In a Nutshell Kid Lit Book Reviews: Winter!

I adore winter!  I always have.  When I was a child in Reno in the late sixties and seventies, I spent countless hours carving villages out of snow.  I didn’t even notice being cold as I was so immersed in my architectural pursuits.  Some of my best memories involve snow.  My dad and older teens in the neighborhood would pull my sister and I on sleds or snow discs down the street.  My father also tried to maximize the recreation as a snowfall was melting by making a runway of the remaining snow, and pulling my sister and I in an old baby bathtub down this makeshift runway.  This activity was captured on home movies and later transferred to video.  I don’t have an abundance of good memories of my childhood, or of my father, so having this on videotape is absolutely precious to me.  He also showed us how to pack empty garbage cans to make tall snowmen (and women!) easily.

In the spirit of winter fun and recreation, before winter ebbs away, I thought I’d share these wintry-themed children’s books with you.

nutshell reviews feb 005This book reveals all the magic of snow in a poetic way, capturing the emotions that snowfall brings to children (and many adults) in a beautifully illustrated manner.  Who hasn’t enjoyed catching snowflakes on their tongues, or making angels.  I’m not ashamed to say I’ve done these things as an adult too.  Why should children get to have ALL the fun?  It is about joie’ de vivre (joy of life).  There’s something about snow that can bring out a grown-up’s inner kid, if one lets that happen.  The thrill of sliding down a hill fast is not lost on me.  Rylant celebrates the children in all of us, and the joy and beauty of winter quite splendidly!  I also love that it depicts Caucasian and African-American children playing together and enjoying each other’s company.  That is beautiful!  I think this book would be enjoyed equally by toddlers and children as old as 6 or 7.

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Six children spend the beginning of a winter vacation sliding down a sleet-slickened, snowy slope in a backyard.  They decide to hunt for a bigger hill to whiz down.  One of their grandfathers had an old sled large enough for all six to ride at once, and the children cajoled him to let them take it for a run.  They found the steepest hill in the county, but had great difficulty getting the sled and themselves up the incline, and landed in a pile at the bottom, giggling.  The children imagined the tools they’d need to scale that hill successfully, and each of them had creative ideas for the climb.  They formed a human chain and tried to crawl up the hill, and still lost their grip, becoming a laughing mound at the bottom once again.  One girl was ready to give up, and go for the hot chocolate waiting at her house.  The others ignored her and tried again in a different place.  Finally, they made it to the top.  No one said they were scared, but they all were, at least until they were going so fast there wasn’t time for fear!  The group quickly decided to do it again.  This was an exciting book to read, and kids from four to ten would delight in it.  The illustrations were simple, winsome, and fully conveyed the buoyant spirit of the story.  A little fear and adrenaline can be very exciting!

nutshell reviews feb 003    This book is for the youngest children, perhaps those two and under.  It rhymes, which little children love, in a pleasing cadence.  I’m not very interested in books that don’t have much of a story, so I was disappointed to see that this one was more about rhyming than telling any kind of story. However, I was surprised to find there was a trace of a story here.  After the mice skated on the icy pond, pictures were revealed.  The blades of their skates created fun pictures on the ice, and the pictures coincided with the rhymes.  The illustrations were brightly colored and little children would probably be fascinated by them.

nutshell reviews feb 002This book won the Caldecott Medal at some point, and was first published in 1947.  It is first rate poetry, creating word pictures to add to the old school illustrations.  All the people in the town sensed that snow was coming, and they had different ways of detecting this, such as a woman’s toe that hurts whenever snow is on its way.  When no one was looking, the snow began, and the adults began making sure they were prepared, like having cough medicine in the cabinet, and putting on their boots.  The children laughed and danced, and caught snowflakes on their eager tongues.  The description of the snow was far better than the actual illustration of it, though that is to be expected from books of this era.  The adults began to suffer various things from the snow.  Children saw all the beauty in the snow, and imagined great things.  The process of the big snowfall melting and how that changed the activities of the adults, was perfectly portrayed.  Spring had arrived!  Poetry in motion.

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Two siblings decide to sell lemonade, despite it being deep in the middle of winter, with snow and icicles all around, and the wind whistling. Their parents warn that no one will want cold drinks in this weather.  Pauline, the older of the two, teaches her little brother John-John how to count money, and shows him how much the ingredients for their lemonade cost.  The two are undaunted by their parents’ skepticism, and they go to work to make the lemonade.  They get out there and begin feeling the cold, and wondering if anyone will want lemonade.  The two begin advertising with their voices, add entertainment, decorations, and cut the price by half.  The children make a handful of sales.  When they were out of lemonade, Pauline counts up their quarters, and realizes they lost money, but John-John sees it as still having money, and they decide to buy popsicles using the last of their quarters.  They happily slurp their popsicles, and money no longer matters.  This is so characteristic of kids!  It is a sweet story with educational value in arithmetic.  The illustrations are cozy in feeling, even though the color scheme is a neutral monochromatic type.  I prefer brighter colors, but this color scheme worked for this story, so I wouldn’t change a thing!

Happy reading all!  Enjoy the last segment of winter.  Cuddle up with your kids under warm blankets, sip hot cocoa with marshmallows, and have a reading marathon.  It is a perfect way to spend a wintry weekend, if you can’t get out and play in snow.