Saturday, January 24, 2009

It's Snow Amazing!

While this 30 degree weather might feel a bit like a heat wave, now is the time to enjoy snow -- in a book! Here are our top picks of picture books, chapter books, and non-fiction for reading with a cozy blanket and cup of hot chocolate.

Our book buyer, Donna, is a big fan of the preschool-age picture book Footprints in the Snow by Mei Matsuoka, an adorable story about Mr. Wolf, who is frustrated by the portrayal of wolves as mean in storybooks. He sets out to write a true story of a nice wolf, and finds out most animals don't trust his niceness, and maybe with good reason! Observant readers will enjoy finding Mr. Nice Wolf's pencil "writing" this circular story within a story, and this particular reader got a little gleeful, mischievous sense of foreboding when the "Nice" disappeared from Mr. Wolf's name...But breathe easy, little readers, Matsuoka, like Liwska's Little Panda, lowers the potential scary factor with adorable cartoony scenes.

Addis Berner Bear Forgets by Joel Stewart is another new wintry animal picture book, but with a more traditional storyline. Addis Berner Bear goes to the city in the winter, and is so overwhelmed with all the loud and fast things, some scary, some exciting, that he forgets what he has come there for. It takes a friend and some creativity to find his way again, but once he does, he won't ever forget. The warm watercolor and ink illustrations reveal hints, carrying the spare text through multiple rereadings.

I'm hard pressed to pick just one penguin book, especially with our whole penguin window display to choose from, but Antoinette Portis's (remember Not a Box?) brand spanking new title A Penguin Story is also a wonderful tale about curiosity and individuality, in addition to featuring lots of skinny-legged penguins! (Skinny-legged animals is a phenomenon we will analyze someday.) In the land of snow and water, Edna is looking for something else, something more than black, blue, or white. Once she finds this "something else," all the penguins are intrigued in their own ways, and Edna changes her quest to What else could there be? I just love the endpapers in this, too, so simple and clever.

In terms of classics, no kid venturing into the winter wonderland could do without Ezra Jack Keats's Caldecott winner, The Snowy Day, about a little boy and the magic of the first snow. For a well-rounded gift, we carry a plush Peter doll, which was described in this post. Robert Munsch's Thomas' Snowsuit is a sillier story about a boy who just does not want to wear his snowsuit, and all the kerfuffle that the grownups get into trying to get him in it. Elementary schoolers will laugh loads to see the teacher and principal in one another's clothes.

Snow Amazing: Cool Facts and Warm Tales by Jane Drake and Ann Love is the epitome of winter-themed non-fiction. This book for 8 to 10-year-olds has it all, from facts about weather, ecology, and animals to legends and mini-biographies about famous scientists and artists fixated on snow. Sound like a lot? Humor, brevity and a mix of photographs and illustrations keep this book from mind-numbing fact-overload, great for attention spans of all lengths.

The incredibly gorgeous edition of Robert Frost's poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening illustrated by Susan Jeffers will appeal to poetry and animal lovers alike. The selectively colored illustrations add another layer of narrative to this quintessential American poem.

Down in the chapter book room, another Donna favorite has pride of place in the winter display: Moominland Midwinter. The Moomintroll series, by Finnish author and illustrator Tove Jansson, have been described by previous George staffers as "quirkier Winnie the Pooh." In this seasonal choice, Moomintroll wakes up from his hibernation to discover a strange white stuff coating the world, and decides to investigate this audacious thing, Winter.

Last year's Printz award winner, The White Darkness (ages 12 and up), by Geraldine McCaughrean, has just come out in paperback. This breathtaking adventure tale centers on Sym, in love with all things Antarctica, especially Captain Oates of a doomed South Pole expedition, journeying into that dangerous wilderness with her uncle. Far from civilizations, Sym must survive the challenges of ferocious frozen land as well as the frailty and deception of human nature.

On a lighter, and much pinker note, Jennifer and Matthew Holm's graphic novel Babymouse: Skater Girl (ages 6 and up) serves up yet another fun and daydream-filled episode in Babymouse's messy-whiskered life. Babymouse loves skating on the pond with Wilson Weasel so much that she signs up for ice skating lessons, with dreams of a trophy dancing in her head. But the lessons may be more than she's bargained for--can Babymouse give up cupcakes for first place?

In addition to books, we have snow-related merchandise! Our ear bands and mittens from Russ's Snowy Day collection feature chubby polar bear and penguin faces on blue and green pastel fleece--perfect for those Peter-like romps out in the snow. Once you and your munchkins are bundled appropriately, try out Best of Best's Sno Art: crayon-shaped tubes that spray colors to paint in the snow. They come individually in a range of colors, or a boxed set. Or, if you'd prefer to stay inside, test out some of the delicious recipes from our wide array of cookbooks. Renowned chef Paula Deen has recently come out with My First Cookbook, with recipes ranging in complexity from applewiches and ants on a log to porcupine balls and peanut butter cookies. Rae Grant's Cooking Fun may require more adult supervision and assistance, but with an old-fashioned design and recipes for tasty treats such as summer berry fruit cups and quick & thick barbecued drumsticks, this cookbook is perfect for the committed child cook.

And, since it's just not a round-up post without Sandra Boynton, head over here for Davy Jones of the Monkees singing "Your Personal Penguin," and other Boynton musical numbers. See, you can never have just one penguin per snow day!

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