better bundle up! …a flurry of winter stories

So, last week school officials in Minneapolis and St. Paul published their new Wind Chill policies.

bus stuck in the snow

And here’s the deal. Wind chills have to be 35 below for schools to close in Minneapolis.

40 below in St. Paul.

Yup.  We’re hardy folk.

It’s been a little nippy this past week, as we Minnesotans like to say, but still a tad too warm to keep those St. Paul kids indoors. To celebrate winter Minnesota style, here are five gloriously-frosty books.

winter bees and other poems of the cold cover imageWinter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold, by Joyce Sidman, illustrations by Rick Allen
published in 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

This is one of my FAVORITE books of 2014. Maybe my very favorite. Hard to call.

It’s by a team from Duluth, Minnesota, where people scoff at wind chills of a mere 40 below. Go sun bathing at that temp, my friends. Honestly. I love Duluth. It was my dad’s home town back when we had seriously cold weather.

Okay. Joyce Sidman is an amazing poet and she has crafted twelve lovely poems investigating how animals and plants in the northwoods cope with the frozen days and nights of winter. Tundra swans with snowflake-feathers, wriggling garter snakes, frowsy beavers and plump voles are here, and yes, wintering bees, too. A “sizzling ball” of them!

Sidman’s words arrest our attention, make us savor language and ideas, while at the same time sparking our interest in the natural world. She then adds, for each poem,  a fascinating parargraph explaining in detail the habits of these flora and fauna. You can learn a great deal of nature lore by reading through this book.

Rick Allen is a dream-come-true printmaker who has filled these pages with glorious linoleum-block prints . Oh. My. Goodness! Gorgeous animal forms,winter bees interior joyce sidman and rick allenelegant branches and grasses, exquisite complex colors, striking layouts. I dearly love blockprinting and these are just heartachingly beautiful.

I’d like to put a plug in here for Kenspeckle Letterpress which is Rick’s printmaking studio in Duluth. We bought one of his beautiful prints for my brother for Christmas and every detail of the artwork, packaging, and service was an impeccable delight. All that to say, if you fall in love with the artwork in this book, you can buy some of his work for your walls, too!

A glossary defines a number of the specialized terms used. (Ever heard of a pantoum?) A highly-recommended title for ages 5 through adult.

blizzard cover imageBlizzard, written and illustrated by John Rocco
published in 2014 by Disney Hyperion

When you survive a four-feet-of-snow, whangdoozle of a blizzard, you’ve just got to crow about it!

Award-winning illustrator John Rocco lived to tell about the Blizzard of ’78 which buried his Rhode Island town with snow that whipped itself into fifteen-foot drifts! Awesome! This is his story.

The storm begins with welcome flurries of snowflakes and some very happy kids, but then… it inundates the town. The next day it seems quite a lark to climb out the window since the door is blocked by a snowdrift. That first night, it feels mighty cozy to camp by the woodstove sipping cocoa in a snow-cave of a house.

But as the days go by and the snowplows still can’t clear the roads…and the food is running low…and there’s no way to get to the store…the novelty wears thin. It’s up to young John to figure out a plan. Which he does! Heroically!

blizzard interior john rocco

This book is just so much fun. The day by day experiences of the snowpocolypse are presented with minimal text and illustrated with clever perspectives and friendly family scenes. A super-cool gatefold reveals a  snowy map of the neighborhood — slightly reminiscent of Katy and the Big Snow. I love it.

A short author’s note confirms the historicity of both the blizzard and Rocco’s epic journey. A sure-fire winner for ages 5 and up.

the story of the snow children cover imageThe Story of the Snow Children, written and illustrated by Sibylle von Olfers
First published in Germany in 1905
English version published by Floris Books, Edinburgh, 2005

Darling, pudgy snow children, in poofy white coats and caps dance and twirl outside as Poppy looks on.

Come, they beg her, and we’ll take you to visit the Snow Queen.

Who could resist?

Dressed in cherry red, Poppy scoots off on a silver sledge pulled by Swirly Wind, and arrives at an ice castle with turrets like sugar. There she meets the Snow Queen and her tiny Princess who is having a birthday party today. Snowmen act as waiters.

Poppy and the princess stroll through a crystal ice garden and dance in an the story of the snow children illustration sibylle von olfersice-hall lit by hundreds of lanterns. All immensely exciting, but tiring, too. So the Queen summons her sleigh, this time drawn by four strong polar bears, to bring Poppy back home.

This tiny fantasy was written and illustrated in 1905 by Sibylle von Olfers, a German woman whose work is highly-reminiscent of Elsa Beskow’s. A short biography of her, included in the book, tells how she became a nun at age 25, taught art, wrote and illustrated a number of books, then sadly, died at the age of 34.

Pure charm for ages 2 and up.

tales for a winter's eve cover imageTales for a Winter’s Eve, written and illustrated by Wendy Watson
published in 1988 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Freddie Fox has hit the slopes, shooshing and careening his way down the snowy trail when CRUNCH! OOF! OUCH! he tumbles and twists his paw.

Freddie manages to limp home where he is doted on by Mama, Papa, Grammer, Nellie Mouse and other friends.

One of the best ways to pass the time while waiting to feel better is to listen totales for a winter's eve illustration wendy watson stories. First, Grammer tells a funny tale about a greedy raccoon. Next Bert Blue Jay’s got a story about a tricky weasel who is outsmarted by Mr. Twing the shopkeeper. Then, Nellie Mouse steps up with a doozy of a story about the Grollybash!

In no time at all, Freddie is comfy and looking forward to another day of skiing tomorrow.

Heartwarming and cozy. Funny and clever. You’ll fall in love with Wendy Watson’s characters and thoroughly enjoy these winter tales and charming illustrations. It’s a lengthier book, which can be read in chapters with one tale at a sitting. It would also work as a first chapter book of sorts for a stout, on-your-own reader.

An annual favorite for ages 5 and up.

one frozen lake cover imageOne Frozen Lake, by Deborah Jo Larson, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher
published in 2012 by Minnesota Historical Society Press

Since we’re celebrating a Minnesota winter today, here’s a quintessentially Minnesota winter story about ice fishing.

The lakes in wintertime here are dotted with fishhouses, you know. Some quite elaborately kitted out. One of the biggest lakes has roads where pick-up trucks drive over the ice, pizza gets delivered right to your fishing shack and trash is collected. I am not making this up.

One Frozen Lake adopts this setting in a mercurial-counting book, with numbers climbing, dropping, and climbing back again like a winter thermometer. In it, we follow one young boy out ice-fishing with his grandpa. There’s a lot of waiting involved. Lines drop through the ice. Wait. New holes are drilled. Wait.  New tackle comes out. Wait some more. Cups of cocoa. Games of cards. Wait, wait, wait.

one frozen lake deborah jo larson, steve johnson, lou fancher

When a nice pike is finally landed, though, Grandpa is in for a bit of a surprise.

Homey flannels, pack boots, and choppers anchor the bold illustrations firmly in a Midwest winter. The all-male cast, bulky shapes and freezing-blue ruggedness make this an especially nice option for a particular set of readers, and maybe for their grandpas, too. Ages 3 and up.