As much as we adults might hate to drive in icy weather, we have to admit there's something magical about a wintry landscape. As a librarian, seasonal storytimes are some of my favorites, and luckily for book consumers, several absolutely excellent picture books about winter have been published in the last year. Take a look at these eleven new books that are perfect to teach kids about snow, hibernation, winter animals, and winter sports, or just to revel together in the brilliance of a glorious season.
Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen
If this writing is the first you've heard of Joyce Sidman then put your computer or mobile phone down and run, don't walk, to the nearest library and check out everything she's published. She's won a prestigious Newbery Honor and been given the Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. What's more important, though, is that kids love her books. He poetry is moving, gorgeous, and often a lot of fun. In Winter Bees she writes about a snowy, cold world of animals, weather and plants. Through poems like Snowflake Wakes, which starts like this: Snowflake wakes/whirling,/arms outstretched,/lace sprouting from fingertips ... kids learn about the tundra swan, bees, beavers, a vole, chickadees, trees in winter, skunk cabbages, melting snow, and more. Each poem is complimented by a two-page spread of art made from hand-cut, inked, and printed linoleum blocks, which are then digitally layered. And after each poem, comes factual information about the topic. The result is something like this:
Breathtaking, isn't it? The perfect marriage of the beauty of art and poetry and the magic of the natural world. Do not let your favorite seven to 11 year old miss this one!
Blizzard by John Rocco
Rocco won a Caldecott Honor for an earlier picture book, but I think his latest effort is even better. Maybe you remember the Blizzard of 1978? In my home state of Kentucky, where we aren't ready for giant snows, school was out for three entire weeks! Rocco grew up in Rhode Island and recounts his experiences during the storm. After four days of no snowplow arriving to dig his family out, a young John heads out on foot to the local market, because he's light enough to actually walk on the 40 inches (40 inches!) of snow that's fallen. Rocco paints a winter wonderland with watercolor, pencil, and digital art. It's a story of childhood ingenuity that kids five to nine years old will enjoy.
Sleepover with Beatrice and Bear by Monica Carnesi
This sweet picture book, published last August, got into my hands too late in the year to review in one of my best of 2014 round-ups. Had I seen it earlier, it would have certainly been included! Beatrice (a rabbit) and Bear are friends, but when it comes time to hibernate, Beatrice learns that she just isn't cut out for ultra-long napping, How she works her way around missing a few months with bear and their adorable reunion make for a lovely picture book for kids ages three to seven.
First Snow by Peter McCarty
I fell in love with Peter McCarty's work when he published the Caldecott Honor winner Hondo and Fabian, and again with Chloe. His animal characters are a sublime mix of endearing and cuddly. In this tale, Pedro visits from out of town and has never experienced snow. He has to be convinced to do so by his cousins. Pedro keeps repeating, "It is cold," while the others energetically and humorously cajole him to try something new. A tale that works on two levels, as it covers both new experiences/overcoming fear, plus celebrates the joy of outdoor play. Perfect for kids ages three to seven.
Earmuffs for Everyone was just published this month and has received multiple starred reviews. McCarthy takes kids on a journey in which they see how earmuffs were improved upon over many years, until they were finally patented in 1873 by an inventor from Maine. Kids learn about the patent process, which is helpful in teaching them what it means to truly "invent" something, by teasing out the difference between conceiving of an idea and making changes to one that already exists. It also has cartoonish illustrations and a humorous tone which make it appealing to kids ages six to 10.
Supertruck by Stephen Savage
Like Earmuffs for Everyone and First Snow, Supertruck just hit bookshelves in January 2015. Savage melds two uber-popular picture book genres together -- vehicles and superheroes. Supertruck might be a regular old garbage truck by day, but after the sun sets and a blizzard hits, he transforms into a hero who removes piles of snow, only to disappear into the shadows come morning. Supertruck has garnered a bunch of starred reviews and is just right for the two to six year old set.
Flora and the Penguin by Molly Idle
Last September, Idle followed her Caldecott Honor-winning debut Flora and the Flamingo, with the second wordless picture book of Flora's adventures. This time, a penguin teaches Flora how to ice skate. Idle, a Disney animator, uses shades of blue and white to create a wintery landscape, along with flaps and pages that unfold in several directions to reveal Flora's progress. Flora's adventures are whimsical, and Idle has achieved no easy feat -- she creates still images so full of life it's hard to believe the medium isn't moving. Perfect for kids (and adults!) of any age.
Finding Spring by Carin Berger
I'm super excited about this brand new picture book, which will be released January 27. The paper collage work leaps off the page, as you can see here:
Finding Spring is a story of two seasons, as Maurice, a bear cub, is so eager for spring to come he leaves his mama hibernating and goes out in search of it -- a little too early. This is a story about waiting, hoping, and ultimately, about joy, which would be wonderful to share with kids ages three to seven.
Outside by Deirdre Gill
Journey with a young boy who leaves the boring world of the boob tube to encounter a wintry landscape that inspires him to imagine. He encounters a snow creature that comes alive, a giant snow castle, and even a dragon. Gill's oil paintings demonstrate how a magnificent snowfall can become a blank canvas for creativity and play. With very sparse text, this book would be enjoyed by kids ages three to seven.
Peter Loves Penguin by David McPhail
McPhail has been producing award-winning picture books for thirty years. He hasn't lost his touch with this latest series of board books, each of which features a small child and her/his adventures with a favorite stuffed toy. Peter and Penguin venture out into the snow to enjoy playtime together, and warm back up inside with some cocoa. These board books work for children from about 18 months to four years old.
Fox's Garden by Princesse Camcam
A fox seeks shelter in winter, but is chased away by adults. She finds a resting place in an unused greenhouse, and a young boy brings the fox and her newborn cubs some food. To repay this act of generosity, the fox plants a magic garden in the boy's bedroom. This mystical, wordless tale can be shared with very young toddlers, but also used with older elementary kids because of its themes of giving and the impact of small kindnesses. The French author's illustrations, which are composed of cut paper that is lit and photographed, are mesmerizingly magical.
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