Having grown up in Minnesota, many of my fondest memories took place when snow lay on the ground. As an adult it can be difficult to embrace such inclement weather. As winter lingers, it helps to remember the perspective of a child.
Snowy days meant sledding. After sledding: hot cocoa. Along with cocoa, a story. Here are a few book suggestions for the remaining winter days:
The Snowy Day (Ezra Jack Keats)
This book, published in 1962, endures as a favorite because it is refreshingly simple. The illustrations are nice and big and vivid. While the protagonist lives in an urban setting, he experiences his snowy day in a way that speaks to any kid in any part of the country.
As for grown-ups, we recall being small ourselves, not quite big enough to have a snowball fight with the older kids. We feel the sadness a child feels when his snowball melts before its time… and we remember when “more snow” meant “more time to play”.
I asked my 8 year old son what he likes about the book. He answered, “It’s regular, like what a normal person would do… wake up, pretend he’s a mountain climber, make snow angels.. all the stuff you would usually do.”
As a mother I loved this simple detail: “He told his mother all about his adventures while she took off his wet socks.” On the next page we see an earnest little boy just sitting in his tub, pondering his big day. What a nice day, from beginning to end.
The Hat (Jan Brett)
Jan Brett has a large and loyal following, due to her skilled artistry and her likable layouts. In most books, there is a small inlay which hints at the action of the next page. Kids love this artistic device. As a parent, I have never found a Brett book my kids did not enjoy.
This winter, a good and silly story is The Hat. A tiny hedgehog gets a woolen stocking stuck on his head. He endures the mockery of a host of barnyard animals, until a kind farm girl helps him out of the embarrassing “hat”.
Set in Denmark, the illustrations in this book pay homage to Danish craft styles and it is beautiful to view.
Red Sled (Lita Judge)
We see a red sled leaning against a small cabin in the wilderness. One by one, a collection of wild animals join in for a night-time sled ride. At one point, a child in a red stocking cap notices some mysterious animal tracks. An adventure ensues.
The Red Sled is a book with very few words. As the sled bounces down a bumpy slope, we read: “Gadung, Gadung, Gadung, Gadung”. Down a smooth slope, the sled says “sssssffft”. With sounds such as these, author/illustrator Lita Judge (born in Alaska) expertly captures the joy of sledding.
Flora and the Penquin (Molly Idle)
This is a book about a little girl, in a puffy snow suit, who ice skates with a penguin. It is a book without words. My five year old suggested we use markers to write on the ample white spaces. I reminded her that this a library book.
Curled up with the book, my daughter made up a story as we went along. In her voice, was all the expression of a thoughtful librarian. Verbally, there was plenty of color added to the icy-white background. I think the illustrator achieved what she intended all along.
Molly Idle produced a sweet book that invites a five year old child to “write” her own story.
Beyond these short, visual books, a nice collection of poetry is fitting.
A Child’s Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson, includes verse especially suited for February. (Almost every illustrator has handled this book well, so the library has plenty of good options.)
With your child or grandchild, you can read this apropos poem:
Picture Books in Winter
Summer fading, winter comes —
Frosty mornings, tingling thumbs,
Window robins, winter rooks,
And the picture story-books.
Water now is turned to stone
Nurse and I can walk upon;
Still we find the flowing brooks
In the picture story-books…