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The wonders of winter

From joyful treks through gently drifting snow to the aftermath of a storm to suspenseful adventures in the icy wilderness, these picture books show many meteorological (and emotional) facets of winter.

park_first-snowIn First Snow by Bomi Park, a small child takes a dreamlike nighttime walk through the snow with her puppy. She makes her way along city streets, across fields, by train tracks, and through woods, pushing a growing snowball as she goes, until she meets other children in a clearing and assembles snowmen with them. Working in black and white with highlights of red on heavily textured backgrounds, Park paints her story with few words. Careful composition and consistent perspective establish a simple visual narrative, and the inky blackness of the ground, visible beneath even the snowiest spreads, adds to the sense of midnight stillness. (Chronicle, 3–5 years)

messier_branchThe young heroine of Mireille Messier’s The Branch mourns when a large branch breaks off from her favorite tree during an ice storm. As she guards the branch from the cleanup crew, she talks to neighbor Mr. Frank, who makes things from salvaged wood, and the two come up with a plan. This small but satisfying story of intergenerational friendship, cooperation, creativity, and the labor that goes into creating something worthwhile is complemented by Pierre Pratt’s art, partly expressionistic/childlike and partly painterly/glorious. Thick brushstrokes prevail, with cool wintry colors showing the beauty and destructiveness of the storm, and warmer colors showing the atmosphere of Mr. Frank’s workshop. (Kids Can, 5–8 years)

davies_storm-whale-in-winterAs Benji Davies’s The Storm Whale in Winter begins, months have passed since Noi (The Storm Whale), who lives with his fisherman father, helped a stranded whale calf return to its pod. Winter is setting in, and Noi is disappointed that the chances of seeing his whale-friend again are growing slim. Noi’s dad heads out one last time to fish, but when Dad doesn’t return home by nightfall, a worried Noi walks out on the now-frozen sea to search for him. Davies holds Noi’s (and readers’) anxiety at bay in both the warm-toned illustrations and gentle text, and the solution involves a triumphant reunion of the young whale and human friends. (Holt, 5–8 years)

cordell_wolf-in-the-snowIn Matthew Cordell’s Wolf in the Snow, a child in a blizzard encounters a lost wolf pup, and the two help each other through the fraught outdoor adventure. The pen-and-ink illustrations balance detail and emotion: the wolves appear realistic, while the human faces and figures are stylized and cartoonlike. The setting is brought to life through changing sky colors, cold breaths, and extensive snowscapes in watercolors. Hand-lettered text, consisting only of sound effects, supports the cinematic feel created through the use of varying perspectives and loosely demarcated panels. Suspenseful page-turns and aerial views on double-page spreads keep readers worrying about the protagonists until the cozy end. (Feiwel, 5–8 years)

From the January 2017 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Shoshana Flax About Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College. She is a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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