Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Two Picture Books About Winter Explorations

Now that most of us are stuck inside because it's winter and we are still in the throes of the pandemic, I like to read stories to my young readers that take us outside. Here are two of my new favorite books about exploring the world in winter - one in the country, one at the seashore. 
Once Upon a Winter Day
written and illustrated by Liza Woodruff
Holiday House/Margaret Ferguson Books, 2020, 40 pages
It' s a snowy day and Milo wants a story, but mom is busy working. Instead, she suggests he go out and play in the snow. Grudgingly, Milo bundles up and leave the house. And the first thing he notices in the snow are little footprints around the bird feeder. A mouse was here, he thinks to himself. Milo decides to follow the tracks which lead to a winterberry bush with all it's berries gone and only a feather left behind. What happened, he wonders. Continuing to follow the mouse tracks into the woods, Milo discovers all kinds the other things to wonder about - branches from the hemlock tree that have fallen to the ground, dirt scattered in the snow, smooth ruts in the snow leading down to the creek, something that brushed the snow causing the mouse tracks to stop. As he continues following where the mouse tracks pick up again, Milo hears his mom calling him home for dinner. Darn, time to go home already. When mom offers to read him a story after dinner, Milo shakes his head no, as he pulls lays out all the souvenirs of his day in the snow: "This time," he said. "I have stories for you." This is such a lovely story about a young boy's explorations and observations of the natural world around him by simply following mouse tracks. Each page presents its own mystery about what happened at each of Milo's stops. Turn the page and discover the answer to the mystery before going on to the next one. Woodruff's mixed media illustrations done in a wintery palette offer a detailed colorful picture surrounding Milo's finds against simple mostly white background. Woodruff ends Milo's tale with labeled spot illustrations of all the creatures who are part of the story he will tell his mother. I've read this story over and over to my young readers and they never tire of it, though at this point they can readily name the creature associated with each of Milo's stops.
Seaside Stroll by Charles Trevino,
illustrated by Maribel Lechuga
Charlesbridge, 2021, 32 pages 
It's a cold, windy winter day when a young girl, her doll, and her mother bundle up and head out to the beach. There's still snow on the sand to play in, seagulls flying overhead to chase, all kinds of gifts from the sea - seaweed, shells, and stones, even crabs scurrying as seagulls circle - to explore. But tripping on the edge of a tide pool just as a wave hits causes the doll to drop from the little girls hands. Oh dear! Our heroine reaches in to save her doll, and the two of them are wet, cold, with sopping shoes, socks and scarf. Time to go home and have a warm shower, then put on some cozy clothes, have a nice supper and a story about a brave crab until bedtime. The beach in winter sometimes feels like a magical place with all the other people gone and Charles Trevino has really captured that magic. What really makes this a standout picture book, however, is the lyrical language coupled with the textured digital and watercolor illustrations. The blue of the ocean with its white caps reminded me so much of the Atlantic Ocean in winter. One of the things that makes the language so expressive is that every word used begins with the letter S - nouns, adjectives, verbs and interjections are all carefully chosen sensory words that brilliantly tell this story: "Scruffy shoes, socks, sweater...scratchy silly scarf." In the back matter, Trevino explains the four parts of speech used, and points out special lines that match other lines. There is also suggestions for what you might find if you decide to explore the beach. I haven't read this to my young readers yet, but I have told them about it and they really looking forward to our next story time (and so am I). 

What are your favorite winter stories?

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