After dumping more than a foot of snow in a 12-hour period, the blizzard we Minnesotans endured last year went into the books as the biggest snowstorm in seven years. Travel was almost completely halted and schools closed early, but lots of folks rejoiced heartily as they shoveled. Snow! Northerners seem to find plenty of ways to take advantage of the snow and ice. Downhill skiing, ice skating, ice fishing, sledding, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing all help fill our long winters with merriment and outdoor exercise.
As amusing as those activities are, though, my favorite winter pastime is admiring the bright snow outside while reading aloud indoors. Ideally, I am reading beside a crackling fire, snuggled under a cozy blanket and within arm’s reach of a steamy cup of hot tea. Or hot chocolate.
Admiring the magically snowy landscapes in beautifully illustrated picture books helps me keep my eyes open to the wonder of God’s wintry creation just outside my front door. And somehow it helps me resist the temptation to grumble about my nose and toes being cold or about how quickly the mudroom floor is filling up with boot tracks and soggy mittens.
Whether you are fighting the winter blues or just feeling annoyed with the zipper that keeps getting stuck on your 4-year-old’s coat, here are five newer picture books about winter that may cheer you up a bit.
Waiting for Winter by Sebastian Meschenmoser is laugh-out-loud funny. The illustrations are clever and induce lots of giggles, and the concise text relays the story about a squirrel, a hedgehog, and a bear who are eagerly awaiting winter’s arrival. Meschenmoser’s book Mr. Squirrel and the Moon is also quite humorous, and I am looking forward to reading It’s Springtime, Mr. Squirrel, which comes out next month. Also, I am mesmerized by the enchanting watercolor and oil painting illustrations Meschenmoser created for the recently published version of Kenneth Grahame’s classic The Wind in the Willows.
In First Snow by Bomi Park, striking black and white illustrations – with just the right amount of bold red splashed in for a dramatic effect – capture the colorlessness of winter so creatively. The result is magical, and the story itself is sweet. Featuring very simple text, this is an ideal book for some beginning readers to try reading aloud to mom or dad.
Kate Messner’s Over and Under the Snow offers a fascinating nature study about the “secret kingdom under the snow” while intertwining the story of a father-daughter cross-country ski adventure. The author keeps the story rather brief as she alternates between what is happening over the snow and what is going on under the snow. The nature and animal illustrations are done well, but the somewhat flat illustrations of the father and daughter left me slightly disappointed in the artwork.
Similar to First Snow, the illustrations in The Tea Party in the Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi masterfully use splashes of red and yellow to brighten the black and white artwork in this imaginative tale. The story captured my affection with the woodland creatures serving tea, and the beginning reminds me of Brave Irene by William Steig, another favorite of mine.
How delightful to read (or sing!) Walking in a Winter Wonderland is a book with such charming illustrations by Tim Hopgood. Don’t worry; the text of this giant picture book stays true to the lyrics of the classic song we all know as sung by Peggy Lee and composed by Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith. Even if your littlest listeners don’t yet know the song, this is a fantastic way to introduce it. And when winter is over, check out Hopgood’s work in other equally delightful song-turned-into-picture-books: Singing in the Rain and What a Wonderful World.