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February 2, 2016

11 Picture Books for Snowy Days

By Alycia Zimmerman
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

    When snowflakes drift outside the window, our classroom feels extra cozy. The children sense the magic as we are cocooned in a quieter city, and gathering together with a good book just makes sense. Nothing captures children’s attention like a well timed read-aloud that connects with life as they are currently experiencing it. These are those special times when you (somewhat) spontaneously pull a book from the shelf, not because it goes with a reading lesson or a unit you planned. This is about enjoying a book for its own sake and modeling an authentic love of reading.

    Here are eleven snowy stories worth checking out. Have one on hand to enjoy the next time it snows, and please let me know if you have a favorite that isn’t on my list.

    Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton

    A favorite from my own childhood, I love sharing this book with my students. The illustrations are every detail-oriented child’s dream come true. As an added bonus, this book teaches the cardinal directions (north, south, east, and west,) and helps children understand the wide-ranging effects of a big snowstorm. Best of all, in my opinion, the stalwart, determined crawler tractor-snowplow is female.

    Snow by Cynthia Rylant

    This is my favorite for capturing the excited, crystalline feeling of a new snowfall and the warm, fuzzy feelings of enjoying it from inside. Rylant’s poetic vignettes not only give voice to a range of feelings evoked by snow, the beautiful prose makes this a great mentor text for writing description. “Some snows fall so heavy they bury cars up to their noses, and make evergreens bow, and keep your kitties curled up awhile.” I love surrounding my students with this type of language. 

    Snow by Uri Shulevitz

    The adults are all skeptical, but the young main character doesn’t give up believing that a great snowfall is on its way to transform his grey, humdrum city. Fortunately, “snowflakes don’t listen to radio, snowflakes don’t watch television. All snowflakes know is snow, snow, snow.” In this Caldecott honor book, Shulevitz uses just enough words to create a story about hope. As in all his books, the illustrations are restrained, but that makes it even more fun trying to spot the teeny first snowflakes that fall from the sky.

    The Little Snowplow by Lora Koehler

    Channeling the spirit of The Little Engine That Could, this lovely story will have your students cheering on the underdog snowplow as the big trucks scoff and doubt that such a little plow could ever be useful. When one of those big trucks is buried in an avalanche, only the hardworking and gracious little snowplow can squeeze through to save the day. 

    The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

    Don’t pass over this classic Caldecott Medal winner (1963). Every child deserves to hear it read many times. Keats writes about what real children do in the snow, and the simple honesty of his story transcends time and place. As an interesting sidebar, it was also the first full-color picture book with a black child as the main character.

    Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner

    This book is meant for giggling, as the rich illustrations and rhyming text help us imagine what snowmen get up to after we all go to bed. We really can't blame snowmen if they look a bit droopy the next morning. According to this book, they were up to all sorts of antics the previous night! The illustrator does a fine job making sure the snowmen-come-to-life aren’t one bit scary for young readers. (Also check out Snowmen at Work and Snowmen at Christmas.)

    Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester

    A lighthearted story about a penguin who just won’t fit in with all the conformist penguins . . . but then saves the day when his odd antics scare off a gang of hunters. This is perfect for text-to-text connections to books like Swimmy and Calvin Can’t Fly — or just a funny read on a snowy day. Make sure to sing Tacky’s songs with gusto; the fun of this book is all in the performance.

    Toys Meet Snow by Emily Jenkins

    If your students are pals with Lumphy, StingRay, and Plastic from the Toys Go Out chapter books, they will enjoy this beautifully illustrated picture book about the toys’ adventure out in the snow. The main characters’ three distinct voices and personalities make this a particularly fun book to read aloud. 

    The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter's Wonder by Mark Cassino With Jon Nelson, Ph.D.

    The only nonfiction title on this list, this book is a must-have for every classroom. Cassino deftly uses a combination of diagrams, illustrations, and photographs to explain the science behind snowflakes. (I learned a lot about snow from it too!) After sharing this book, my students always want to “catch” snowflakes to observe with magnifying lenses.

    The Bear Report by Thyra Heder

    A boring homework assignment is turned on its head when Sophie is whisked on an imagination-fueled journey around the Arctic with a friendly polar bear as her guide. Told through the charmingly candid dialogue between the two main characters, this book is simultaneously whimsical and packed with factual tidbits about the Arctic. 

    Thomas’ Snowsuit by Robert Munsch

    A silly pattern book about a VERY stubborn little boy who will only wear a snowsuit on his own terms — not for any adult authority figure. Save this book for the last minutes of the school day as a treat after the kids are bundled up. (When it’s okay for the students to be wild and silly . . . and then tramp out the door.) For read-aloud inspiration, listen to the author perform his story, complete with hilarious voices and audience participation. 

    For updates on my upcoming blog posts or to discuss the snowy weather, please follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

    One year ago: "Snowy Science: Four Frosty Experiments"

    Two years ago: "Becoming Ms. Frizzle: Managing Classroom Science Lessons"

    Three years ago: "The Hundredth Day of School — A Place Value Celebration!"

