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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Great Children's Books About Winter

Now that winter has hit full force in some areas (ALABAMA got snow over the holidays?!?!!), I thought I'd share with y'all some of my favorite picture books about the winter season. This time I tried to also include some "story stretcher" ideas to expand the fun. And never fear if y'all live in a more temperate climate, with little to no chance of snow, because tomorrow I'll post a list of wintery books that do NOT focus on the white stuff the Tongginator so dreads.

(And my apologies to all of the folks down-under. Hopefully this list will help y'all out in another five or six months.)

Girl From The Snow Country by Masako Hidaka. This book's delicate watercolor illustrations and Asian setting won me over. Mi-chan, a little girl who lives in Northern Japan, spends the day searching for something to use as the eyes of the snow bunnies she just created. During her search, she kindly sweeps snow off the stone statue of Jizo, Buddhist protector of children and travelers. After a kind seller in the marketplace gives her bright red berries to use, Mi-chan's mother tells her that Jizu helped her find what she wanted. To stretch this story, try mixing things up by making snow bunnies rather than snowmen. And if you have a globe, be sure to check out where the story takes place, then ask, "is it far away or nearby?" As Christians, the Tongginator and I also discuss Jizo, and religious beliefs different from our own.

The Hat by Jan Brett. Jan Brett is famous for her many winter-themed picture books. Everyone seems to know The Mitten, so I thought I'd highlight one of my other Brett favorites. The story begins when Lisa's red and white woolen stocking cap blows off the clothesline, Hedgie finds it and sticks his nose inside, only to discover his prickles prevent him from pulling out of it. Soon all the farm animals are coming around to chuckle at silly Hedgie's hat. In the end, though, Hedge has the last laugh! After reading the story, be sure to check out the author's free activities page. You'll find a ton of fun things to do that reinforce the story. The Tongginator would highly recommend baking these hedgehog cookies after reading the story. Shocking, I know.

In The Snow by Huy Voun Lee. This snow book is perfect if you are at all interested in teaching your child about Chinese characters. As Xiao Ming and his mother enjoy a walk on a cold winter day, the fresh snow - white and smooth as paper - inspires an educational game. Mother uses a stick to write characters in the snow while Xiao Ming guesses at their meanings. After you finish reading this book, be sure to give your child the opportunity to copy some of the characters shown in the book, including the character for "snow."

The Jacket I Wear in the Snow by Shirley Neitzel. I loved reading this book with my preschool class every year! It's repetitive text builds upon itself much like the favorite House That Jack Built with lines such as "this is the scarf, wooly and red, that's caught in the zipper that's stuck on the jacket I wear." A very fun story stretcher would be to have your child "practice" putting on/ zipping up/ winter-specific clothing just like the character in the book while you read along. Clever rebuses and jaunty illustrations will probably ensure that your child reads along as well.

Millions of Snowflakes by Mary McKenna Siddals. Great for older babies and toddlers, this book, with its simple text and gorgeous pastel illustrations, sparks playful exploration and encourages young children to identify familiar wintery items such as boots and scarves while also teaching counting one through five. It even teaches young children how to make snow angels, so be prepared to lay down in the snow after reading this book!

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen. Set the mood for this Caldecott winner by lowering the lights and encouraging extreme quiet. Read the book slowly, with great suspense. Allow the children to whisper along with the thoughts of the child, "sometimes there's an owl and sometimes there isn't." Afterward, encourage your children to reenact the story by giving them flashlights and scarves, and showing them how to pretend to open a squeaky door, trudge through the snow and listen carefully for the great horned owl.

The Polar Bear Son: An Inuit Tale by Lydia Dabcovich. A whimsical tale in which an old Inuit woman adopts an orphan polar bear cub that provides food for her as it grows up. When the men of the village grow jealous of the animal's superior hunting ability and decide to kill it, she sends it away, but fcor years afterward, she continues to walk far out on the ice to see her bear again. This is a great opportunity to teach your child more about the Inuit (often called Eskimo) people. Read an informational book about the Inuit Nation. You could even learn how to play some Inuit games, such as the very easy Iglagunerk, an Inuit laughing game. Basically, partners face one another, usually holding hands, trying to laugh harder and longer than any other team. It's a fun way to break the snowed-in blues.

Snowballs by Lois Ehlert. I just love Ehlert's paper-collage and found-object style illustrations, this time about a snow family (including! pets!). Each snow person is created with snow and delicious tasting tidbits for the local birds. You can stretch this learning experience by later creating a bird feeder in a snow sculpture, on a pine cone or by simply stringing fruit on a thread. You can also expand the story by providing your child with found-objects so that they can make their own collages. Older children will also have fun trying to spot the found-object items used in the illustration that are listed in the back of the book, "Where's Waldo?" style.

Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin. This absolutely beautiful biography about Wilson A. Bentley won the Caldecott Medal in 1999. More suitable for elementary-aged children, it tells the tale a Vermont farm boy absolutely fascinated with snowflakes and ice crystals, who later grew up to become a leading snowflake scientist, most especially through his work with microphotography. It sounds like a complicated story, but I promise that the truly lyrical text can enthrall even the youngest of elementary school students, while still engaging older students with the more detailed sidebars. Think about heading out to take photographs of the snow soon after reading Snowflake Bentley and DEFINITELY create some paper snowflakes.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. This is a perfect book for a surprise overnight snowstorm. Peter embraces the unexpected snowstorm by making patterns as he walks, building a snowman, creating snow angels and saving a few treasured snowballs in his pocket before heading home to a warm house. After reading the story, y'all can perform a very simple science experiment. Pack four snowballs, place them each in a different bowl, and have the children select different spots inside the house that they believe are cold, cool, warm and hot. (Be sure to casually mention the freezer and refrigerator as options.) As the day progresses, continue checking on the snowballs to see how fast each one melts, just as the snowball melted in Peter's pocket.

Stranger in the Woods by Carl R. Sams. Forest animals, awakened by the birds' warning that there is a stranger in the woods, set out to discover if there is danger and find, instead, a wonderful surprise. The bluejays, owls, chickadees, squirrels, porcupines, rabbits, field mice, cardinals - and, yes, children are all captured on film - checking out the surprise snowman. But the most endearing creatures are the deer, who come to investigate, and eat the carrot nose. If you love photography, you will love this book. And to stretch this story, run outside and make a snowman. It's the perfect time!

White Snow, Bright Snow by Alvin Tresselt. This Caldecott winner is a favorite many parents remember from their own childhoods. Enjoy the walk down memory lane with your child, then stretch the fun! Lay down some white cotton batting to mimic the snow and pull out the blocks. Have your children use their wooden blocks, cars and trucks to create a village just like the one found in the story. Then let them stretch out cotton balls on top of their "buildings" to mimic the snowy rooftops. Keep checking their creations and the book illustrations to see if they "match up."

And for more fun snow activities, check out the article Snow Activities: Let Children Explore the Wonders of Weather by Karen Stephens at Parenting Exchange.


Kim K. said...

We received a gift certificate to a book store for Christmas. A few of your books are just gorgeous. I think I know where I'm spending some of my money. Thanks for the ideas.

Aus said...

The Hat is an absolute fav in our house - it's gone 6 for 6 with our kids!

hugs - aus and co.

Anonymous said...

Lovely choices! Owl Moon looks particularly inviting to me!

Read Aloud Dad


Anonymous said...

For younger children, there are board books based on Stranger in the Woods - we have Winter Friends and When Snowflakes Fall, and our toddler and preschooler both love them!

We've read The Hat so much as a bedtime story that the preschooler can recite the entire thing by heart, and we had to switch to The Mitten just to give us a break! LOVE Jan Brett! I didn't know that there were activities to go along with her stories; I'll definitely be checking them out!

Patricia/NYC said...

Wonderful list, TM! Thanks for putting it together! :)

I am about to order "In the Snow" right now based on your recommendation.

Juli said...

Great list! I know Jane Yolen very tangentially. "Owl Moon" was written about her husband. She has a couple of photos you might like on her bio page http://janeyolen.com/biography/ .

Rebekah said...

I love your book lists! I just used your list about Chinese New Year books and ordered quite a few for our household. We are very happy with them!

Debbie said...

Jan Brett's books are so delightful! I always loved those.

Mary McKenna Siddals said...

Thanks for including Millions of Snowflakes in this delightful roundup of winter-themed picture books! Readers might also enjoy exploring some of the book's activities found on my website at http://www.siddals.com/millions-of-snowflakes.html

With warm wishes for a flurry of winter fun...
Mary McKenna Siddals

Carla said...

My budget doesn't thank you, but I do! I can totally see the girls wanting to make snow bunnies too. :)

Beth said...

Thanks for the list!

One of my favorite websites to share with students after reading Snowflake Bentley is Make a Flake at http://snowflakes.barkleyus.com/

Wendy said...

Great list. I also love The Mitten, Snowmen at Night, All You Need for a Snowman, and The Three Snow Bears.

Annie said...

I love Stranger in the Woods but I cannot wait to read In The Snow and The Polar Bear Son makes me cry just reading what you wrote about it!!!! LOL! They all sound great!

Anne said...

Have you seen the short Stranger in the Woods video? So super dorky that it's awesome. Hoooot!