Some would say I’m a “true Minnesotan”; for me, the more snow, the better. This winter, though, Minnesota is experiencing bare trees and brown grass, with no snow in the foreseeable future. If I can’t enjoy the winter weather outside my window, I can at least find it in the books I read. (Isn’t that a wonderful thing about reading?) The winter books are endless, but the following are five lesser-known picture book favorites:
This lovely picture book is one I grew up with. Every winter, my family would hold its own Night Tree by gathering with friends, reading Bunting’s book, and decorating trees with fruit-slice ornaments and strings of Cheerios. The story is an intimate one about a family traveling to Luke’s Forest the night before Christmas to decorate trees for animals. Focusing on this moment helps readers feel like they are right there with the family. The story sparked a tradition in my family, and it just may do so in yours, too.
Messner takes a look at winter animals in her nonfiction story. As a young child skis over the snow with her dad, she thinks about the creatures that live underneath their feet. The rhythmic ping-pong effect of comparing what’s over and under the snow gives a predictable structure for young readers. Children will also love to discover what happens to creatures when the world is covered by its winter blanket. An author’s note in the back furthers children’s curiosity by discussing each creature represented in the story in more detail.
Using a theme similar to Over and Under the Snow, Sidman writes about winter creatures. In this collection of poems, Sidman’s language, coupled with Rick Allen’s intricate print illustrations, makes this a picture book you can’t miss. She draws you into her book right away, writing: “Dusk fell / and the cold came creeping, / came prickling into our hearts . . .” Seriously, if that doesn’t help a reader envision a wintery scene, I don’t know what will!
This charming narrative describes the journey of two Ojibway sisters venturing out to see the Northern Lights — the “SkySpirits” — on a snowy winter night. The sisters are eager to see the SkySpirits, but first must learn to follow their grandmother’s words: Wisdom comes on silent wings. With Ojibway words scattered throughout the text, it gives readers an important look at present-day Ojibway life. Readers will enjoy traveling along with the sisters on their wintery journey.
This last book takes the reader to the East Coast blizzard of 1978. Rocco recounts his memories of the blizzard — from getting out of school early, to climbing out his upper-story window because the front door to his house was buried under mounds of snow. The playful illustrations help set the excitement of the snowfall while the narrative builds the stress of the missing snowplows. One can’t help but wish for a snow day after reading this story!
Whether you wish winter would greet you at your front door or prefer to read about it between the pages of a book, these winter reads will set the mood for the season.
Emily Kilgore is pursuing her Master’s Degree in Children’s Literature from Penn State World Campus. She is an elementary school teacher in North St. Paul, Minnesota.