Before the sleds and shovels come out: 3 books about snow for kids

Here at the very beginning of December, before we Snow Belt dwellers come to loathe the very sight of a fresh snowfall, let's pause to appreciate the magical qualities of the white stuff.  Yes, it's three books for kids about snow.

Two of them were recently featured in the New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2009 (A Penguin Story and The Snow Day).  Though they were both published earlier this year, the NYT reviews were the first I'd seen of them, somehow.  I tracked down copies of both and I was completely charmed.  The third is a book I spent all summer talking about with my booksellers - it takes a close look at the science behind snow, with real photographs of super-magnified snow crystals.

A Penguin Story
by Antoinette Portis
HarperCollins | 9780061456886 | $17.99 | December 2008

For a couple of years now, whenever I begin to talk to one of my buyers about a new book that touches on childhood creativity, or with kids creating something new from the stuff around them, my savvy buyers give me a little shake of the head and say something like "Nope. We've got Not A Box."  After this happened a few times, I asked my buyer to show me this magical ur-book of youthful creativity.  And of course, that's exactly what Not A Box turned out to be.  I had nothing to compete with Not A Box.

And now, the Evil Genius author and illustrator who has frustrated so many of my book presentations is back with another delightfully charming story, sure to squelch any future sales I might otherwise make with books about penguins.

In A Penguin Story, Edna the penguin has finally grown weary of the somewhat limited palette of colors in her antarctic world: white snow, blue sky and water, black sky at night, and the black and white of her fellow penguins.  She bravely leaves her colony in search of some other colors that believes must be out there.

When she stumbles upon a scientific expedition, she soon sees that there are more colors than her usual blue, white and black - she sees sweeping tents, cold weather gear, and especially a mitten, all made of bright orange.

The hilarity of a whole colony of these charming little penguins "helping" the human scientists pack up to go home brings the story to sweet closure with the gift of a glove.


The Snow Day
by Komako Sakai
Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic | 9780545013215 | $16.99 | January 2009

There's an entirely different snow story working here - the quiet warmth of a wintry day spent close to home, the unlooked-for pleasures of a day with no school and no work, mother bunny and child watching a storm blow through, waiting for dad to come home safely from a trip.

From the first quiet panels as the small bunny wakes up to discover a darkly snowy day beginning, this is the best kind of story to share with young readers on the sofa watching their own snow day underway.

Komako Sakai's other book published in the US is Emily's Balloon.  You can find out about more books published by Arthur A. Levine by following them on Twitter.


The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter's Wonder
by Mark Cassino with Jon Nelson, Ph.D.
Chronicle Books | 9780811868662 | 16.99 | October 2009

After two imagined journeys through snowy tales, some readers may be wondering what it is that makes snowflakes form?  What is the lifecycle of snow?  Perhaps those readers would be surprised to learn that some snow crystals are not flaky at all, but can be cylinders. What is the truth behind the story that each snowflake is unique?

With drawings, actual photographs of highly magnified snowflakes, and tips on how to catch and observe your own snow crystals, The Story of Snow would make another great companion book for a snow day at home!

The Story of Snow

Chronicle Books' page for the book offers a downloadable teachers' guide.  The microsite and blog for The Story of Snow can be found at  Mark Cassino has a separate blog for his photography here.