"North" and other picture books for a snowy day

The New York Times Book Review last Sunday contained a small feature, “Bookshelf: Snow,” a round-up of picture books about life in the cold. If you want to bring the pleasures of winter to a young child on your holiday gift list, take a look at the 5 recently published books in that article. Or consider one of the children’s winter classics below.

Some of the books on the “Bookshelf” list will feel familiar to any child who builds snowmen or spends time exploring snowy woods. Making a Friend shows a red-capped boy making a snowman, but the book — and the friendship — doesn’t end when the snow melts. Soft watercolors show the snowman in rain and in fog, and then back with the boy the next winter. In Over and Under the Snow, a girl goes cross-country skiing with her father and follows clues to the “secret kingdom” of wild animals in the winter months.

Two of the new books travel to cold places that most of us will never see. Little Dog Lost tells the true story of a dog who drifted out to the Baltic Sea on an ice floe. The story gives author and illustrator Monica Carnesi the chance to describe, and show, the immensity of the Arctic landscape — with a happy ending. The subtitle of North explains what the book is about — “the amazing story of Arctic migration” — but the large paintings of migrating polar bears, gray whales, snow geese, and caribou, among others, convey the poetry and majesty of migration.

That list prompted me to scan our bookshelves for our favorite picture books about winter. Here are a few:
- The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats. We have the board book version of this Caldecott-winning classic from 1962, now dog-eared from many readings. A small boy explores the snow outside his apartment building.
- The Snowman, by Raymond Briggs. The kids’ British grandfather gave them the wordless “comic-strip” story of a boy who makes a snowman and embarks on a magical adventure. We then discovered that the story had been set to music and animated. Both the book and the short movie are perennial favorites around our house.
- Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, a Robert Frost poem illustrated by Susan Jeffers. Caldecott Honor–artist Jeffers adds touches of red to an otherwise pale color palette to help answer the question of why Frost’s traveler has stopped in December’s snowy woods. When Ursula and Virgil were very young, they loved to follow those color clues and help solve the mystery of the poem.
- The Mitten, by Jan Brett. Brett understands that children love to linger over picture books; her distinctive illustrations pack additional story lines around the edges of each page. The Mitten retells a Ukrainian folktale in which many animals, from a mouse to a bear, climb into a little boy’s lost mitten.
- Trouble with Trolls, also by Jan Brett. Brett combines trolls, every child’s desire for a dog (“want dog!”), a resourceful heroine, and possibly the best ski descent in children’s literature.

Learn more

- Read "Bookshelf: Snow" from the December 18, 2011 New York Times Book Review.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

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