    Four years ago: "Playing with Math – A Look Inside My Mathematical 'Toy Box'"

    When snowflakes drift outside the window, our classroom feels extra cozy. The children sense the magic as we are cocooned in a quieter city, and gathering together with a good book just makes sense. Nothing captures children’s attention like a well timed read-aloud that connects with life as they are currently experiencing it. These are those special times when you (somewhat) spontaneously pull a book from the shelf, not because it goes with a reading lesson or a unit you planned. This is about enjoying a book for its own sake and modeling an authentic love of reading.

    Here are eleven snowy stories worth checking out. Have one on hand to enjoy the next time it snows, and please let me know if you have a favorite that isn’t on my list.

    Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton

    A favorite from my own childhood, I love sharing this book with my students. The illustrations are every detail-oriented child’s dream come true. As an added bonus, this book teaches the cardinal directions (north, south, east, and west,) and helps children understand the wide-ranging effects of a big snowstorm. Best of all, in my opinion, the stalwart, determined crawler tractor-snowplow is female.

    Snow by Cynthia Rylant

    This is my favorite for capturing the excited, crystalline feeling of a new snowfall and the warm, fuzzy feelings of enjoying it from inside. Rylant’s poetic vignettes not only give voice to a range of feelings evoked by snow, the beautiful prose makes this a great mentor text for writing description. “Some snows fall so heavy they bury cars up to their noses, and make evergreens bow, and keep your kitties curled up awhile.” I love surrounding my students with this type of language. 

    Snow by Uri Shulevitz

    The adults are all skeptical, but the young main character doesn’t give up believing that a great snowfall is on its way to transform his grey, humdrum city. Fortunately, “snowflakes don’t listen to radio, snowflakes don’t watch television. All snowflakes know is snow, snow, snow.” In this Caldecott honor book, Shulevitz uses just enough words to create a story about hope. As in all his books, the illustrations are restrained, but that makes it even more fun trying to spot the teeny first snowflakes that fall from the sky.

    The Little Snowplow by Lora Koehler

    Channeling the spirit of The Little Engine That Could, this lovely story will have your students cheering on the underdog snowplow as the big trucks scoff and doubt that such a little plow could ever be useful. When one of those big trucks is buried in an avalanche, only the hardworking and gracious little snowplow can squeeze through to save the day. 

    The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

    Don’t pass over this classic Caldecott Medal winner (1963). Every child deserves to hear it read many times. Keats writes about what real children do in the snow, and the simple honesty of his story transcends time and place. As an interesting sidebar, it was also the first full-color picture book with a black child as the main character.

    Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner

    This book is meant for giggling, as the rich illustrations and rhyming text help us imagine what snowmen get up to after we all go to bed. We really can't blame snowmen if they look a bit droopy the next morning. According to this book, they were up to all sorts of antics the previous night! The illustrator does a fine job making sure the snowmen-come-to-life aren’t one bit scary for young readers. (Also check out Snowmen at Work and Snowmen at Christmas.)

    Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester

    A lighthearted story about a penguin who just won’t fit in with all the conformist penguins . . . but then saves the day when his odd antics scare off a gang of hunters. This is perfect for text-to-text connections to books like Swimmy and Calvin Can’t Fly — or just a funny read on a snowy day. Make sure to sing Tacky’s songs with gusto; the fun of this book is all in the performance.

    Toys Meet Snow by Emily Jenkins

    If your students are pals with Lumphy, StingRay, and Plastic from the Toys Go Out chapter books, they will enjoy this beautifully illustrated picture book about the toys’ adventure out in the snow. The main characters’ three distinct voices and personalities make this a particularly fun book to read aloud. 

    The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter's Wonder by Mark Cassino With Jon Nelson, Ph.D.

    The only nonfiction title on this list, this book is a must-have for every classroom. Cassino deftly uses a combination of diagrams, illustrations, and photographs to explain the science behind snowflakes. (I learned a lot about snow from it too!) After sharing this book, my students always want to “catch” snowflakes to observe with magnifying lenses.

    The Bear Report by Thyra Heder

    A boring homework assignment is turned on its head when Sophie is whisked on an imagination-fueled journey around the Arctic with a friendly polar bear as her guide. Told through the charmingly candid dialogue between the two main characters, this book is simultaneously whimsical and packed with factual tidbits about the Arctic. 

    Thomas’ Snowsuit by Robert Munsch

    A silly pattern book about a VERY stubborn little boy who will only wear a snowsuit on his own terms — not for any adult authority figure. Save this book for the last minutes of the school day as a treat after the kids are bundled up. (When it’s okay for the students to be wild and silly . . . and then tramp out the door.) For read-aloud inspiration, listen to the author perform his story, complete with hilarious voices and audience participation. 

    For updates on my upcoming blog posts or to discuss the snowy weather, please follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

    One year ago: "Snowy Science: Four Frosty Experiments"

    Two years ago: "Becoming Ms. Frizzle: Managing Classroom Science Lessons"

    Three years ago: "The Hundredth Day of School — A Place Value Celebration!"

    Four years ago: "Playing with Math – A Look Inside My Mathematical 'Toy Box'"

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