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BOOKS IN EDUCATION ARTICLE

Winter Books You Should KNOW About!

A blizzard of new books focus on the history, the science, and the fun of SNOW!

A Winter Concert Book Cover

A blizzard of new titles celebrating the winter season is blowing into bookstores! Among the new books, a couple are educational, one is inspirational, and the other is just plain fun!

A Winter Concert, the inspiring new book by Yuko Takao (Millbrook Press), brings color to the season of white -- literally and figuratively.


What a wonderful book for music teachers to read to their students at any time of year!

A Winter Concert is a book of few words. (Originally published in Japan, the book's pictures tell the whole story!) The story begins with black line illustrations against a background of white. A crowd of mice enter an igloolike concert hall. On stage in the spotlight sits a lonely grand piano. Enter, stage left, a curly-tressed "mouse-stro," who begins to play. With the first notes from the keyboard come the first signs of color. Ta-dum, ta-da...

As the music builds, a flurry, then a blizzard, of color consumes the pages of A Winter Concert. The concert must come to an end -- but the music and the color does not! The warm colors follow the mice as they exit the concert hall. The warmth inspired by the music lingers as the mice go about their activities in a world of wintry white. Music is in the air even as the mice fall gently to sleep that night.

Have you ever gone about all day humming a tune you heard in the morning? Have you ever experienced a magical musical performance that transported you to another place? If so, you'll love A Winter Concert!

THE WINTER SOLSTICE

A Winter Solstice Book Cover

Another new title from Millbrook, The Winter Solstice, examines the history and the science of winter. The book is written by Ellen Jackson and illustrated by Jan Davey Ellis.

Long before scientists understood why winter happens, and long before December was a month of religious holidays, the start of winter was marked in many ways. The opening pages of The Winter Solstice focus on fact and the folklore that surrounds the start of winter.

  • A Scottish family huddles by a fire performing a ritual to protect themselves from evil spirits that they believed walked the Earth when the sun was at its lowest point in the sky.
  • The ancient Romans celebrated the winter solstice, giving gifts and candles to their friends and relatives.
  • In Scandinavia, the traditional Yuletide celebration took place around the Yule log when the first sign of light appeared after many days of darkness.
Students will learn about the sun festivals of Native Americans and of Peru's Indians, the importance of fire and light in many solstice celebrations, and much more.

Today, the winter solstice isn't frightening as it was to our ancestors. We understand the science behind the changing seasons. The second section of The Winter Solstice explains the science of winter. A simple, hands-on experiment helps students understand the concept of a tilting Earth and its relationship to the sun and the seasons.

The Winter Solstice closes with the retelling of a Cherokee folk tale that offers one explanation of the changing seasons.

SNOW WATCH

Snow Watch Book Cover

Another new book, Snow Watch (by Cheryl Archer, Kids Can Press, Ltd.), is piled deep with experiments, activities, and other things to do with snow!

This large-sized paperback will turn your 8- to 11-year-old students into snow scientists! They'll learn why it snows and how snowflakes form. They'll learn all about glaciers, icebergs, and blizzards. A flurry of simple, hands-on experiments -- twenty of them in all -- will help students learn about snowflake shapes, melting snow, "acid snow," and much more. Students will learn to preserve snowflakes for microscope study, they'll make their own icebergs, and they'll make their own barometers to use in forecasting snow.

Scattered thoughout the book, just for fun, are a bunch of "flaky" jokes. Kids will love to ask their friends What sheet can't be folded? (a sheet of ice) or Where do snowflakes dance? (at the snowball)!

If you're looking for educational activities related to snow, invest $9.95 in this "snowbank" of fun!

IS THAT YOU, WINTER?

Is That You Winter? Book Cover

That brings us to the last of the four wintry titles. This one -- Is That You, Winter? (Silver Whistle/Harcourt Brace) -- is just for fun!

Well-known children's book illustrator Stephen Gammell (including Caldecott notables Song and Dance Man, The Relatives Came, and Where the Buffaloes Begin) takes a turn at writing in this tale about the man behind the season -- Old Man Winter!

Gammell's Old Man Winter is probably a little different from your vision. Do you a picture an ornery old codger sporting a handlebar mustache and a ten-gallon hat? I bet not! But you and your students will love this little guy!

"As usual, Old Man Winter wakes up in a bad mood" the story begins. "Late again!," he grumbles. "Where's my hat?"

Is That You, Winter? tracks the old guy's travels in his rickety truck as he tries to decide where to dump the next blizzard of the season. But Old Man Winter's cargo brings joy to the lives of many people, especially children. When Old Man Winter lands in a snowbank, a little girl is forced to defend the "ratty old doll" that has again brought true her wish for snow. Old Man Winter sits perched on a step, watching the kids play in his newfallen snow. He's in a good mood now!

The text of Is That You, Winter? is set in simple Helvetica type. But all of the book's dialogue is set in Gammell's unique hand-scrawl. His expressive watercolor and pastel illustrations capture the fury and fun of Old Man Winter's greatest work of art!

If they aren't in stock, ask your local bookseller to order any of the titles above for you.

  • A Winter Concert by Yuko Takao and The Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson (illustrated by Jan Davey Ellis) are available from Millbrook Press, 2 Old Milford Road, Brookfield, Connecticut 06804
  • Snow Watch by Cheryl Archer (illustrated by Pat Cupples) is available from Kids Can Press, Ltd., 29 Birch Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 1E2
  • Is That You, Winter? by Stephen Gammell is published under the Silver Whistle label by Harcourt Brace & Company, 525 B Street, San Diego, California 92101

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 1998 Education World

01/26/1998