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Friday, October 28, 2011

Over and Under the Snow, written by Kate Messner with art by Christopher Silas Neal. Chronicle Books, 2011. $18.99 ages 4 and up

"Over the snow I glide.
A full moon lights my path
to supper.

Under the snow, a chipmunk
wakes for a meal. Bedroom,
kitchen, hallway - his house
under my feet."

How amazing for children who are out on the snow doing what kids do there to think about what is happening beneath their feet! Kate Messner has created a tale of winter enjoyment for a father and daughter, while also opting to add a nonfiction piece about the habits of a variety of animals caught in winter's snowy embrace.

A quick movement begins the conversation:

"Over the snow, a flash of fur - a red squirrel disappears down a crack.
"Where did he go?"
"Under the snow," Dad says."

Her father begins to tell her about 'a secret kingdom' that exists underneath the snow as it covers the forest floor, where they are skiing. There is a quiet magic to much of the telling, and that is due to the language used by this skilled writer. I like that she continually reminds us where we are...either over the snow or under it. As they go, there is so much to see and consider in the quiet serenity of their outing.

Since I had some vole tunnels on my lawn a couple of years ago, I like finding information about them:

"Over the snow I climb, digging in my edges so
I don't slide back down.

Under the snow, voles scratch through slippery
tunnels, searching for morsels from summer feasts."

I surely don't know what they were finding under there.

The author's elegant text is matched by the gentle feel of the illustrator's mixed media images of this white world. I love the cutaways created to show young readers what is happening for many familiar animals. Thus, they become the focus of our attention, leaving the humans at the top of the illustration and seeming far from the immediate action.

After a day of quiet adventure, the two join Mom for a bonfire meal. As darkness falls, so does a drowsy feeling grow. Now it's the young narrator's turn to find comfort under cover:

"Over the snow I glide home on tired legs.
Clouds whisper down feathery-soft flakes.

Under the covers, I snuggle deep and
drift into dreams..."

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