Back from the beach?
Now let’s embrace the cold . . .

h1 December 9th, 2006 by jules

Yes, you’ve been to the beach-in-your-mind in order to avoid the bitter cold. But, we can’t deny it for that long, my friends. Time to embrace it, whether you want to or not. And, at least here in the South, we’re still crying, let it snow! . . . And so as we prepare for the snow-we-hope-we-get, we can kick back with our hot cocoa and read these new, snow-covered picture book titles. These are just a couple, a start for now. But please do add titles (new, such as these, or even some of your older favorites) in the comments section, should you feel so inclined . . .

snowsounds.gifSnow Sounds: An Onomatopoeic Story by David A. Johnson; published by Houghton Mifflin — It’s night time, the snow is falling silently, and a young boy snores in his bed with his cat purring at his feet. As the boy wakes and the day begins, we hear a swoosh, a slush, a smoosh and a crash, a crush, and a clank. As the sub-title of this one indicates, these busy sounds are the only words in the book, accompanied by David A. Johnson’s dreamy watercolors. With just a beep here, a flush there, a glug behind us, and a scoop and scrape ahead, the narrative unfolds — it’s simply the morning-in-the-life of a young boy and his rush to the bus with a gift in hand. Ooh, holiday party! A school one? Who will the lucky recipient of this gift be — his teacher? Another student? Johnson leaves it to the reader to decide. Johnson’s mostly blue-hued ink and watercolor illustrations — giving us some soaring exterior aerial perspectives of the boy’s home on several double page spreads — glow subtly and with a hush, just as the few lights reflected in the snow on the magical night depicted in the story. And, with each turn of the page, the hues brighten, as the day forges ahead. Alternating between the cozy, warm inside and the boy’s start to his day and the frigid outside and the city’s start to the day with its whooshing and chugging snow equipment, Johnson warmly invites children to play with language, to appreciate the poetry of words that imitate sound. And Johnson merges both text and art to play with the sounds, their intensity, and their movement: the cat’s purr is grey, printed small, curled up next to the cat itself; yet, the vroom of the boy’s school bus, as it drives away, is bigger, brighter, and sweeps across the road, almost as if exhaust plumes behind the vehicle. There is much imagination at work here in this perfect winter-time read, no matter in what climate you live or what age you are.

winter-is-the-warmest-season.gifWinter is the Warmest Season by Lauren Stringer; published by Harcourt Children’s BooksLauren Stringer, one of my favorite illustrators, is here to demonstrate with her rich and brightly-hued acrylic art work that, of all the seasons, winter is the warmest. Yes, the warmest, what with the fires in the fireplaces; candles in candleplaces; cats in your lap; cocoa in your cup; and “sleeping radiators {that} awake to their dragon selves, banging and hissing and pouring heat all through my house.” Don’t forget pajamas that “grow big warm feet” and the bed — oh, this bed! — piled high with quilts and blankets and pillows. What a delicious double page spread! I want to jump into this bed. Stringer always impresses, never shies from a bold paint stroke and vibrant colors and strong swirls and curves that paint a detailed picture, that tell a story that draws you in. She’s particularly good at cozy (see her other tribute to home in 2001’s Castles, Caves, and Honeycombs, written by Linda Ashman). And Stringer further emphasizes winter’s joys by sometimes juxtaposing memories of summer with the delights of winter on one spread (“{w}hen winter comes, my iced summer’s milk turns to hot chocolate. Cold jelly sandwiches turn into grilled cheeses”}. This is not only a good bed-time book, but it is another nearly flawless winter-time read — preferably with your cat in your lap, your cocoa in hand, and your favorite book to be read with your favorite person(s), since “{i}n winter, bodies sit closer, books last longer, and hugs squeeze the warmest.” I get cold in 70-degree weather and, apparently, have no blood; this book resonates with me. I’m always warmer in the winter but have to make sure I have a sweater with me at all times in the summer, during which folks find it necessary to keep the interiors of buildings at below-zero temps, but I digress. This is, apparently, Stringer’s first attempt at writing text to accompany her illustrations, and it’s well-executed. Let’s hope this isn’t her last.

All this talk of cozy beds with quilts piled on top . . . good night for now, and sweet, warm dreams to you.

2 comments to “Back from the beach?
Now let’s embrace the cold . . .”

  1. Ooh, yay! Thanks, Julie! I haven’t seen Snow Sounds yet, I’ll go look for it.

    Since you ask… I also love The First Day of Winter by Denise Fleming – it’s a cute twist on the “First Day of Christmas” song, with a boy giving his snowman a new decorative element every day.

    Snow Music by Lynne Rae Perkins is another good onomatopoeic story, with gorgeous illustrations.

    But my two favorite snow books of all time are The Snowy Day by Keats (of course, who doesn’t have this on their favorites list – I mean, it just never fails to make me and the kids I read it to happy) and Snowballs by Lois Ehlert.

  2. I’m always partial every year to Shulevitz’s classic, Snow. And, yes, isn’t it a wondrous thing to read Keats’ Snowy Day to a group of young children? Might be cheesy to say, but it’s an honor. Really, it is. That book will hush even the rowdiest group. Absolute perfection.

    I think I’m going to do a post soon on two re-discovered Christmas picture book classics that I’ve been enjoying all week. My apologies to those who don’t celebrate Christmas, but I just hafta . . . these books are so great. More to come, but thanks for contributing your favorite snow titles.

    Oh, and I LOVE LYNNE RAE PERKINS. She can do no wrong. Thanks for mentioning that one.

Leave a Comment

Should you have trouble posting, please contact Thanks.