Thursday, January 6, 2011

Snow Snow Snow

I may be out numbered here but this time of year I am always hoping for a massive blizzard. Living in the DC area means this rarely happens—even a few inches is a big deal. I just feel that if it's going to be cold, dark, and I'm going to have dry skin, I at least want something pretty to look at and play in. Even if it does cause chaos.

For kids in school, Snow Days can be pretty magical. No school. Playing outside in the snow then curling up inside with hot chocolate and a good book. A break in routine. But, coming up with activities for kids to do, both inside and out of the house, can be a challenge. Traditional crafts, like creating snowflake chains, snowmen out of cotton balls, and playing board games are always popular. There are so many games and sports that are perfect for a snowy day—making snowmen and igloos, sledding, skiing and snowboarding. And of course, Snow Days can be a excellent opportunity to read as a family. The selections below are a mix of fiction and nonfiction and they all relate to snow. Also, check out these sites for more ideas and craft suggestions.

Willow and the Snow Day Dance
Denise Brennan Nelson
Illustrated by Cyd Moore
The story opens with a description of Mr. Larch's lonely life and his lack of interest in his garden, his neighbors, or any seasonal activities. He even posts signs on his perfect-for-sledding-hill warning everyone to "keep off" and "go away." The cheerful watercolor illustrations portray the seasons and their decorations passing by Mr. Larch's house, known locally as "The Cave." When irrepressible Willow moves across the street from the Cave, her sunny disposition is obvious. Delighted with enough room to start a garden, Willow sends colorful letters to each of her neighbors asking for help getting started with seedlings or seeds. The response is such that her yard becomes a luscious garden that brightens the entire street and gives everyone pleasure for having shared. Willow organizes a collection of "hats and mittens" for her school's charity drive and rewards participants with vegetables from her garden. Sharp observers will notice that Mr. Larch makes a donation and receives his own share of the harvest's bounty. Willow sends letters and notes to all of the neighbors and manages to provide a shining example of how neighborliness changes everyone. Winter's approach makes Willow want to have a giant sledding event but the weather refuses to cooperate. Willow delivers yet another note: "I'm in need of snow! Can you help?" The picture of Mr. Larch reading the note shows a hint of a smile on his lips. Willow receives a response in the form of a letter with instructions for "The Snow Day Dance." She passes out copies of the instructions (which include wearing pajamas inside out and backwards AND dancing wildly on one's bed). The double spread of all of the neighbors cavorting on their beds includes Mr. Larch in one corner. Then the next morning the entire neighborhood is covered in snow and decorated with cheerful snow people and a big message made from snowballs "Snow Day." Mr. Larch stands waiting at the top of his hill, ready to lead the sledding. This title covers so many things that teachers can employ in a classroom setting that the list could read like a basic curriculum: sequences in nature, weather, seasonal activities, recycling, predicting outcomes, having faith in people is important, generosity makes everyone feel good, writing letters can change attitudes and actions, observing others can provide inspiration, being a role model is essential (and can be contagious) and so forth...all of this wrapped in appealing illustrations. 2011, Sleeping Bear Press, Ages 3 to 8, $16.95. Reviewer: Sheilah Egan (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 978-1-58536-522-7

Emily Griffin

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