Today I have some older titles that deserve to be brought to the surface and enjoyed again this winter. We’ll emBARK with a story sure to warm the cockles of every dog-lover’s heart:
The Five-Dog Night, written and illustrated by Eileen Christelow
published in 1993 by Clarion Books
Old codger Ezra lives in his small house, alone but for his five dogs, and wishing for-the-love-of-Pete to be left alone. His busybody neighbor, Betty, simply does not get the message. She is forever hiking up to check on him. Being friendly, Betty would call it. Stickin’ her nose where it don’t belong, Ezra would say.
When an arctic blast settles into the neighborhood, Betty is extra-worried about her stubborn friend. Day after day she offers Ezra blankets and hot chocolate, yet he insists he’s plenty comfy without ’em. Doesn’t even sleep with a blanket, and he’s plenty warm.
How is Ezra managing? Read this warmly-funny book to find out. Illustrated in Christelow’s immensely-friendly, loose watercolors. A doggone good story for ages 4 and up.
In Wintertime, written and illustrated by Kim Howard
published in 1994 by Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books
Sunless days reign over wintertime in Norway, with just a brief glimpse of light to break up the cold, purple-black hours.
Yet grandmother’s childhood memories are of days cozy as wool mittens — of brown goat cheese and reindeer sausage for breakfast, marketplaces bustling with knitting mamas and bundled children, train rides across the glacier to Mormor’s house, candlelit dinners of fish and potatoes, and merry evenings with aunts and uncles and cousins dancing to the fiddle and feasting on rice pudding and almond cakes.
The sights, sounds, and flavors of frosty, cozy, Norwegian wintertimes are on tantalizing display in this thoroughly Scandinavian story for ages 3 and up.
A Winter Place, by Ruth Yaffe Radin, paintings by Mattie Lou O’Kelley
published in 1982; an Atlantic Monthly Press Book, from Little Brown and Company
Folk-artist Mattie Lou O’Kelley’s glorious, vibrant, primitive paintings are the shining stars in this lovely, simple story. O’Kelley, who died at age 89 in 1997, was a self-taught artist who began painting at age 60! This was the first of several picture books featuring her work.
Radin’s lyrical text is comprised of just three sentences. With a somewhat similar cadence to Donald Hall’s Ox Cart Man, a family walks from their farmhouse in the valley, up into the snow-white hillsides where, on an icy tarn, a grand bustle of winter frolicking takes place. Then, as the sun sinks in a blaze, they traipse back through woods and village, until they reach home. Ahhh.
It’s a gorgeous, quiet book, yet full of exuberant outdoor play. I hope you can find a copy to share with ages 2 to 100.
Flannel Kisses, by Linda Crotta Brennan, illustrated by Mari Takabayashi
published in 1997 by Houghton Mifflin Company
A little family in a jolly, snug home. A cold snowy day to enjoy. Hot oatmeal. Plump snowsuits. Crackling fires. Cozy playrooms. Fresh bread. Flannel pajamas.
All the quintessential happy winter images are here, in minimal text, accompanied by Crayola-bright, naive, cheerful illustrations. Cute as a button for ages Under-Two and up.
Winter Poems, selected by Barbara Rogasky, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
published in 1994 by Scholastic
Finally, this sublime collection of winter-themed poetry, carefully selected by Barbara Rogasky to embrace winter, but not include holiday themes. No Christmas. No Hanukkah. No New Year’s Eve. Just the elegance of winter.
It’s a sumptuous group, ranging from medieval to modern, including many of the greats — Shakespeare, Sandburg, Frost, Dickinson — and some of my favorite winter poems such as Velvet Shoes by Elinor Wylie.
Trina Schart Hyman’s fabulous paintings create such beautiful pages. Her New Hampshire countryside scenes begin with the geese vee-ing South, gradually metamorphose to the deepest of winter cold, and close with a glimpse of milder days baring patches of earth beneath the drifts. As usual, she draws a racially-diverse cast of people. It’s a beautiful volume for children and adults, ages 4 and older.
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