Sometimes things seem colder than usual, and perhaps a bit dull, particularly after all the holiday buzz. You can warm things up with these books that explore the wonders of winter. So go ahead, make a hot pot of cocoa, grab your little ones by the hands and cozy up on the couch. Your kids will be inspired by these stories, though, so don't be surprised if a short time later they're setting down their mugs and asking you to find their snow boots.
1. "Winter, Winter, Cold and Snow," by Sharon Gibson Palermo. Woodland animals populate this endearing book, in which an unseen narrator asks them who they know: "Winter, winter, cold and snow/Chickadee, Chickadee, who do you know?" She answers: "I know Bear, asleep in her den; she might wake up when the sun shines in." Then Bear is asked who he knows, and he mentions Beaver. A deer, rabbit, wolf, rabbit and woodchuck also get a turn. The rhymes have an easy, playful rhythm that are pleasing to the ear. Cut-paper illustrations offer cute-yet-realistic depictions of animals that you'll want to linger over.
2. "Samson in the Snow," by Philip C. Stead. Samson, a mammoth, spends most of his time alone in a field of dandelions hoping for a friend. A tiny red bird visits one day and asks for a few flowers to cheer up someone she knows. After a snowstorm, Samson worries that the little bird, which has flown away, is cold. "It is better to walk than to worry," he decided. And so he did. Fierce winds and deep valleys do not stop him from his search. He meets a mouse, who also is looking for someone whom he is concerned about. They find the bird hidden in snow, barely able to move, and near the flowers, which she brought for — surprise! — the mouse. A full-circle story with plenty of heart, the tale is memorable for its themes of friendship, longing and kindness. The drawings, created from oil pastels, charcoal, and cardboard printing, evoke both the cold of winter and warmth of belonging.
3. "Little Penguins," by Cynthia Rylant. The cover of this book practically guarantees little ones will choose this for a read-aloud. Three penguins, dressed in colorful winter-wear, plod across the snow, with one doing a face-plant. The scene is a hint of what's to come: a story showing the excitement of a big snowfall and the exuberance of the young. When the first snowflake appears, five penguin siblings watch from the window (hilariously adorned with fish-detailed curtains). Next are the preparations: "Mittens?"/"Many mittens." Each penguin retrieves a set of matching mittens, scarves, socks and boots. After a day of playing (including the youngest penguin making angel wings), they remove their outerwear, ask for homemade cookies, then settle in for the night. Just a few words on each page glide the story along. It's a fun, family-centered take on a child's perspective of snow, crisply rendered.
4. "Waiting for Snow," by Marsha Diane Arnold. Badger has just one thing on his mind — snow. He's been waiting and waiting, but no snow has fallen. He bangs on pots and pans to try to get the sky to "wake up." His friends offer their own ideas, from throwing pebbles at the sky to doing a snow dance to putting on pajamas backward. When waiting seems too much, Badger's friends gather around him to offer comfort. Badger can't be swayed, though; he even turns away a treat. One day, after filling the waiting time with games, reading and crafts, they all fall asleep. When they awake, they see their patience is rewarded. The gentle tale delivers a subtle lesson about things happening "in their time." The pencil illustrations of adorable forest animals, digitally colored, present a softly muted palette of tans, browns and grays, accented with subtle pops of color.
5. "Bunny Slopes," by Claudia Rueda. In this interactive book, a rabbit asks if the reader would like to join her in a day of skiing. There's a problem, though — no snow. Bunny asks: "Maybe we can make some! Could you please shake this book?" Bunny is appreciative, but soon needs more help. She needs more snow — via more shaking. Then when it's time to go downhill, she needs someone to tilt the book. When she's about to flip over, she needs the reader to (quickly!) turn the book upside down. When she gets too close to a hole (an actual circular cutout), she can't avoid falling through; luckily she lands in an underground familiar place with a familiar face waiting for her. Throughout, the adorable rabbit with expressive facial features seems like a furry friend. It's a cute story with fun elements sure to incite giggles.
Mia Geiger is a writer in the Philadelphia area. You can find her at miageiger.com and @MiaGeiger.