He hired Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth who invented a horse-drawn ice cutter, making ice easier to harvest and transport. Icehouses sprang up along Rockland Lake to store the product for shipping. In 1860, an inclined railroad was designed, allowing for faster and safer delivery to the water’s edge. The ice business soon became an integral part of everyday life. With the invention of the icebox and ice delivery wagons, ice became more affordable for everyone. As an unexpected result, the invention of refrigeration hearkened the end of the ice harvesting industry. It took time to get electrical service across the country, so even until the 1950s, the ice man came. Today, ice festivals celebrate the carving of ice, but the giant icehouses that began it all stand empty or in ruins.

Pringle’s fascinating narrative is as clear as the ice he writes about. Readers will be amazed at the effort it took to bring the frozen commodity to their homes. Photographs, painted postcards, and vintage ice card signs bring a century-old industry to life.


WRIGHT, Johanna. Bunnies on Ice. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter. 2013. ISBN 9781596434042. JLG Level: K : Kindergarten (Grades PreK–K).

Time passes slowly when a champion ice-skater waits for winter to arrive. With a Christmas Eve-like feeling, an excited bunny runs with skates-in-hand to wake her parents for the first big circle around the ice. With scores of fans watching, bunny practices figure eights, leaps in the air, and pirouettes. Wright uses simple sentences to slow the pace of a beautifully illustrated family story. Heavily-textured oils on canvas flow across double-page spreads, allowing the reader time to examine the family’s activities. Humor is scattered throughout the story. The family “eats a balanced diet” while they roast marshmallows in the fire. Muscles are kept loose while playing in a bubble bath. A ballerina-skirted scarecrow looms over the family tending the garden. A perfect combination of art, humor, warmth, and text create a Caldecott-worthy read aloud.

For ideas about how to use these books and links to supportive sites, check out the Junior Library Guild blog, Shelf Life.

Junior Library Guild is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, Junior Library Guild book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit us at www.JuniorLibraryGuild.com.

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Deborah B. Ford About Deborah B. Ford

Deborah is the Director of Library Outreach for Junior Library Guild. She is an award-winning teacher librarian with almost 30 years of experience as a classroom teacher and librarian in K–12 schools.



  1. I’m delighted to see my book (ICE! The Amazing History of the Ice Business)
    in On the Radar. However, in an otherwise excellent review, there are two
    errors. The review states that Frederic Tudor “lived on a pond in New York.”
    The book clearly states that he lived and worked in the Boston area, and I’d
    hate for historians and Massachusetts residents to believe that I have
    such a basic fact wrong about “the father of the ice industry.”

    Also, the review states that “railroads were quickly built” to get ice to NYC.
    Not such thing happened. The book goes into great detail, with numerous
    illustrations, about how ice was moved from lake to river (on tracks but not
    on a real railroad) and transported down the Hudson River via ships and barges.
    When railroads eventually were built to reach Rockland Lake, they weren’t
    carrying ice to NYC.

    I hope it is still possible to correct these two factual errors in the review.