Guest Blogger/ January 5, 2024/ Good to Know

Winter is here with its chill and a sense of renewal, halfway through the school year with anticipation of longer, warmer days. These books are perfect to enjoy while appreciating the beauty and calm of winter.

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell

This may be my most favorite nearly wordless book. As a Caldecott Medal winner in 2018, the illustrations tell the parallel tale of a young girl and a young wolf pup that both get lost in the snow.  Both scared, they find each other and through the bond of friendship they face the threats that come upon them as they try to find their way. In the distance, you can see the howling of the wolf pack and the little girl makes her way towards the sounds. Finally, the mother wolf is found and the little girl returns the pup and sets out to find her own home. As she struggles through the storm and fatigue, you can see the barking of her own dog in the distance. When the girl can go no farther, the wolf pack surrounds her to protect her and they begin howling so that the girl’s father and dog can find her. Both the girl and the wolf pup have happy endings as they are returned to their families.

Preschoolers are transfixed by this story. They don’t need language to understand this story and they are fascinated by all the images. For a book with very few words, an educator can find such rich language use as children describe what they see, how they feel, and what they think may happen next.

Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost and illustrated by Susan Jeffers

This iconic poem of Robert Frost comes to life on the illustrated pages of Susan Jeffers as she poignantly captures the human spirit in color during a snowstorm of white and grays.  The simple words and beautiful imagery takes the reader on a journey through a snowstorm and allows the imagination to reflect on warm thoughts from our own personal snow experiences.

What a wonderful way to share poetry of this caliber with young children.  They can connect to the pictures and the language in ways that build background knowledge or enhance personal experiences with nature in the winter.  The exposure to classic poetry is artfully done to create a lasting memory.  There are even subtle connections to Santa Claus himself!  I personally love the opportunities that this book creates for a discussion about snow, nature, and the playful spirit of people.

SNOW by Uri Shulevitz

As a 1999 Caldecott Honor Book, this story’s imagery captures the treasure within a boy’s heart as he believes in the snow that is to come while everyone around him tells him the flakes he sees are of no concern.  The boy and his dog believe in the flakes that they see falling to be the snow experience they are excited about.  As the illustrations capture the solitary snowflakes turning into a snowstorm the boy’s imagination comes to life with characters from Mother Goose stories as his playmates.  Together, they follow the descriptive language of the simple text’s playful tones and enjoy the snow experience.  The reader is taken from a gray and grumpy city full of busy adults tending to their daily life to a pure and joyful one shared by the happy boy and his dog.

This is a fun way to allow young children to share their experiences of snow falls and watch as the magic and excitement builds within them.  Snow is a magical force of mother nature that can truly bring about playful and childish joy within us all.

What If… by Samantha Berger and illustrated by Mike Curato

The message within this story is that “nothing can take away our imagination.”  The ability to create art utilizing everything around you is a gift that keeps you going.  As we read through this book, the little girl explains that whatever artistic medium gets taken away, she would never stop creating art.  The story carries us through pages of artistic creations and ways of expression.  As a teacher, it provides me with ideas for the children in my class to explore art and use their imaginations.

A message from the author at the end of the story explains her inspiration for this book from a moment when her home flooded and she could only leave with a few items.  At first, her ability to create seemed to be out of reach, until she realized she could flex her imagination within many of the objects mother nature provided for her.  Whatever the medium, her ability to create wasn’t lost and that message is conveyed within the beautiful language and illustrations of this story.

Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor and illustrated by Rafael Lopez

In this book we celebrate the differences that make us unique.  Each page is told from the standpoint of a child with a life’s challenge that may be different from others such as asthma, dyslexia, and allergies.  As we learn of each child’s unique experiences, an inclusive community is put together to celebrate and accept each other.  The reader discovers a metaphor of building a garden in comparison to building an inclusive community.  Along the way,  the children ask questions of each other so that each child’s story can be told.  Overall, we learn that it is ok to ask questions when we are unsure of another person's differences, after all, that’s how we learn to better understand each other.

Written by United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, she shares her experiences of feeling different when she was diagnosed with diabetes as a child.  Learning about what makes a child different encourages us all to be more understanding and empathetic.  This is a must have book for every classroom of all ages!

Jennifer Strickler is the Executive Director of Grace Lutheran Preschool in Winchester, VA and an adjunct instructor at Laurel Ridge Community College. She is a board member for VAAEYC and is the President of the Apple Valley Chapter. Currently she is pursuing her doctorate degree in Education Leadership at Shenandoah University. Her hobby (obsession) is collecting children’s literature and sharing her collection with other educators and young children.

Be sure to catch Jennifer and her associate Aimee Gangai for a Zoom and FB Live workshop on January 10 @ 1 p.m. More info HERE.

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