Winter: A Solstice Story / The Snow Man: A True Story / The North Wind & The Sun

Review by Amy Halvorson Miller

This coming Thursday, the winter solstice occurs: the longest night of the year, but thankfully, the start of lengthening days. Looking beyond Christmas, I’ve enjoyed three new picture books to greet the season and add some new interest and fun to story time.

Winter: A Solstice Story by Kelsey E. Gross is a tale of forest animals in a dark woods, preparing to celebrate the coming gift of winter. Owl watches the waning light of the shortest day then calls, “Whooo can help me shine the light, and share a gift of hope this night?” One by one, creatures answer with sustaining gifts from the snowy land. They celebrate the first day of winter with a softly sparkling tree hung with gifts, illustrated with vertical, gate-fold artwork by Renata Liwska. An unexpected friend joins the dance and all share in the splendor.

 

The Snow Man: A True Story by Jonah Winter tells of the life’s work of Billy Barr, a man who has lived many years alone in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Out of boredom he began recording information about his surroundings, including snowpack levels and dates of first snowfall and when animals emerge from hibernation. As the years progressed, he was able to notice and share documentation of climate change with scientists. The wintry illustrations by Jeanette Winter show children how Billy has aged, some of the plants and animals he observed, and the stacks of journals he’s kept for more than 50 years!

My favorite of these three books is The North Wind & the Sun, written and illustrated by Caldecott Medal winner Philip Stead, who gives us a retelling of Aesop’s fable of the same name. On a cold yet sunny day, three sisters in patched coats of blue, red, and yellow leave their house for a walk. The Sun admires their handiwork, but the North Wind roars his power, laughing, “I am the great North Wind!” toppling and pounding while the sisters huddle together. Despite his damage spread far and wide, the North Wind blows himself out. Gently, the sun casts her warmth and light, renewing the land and the sisters. They shed their coats and recall the joy, but also the sadness and strife, thanking the Sun and returning home to mend their coats for the winters to come. Stead’s crayon and pencil drawings are gently colorful and the illustrations sometimes turn to portrait view, giving height to the Sun or Wind above. This one speaks to all ages and times, as most fables do.