One Snowy Day a Groundhog Met a Fox

Blackaby, Susan. Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox. Illus. by Carmen Segovia. Sterling, 2011. Ages 4-7.

If you’re seeking a whimsical read-aloud for Groundhog’s Day, you’ve found it. Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox sparkles with wit and sly charm. Brownie is a clever groundhog that meets a hungry would-be predator on a cloudy February 2nd. The fox tells her, “Hold still…. I’m trying to eat you for breakfast.” Brownie’s flip response is that it’ s simply too late for breakfast. The two find they both hate to wait. Brownie suggests the fox work up an appetite by clearing the snow off the pond. Segovia’s humorous image shows the fox putting his fluffy tail to good use. Alas, after all that effort, it’s too late for lunch, says Brownie. Then the tricky groundhog leads the fox to a tree and winds her scarf around and around the fox, binding him to the trunk.

Brownie’s little heart is touched, though, as she hears the fox’s plaintive cries. She decides it’s time to share what’s in her basket: cocoa and cinnamon toast. The crumbs attract a robin — the first sign of spring! The two new friends leave for home, pondering their next adventure. The illustrator’s note describes how Segovia first conceived of this engaging character one winter as she sketched a groundhog. Her wintry palette, splashed with the fox’s red, is as refreshing as that impromptu picnic.

Enhance a snowy story with the cold facts, perfectly described and displayed in

Cassino, Mark and Jon Nelson. The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder. Chronicle, 2009. Ages 4-9. You’ll be singing songs of snow, glorious snow after reading this snappy little informative book. Cassino and Nelson reveal the scientific nature of snow by using an accessible format featuring a brief fact in a large type size, then giving details in smaller text. Readers will learn of the three major types of crystals (star-shaped, plate and columnar), as well as other interesting facts. (It’s the molecular structure of water that creates the six-sided crystals, for instance.) The superb illustrations include both spectacular photographs that beg to be shared and Aoyagi’s ink and watercolor diagrams that show how a crystal develops from a speck of soil, pollen, or other substance, and then develops into an intricate six-sided beauty. Also noteworthy are the clear instructions on catching and examining snow crystals — just the trick for getting readers to venture outside to explore wintry wonders.

More and More Snow …

Alarcon, Francisco X. Iguanas in the Snow and Other Winter Poems. illus. by Maya Christina Gonzalez. Children’s Book Press, 2001. Ages 7+ Fresh poems, often written from an unusual perspective, grace bright and beautiful pages showcasing poems in both Spanish and in English.

Andersen, Hans Christian. The Snow Queen. Trans. and retold by Naomi Lewis. Illus. by Christian Birmingham. Candlewick, 2008. Ages 8-10. Don’t miss Andersen’s most beautiful fairy tale, a source of inspiration for C.S. Lewis and other fantasy writers. Of the many versions available, Lewis’s is the one you want. This memorable wintry tale begs to be read aloud: “The cloak and cap were made of snow, and the driver ah, she was a lady, tall and slender and dazzlingly white!” Gerda’s dear friend Kay is kidnapped by the Snow Queen and held in her palace, where “the walls were of driven snow, and the doors and windows of cutting wind.” Gerda sets out on a treacherous quest to save Kay. Barrett’s watercolor-and-pencil illustrations capture the dreamy, sometimes frightening aspects of Andersen’s brilliant story.

Aylesworth, Jim. The Mitten. illus. by Barbara McClintock. Scholastic, 2009. Ages 3-6. This dynamic duo has produced a lively version of the beloved Ukrainian folktale, in which more and more animals cram into an almost ever-stretching mitten. McClintock’s energetic illustrations created with ink, gouache, and watercolor provide the perfect wintry touch.

da Costa, Deborah. Snow in Jerusalem. illus. by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu. Albert Whitman, 2001. Ages 6-8. Two boys live in Jerusalem, but they have never met. Avi lives in the Jewish Quarter, while Hamudi lives in the Muslim Quarter. To their surprise, they discover they have both been caring for the same stray white cat. The cat knows no boundaries, and leads the boys to friendship — as unexpected as snow in Jerusalem. If you don’t have this book, get it! Children love the story, which provides wonderful opportunities to discuss conflict in the Middle East and the nature of friendship and trust.

Florian, Douglas. Winter Eyes: Poems and Paintings. Greenwillow, 1999. Fun for all in these brief, whimsical poems, enlivened with Florian’s witty paintings.

Photo of a snow crystal by Wilson Bentley

Martin, Jacqueline. Snowflake Bentley. Houghton, 1998. Wilson Bentley of Vermont first discovered how to photograph snow crystals, as described in this modern classic picture-book biography. Also explore the Snowflake Bentley web site to see his astounding photographs such as the one at left.

Stewart, Melissa. Under the Snow. illus. by Constance Rummel Bergum. Peachtree, 2009. Where do the ladybugs go when it’s cold? What about the bees and the centipedes? Stewart explores winter aspects of such habitats as a field, a forest, a pond, and a wetland. Bergum’s watercolor paintings reveal the animals’ world beneath the snow and the world above, where people skate on frozen ponds and deer forage for food. Use this simple informational book to amaze and to enhance winter story times. Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12, 2010

Whipple, Laura, ed. A Snowflake Fell: Poems About Winter. illus. by Hatsuki Hori. Barefoot Books, 2003. All ages. This lovely collection of wintry poems by such poets as Nikki Giovanni, Jane Yolen, David McCord, Barbara Juster Esbensen, and Ted Hughes, explores the season in all its dazzling glory. Hori’s evocative pastel and watercolor paintings add to the frosty fun.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Marie
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 16:01:57

    I love Snow in Jerusalem and enjoyed reading that to kids during storytime when I ran a synagogue library. It’s a really sweet book.


    • Janice Floyd Durante
      Jan 28, 2011 @ 17:31:13

      I, also, was pleased with how children responded when I read it each year to second graders at a Quaker school. Stories like these are important, aren’t they?
      Thanks for writing, Marie. I hope you stop by again.


  2. Janice Floyd Durante
    Jan 24, 2011 @ 11:13:26

    You’re very welcome! It does seem as if spring is far away, doesn’t it? I’d love to hear how this goes over with your students.


  3. halfwayto50
    Jan 23, 2011 @ 21:26:01

    As a teacher, I loved reading your reccommendations! I can’t wait to find the Groundhog’s day book you suggested at the top. It’s always a fun holiday to celebrate because, frankly, we’re all just looking for something fun to celebrate between Christmas and Easter! Thanks!


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