Snow! – Library Builders

My family does not live in a snowy climate.  In fact, though I’ve lived within about 20 miles of where I currently live my entire life (of half a century or so), I can remember having snow that “stuck” only twice.  My children, therefore, are really not acquainted with snow, or what living in a snowy climate is like.  I chose these five books to read aloud to my children, and grandchildren, this year, all centering around the “snow” theme.  Though being an award winner wasn’t part of my criteria, all five of these books are either Caldecott Medal winners or are Caldecott Honor books.

These books are all terrific read alouds for all ages, including the very young.  Independent reading level varies, but all are wonderful books for all ages!  The books are listed here in no particular order.

The Big Snow, story and pictures by Berta and Elmer Hader.  This book, winner of the Caldecott Medal in 1949, is not only beautifully illustrated, but beautifully told.  The story begins with the animals of the woodland taking notice of the geese flying south.  All of the animals are beautifully, and quite realistically, illustrated.  As each of the woodland creatures, from various species of birds, to several species of small rodents, to the white tail deer, make their preparations for the coming winter, the author tells us of their needs for food and shelter in a charming, from the animals, point of view.  With this in mind, this book is a wonderful one to use as part of your nature study, as well.  As winter comes and “the big snow” falls, an elderly couple living in a stone house nearby, scatter seeds, nuts and even hay for the animals of the woods to enjoy.  The lovely illustrations are a nice mix of black and white, as well as beautiful, full color double page pictures.

Just one year earlier, in 1948, White Snow Bright Snow, won the Caldecott Medal.  This book, written by Alvin Tresselt, and illustrated by Roger Duvoisin, is a colorful look at how the winter snows alter the lives of four folks – the postman, the policeman and his wife, and the farmer.  Each is shown going about his duty before the snow, during the snows and after the snow.  Oh, I make it sound dreary, but it is actually quite sweet.  For example, the day it feels like snow finds the policeman’s wife checking her medicine chest for cough syrup.  Once her husband has come home from working in the snow she administers a mustard plaster to his chest, and then knits by his bedside as he recovers from his chill.  As spring approaches, she is found digging and working in her garden.  The illustrations are so simple, yet elegant in their simplicity, with the muted grays of winter skies, interspersed with the bright reds and yellows of the houses, coats and cars.  The charming, vintage illustrations tell this story as well as the words do.

Owl Moon brings back precious memories to me of my early days as a homeschooling mom.  This book’s illustrator, John Schoenherr, won the Caldecott Medal in 1988 for his work on this story by Jane Yolen.  I began homeschooling my girls in the fall of 1989, and this book was a top seller that year.  I can remember reading it several times to Dani, and I know that it came home in our library book bags many, many times over the years.  I’m so glad that we have a copy of our own now!  The story is of a young girl who is finally old enough to accompany her father out on a cold, moonlit, winter’s night to go owling.  She dutifully remembers all of the things she’s been told about owling – being quiet, being brave, not minding the cold.  The author’s words give us all the information we need to feel like we are right there on the bright white winter night with this father and daughter, trudging through the snow in search of an owl.  The way exposed skin can feel icy and hot at the same time.  The way the forest trees cast shadows on the snow.  And most importantly, the way the brief time that their hoped for owl is seen seems to stretch out for an eternity.

Snow, by Uri Shulevitz, was a Caldecott Honor winner in 1999.  The text is simple and the words are few.  A young boy is hoping for snow.  The villagers all tell him that it won’t snow, or that what little snow there is, will melt; but the boy’s hope continues.  Gradually, the snowflakes fall until his gray village is covered in snow.  The real story, though, is told in the illustrations!  What fun it is to read this aloud to a young child, stopping to see if they can spot the single snowflake on the double page spread before them.  And then two snowflakes as the page turns, and then three.  The young boy enjoys himself immensely in the following pages as the snow falls, and continues to fall in his village.

Snowflake Bentley, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin.  The 1999 Caldecott Medal was awarded to Mary Azarian for her illustrations.  This is a new book to me, but one I’m glad to have on our Heritage Library shelves.  The story is told of Wilson Bentley, the man who first photographed individual snowflakes.  I love the layout of this book, with the story told, accompanied by lovely, colorful illustrations, and sidebar notes set aside with more biographical information about Mr. Bentley, as well as some scientific information about the formation of snowflakes, the specifics of photography, etc.  There is much to be learned from this book from weather to photography, but it is the story of W. A. Bentley that captures our hearts.  The son of farmers, he was taken by the beauty of snow from his childhood.  His mother homeschooled him until he was 14.  As a boy, he was given a microscope and it was then that he discovered the beauty and uniqueness of the individual snowflake.  His parents spent their entire savings when he was sixteen to buy him a camera with its own microscope.  He worked and experimented for two winters to capture his first clear picture of an individual snowflake.  His life was dedicated to his work, and the academic worlds of science and photography both were advanced by his work.  I will soon be ordering W. A. Bentley’s only published work, Snowflakes in Photographs, to accompany this wonderful story of his work and life.

For a complete list of my Library Builders posts to date, please visit my Library Builders page.

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