Friday, January 23, 2009

Winter Picture Books in Verse

The following books have rhyming texts and would be wonderful for reading to very young children at this time of year. They are fine ways to introduce little listeners to rhyming words and rhythmic language.

Written by
Bob Raczka
Illustrated by Judy Stead
Albert Whitman & Company, 2008

Raczka’s zippy text and Stead’s bold and colorful illustrations take us through the chill and sights of winter days and nights and common seasonal activities—icicles hanging from eaves, snow swirling through the air, sliding down hills, making snow angels, shoveling, making a snowman, feeding birds. They also take us through the warm indoor happenings—sipping hot cocoa, having a hot bath, reading by the fire, baking cookies.

This is a picture book where the pictures help to “tell” readers what the spare text doesn’t. Some pages have no words. The other pages have just one, two, or three words—with the exception of the last two pages. The final page includes all the “fun” words Raczka used to describe Snowy, Blowy Winter. This would certainly be an enjoyable book to share with youngsters and could be used as a springboard for having them add their own words to describe winter.

Here are some excerpts from the book:

windows are glowy.

icy and slippery.

Angels are lovely.
Sidewalks are shovely.

The back matter of the book has a recipe for “Snowy, Blowy Ice Cream.”

Written by Mary McKenna Siddals
Illustrated by
Elizabeth Sayles
Clarion, 1998

This small book is perfect for lap reading. It is also a counting book for little ones just beginning to learn about numbers.

The book begins…

One little snowflake
falls on my nose.
It makes me shiver
from my head to my toes.

Two little snowflakes
get in my eyes.
Blink! Blink!
What a surprise!

And so the text goes—from a child counting two snowflakes to counting three and four and five snowflakes and then to looking at snow all around her:

Snow on the house.
Snow on the tree.
Snow on the grounds.
Snow on me!
Millions of snowflakes in my hair.
Snowflakes falling everywhere!

Sayles’ illustrations work perfectly with Siddals’ text. The first picture is a small square surrounded by a thick white border. As the book progresses, the pictures get larger and larger until the end of the book. Then the borders are gone and the illustrations fill up the pages—just as the child’s world is filling up with snow.

Sayles’ illustrations are uncluttered and spare. The focus of the pictures is the snowflakes and a young Asian child with her dog enjoying the falling—and fallen—snow. The illustrations have warm, purplish and or peach backgrounds. This is a lovely little winter book to share with a very young child.

Written & illustrated by Wong Herbert Yee
Henry Holt, 2003

Tracks in the Snow is another small picture book—just right for lap reading. It has more text than the previous two books that I reviewed here. In this book, a young Asian girl sees some mysterious tracks in the snow and wonders what animal might have made them. She goes looking. She skips around the old oak tree, walks by the frozen pond, crosses a snowy bridge, peeks under a log, tramps up a hill. She finally realizes that it was she who left the tracks. She made them the day before when she was out playing in the snow.

The book has a lovely rhythmic text that is written in quatrains with a rhyme scheme of ABCB—except for the refrain.

The Refrain:
Tracks in the snow.
Tracks in the snow.
Who made the tracks?
Where do they go?

Here’s another excerpt from the book. In this quatrain the child is thinking to herself and trying to solve the mystery of who made the tracks in the snow:

It could have been a duck,
But I think they’ve gone away.
I know it’s not a woodchuck;
They sleep all night and day.

Wong Herbert Yee’s illustrations done in Prismacolors on Arches watercolor paper have a soft, blurry look. They are set against a white background and capture the feel of a wintery country world blanketed with snow. This quiet picture book is a keeper!


At Blue Rose Girls, I have a special Elizabeth Alexander post that includes links to her inaugural poem Praisesong for the Day and to videos of her poetry reading at the inauguration, Jeffrey Brown’s conversation with her on the Newshour with Jim Lehrer, and her appearance on The Colbert Report.

Laura Salas has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week.


jama said...

These look good, Elaine. I think I'll get them from the library and enjoy them with some cocoa and cookies :)!

Elaine Magliaro said...


I've had snow on my mind lately. We've had more than our share of of it so far this winter up here in Massachusetts. These three titles are good "little" picture books to enjoy with a cup of hot cocoa.

laurasalas said...

I thnk winter is so gorgeous--I love to see books celebrate it.

I'm only familiar with Millions of Snowflakes out of these. I'll have to check out the others. Thanks, Elaine!

Elaine Magliaro said...


I love picture books about winter. TRACKS IN THE SNOW is a quiet book. It reminds me of times when I was little and wandered around in the snow. I think kids would have fun with the pairs of rhyming words in SNOWY, BLOWY WINTER: freezy and sneezy, zippery and slippery, lovely and shovely, etc.