Most young children love the thought of one good blanket of snow each winter. Many adults feel the same way too, provided it doesn’t fall on a work day. Of course, here in Memphis, there can be long gaps before we are able to dig that sled out of the attic for its “twice-a-decade” run, and even then, we have to hope the snow is deep enough to use it.
I recently had the embarrassment of explaining to someone in Minnesota that a quarter-inch of icy mix shut down Memphis; as you can imagine they were not impressed and muttered something about 40 inches!
Our mild climate means most children born here never get much chance to experience winter the way it appears in children’s books, so it seems to be a mythical place indeed that has thick snow and skating on ponds just like the Christmas cards. Apart from The Snowy Day, most books have snow scenes as part of a holiday story, rather than as the focus of the story.
In search of a wintry preschooler’s picture book, we found I See Winter by Charles Chigna, illustrated by Ag Jatkowska (Picture Window Books). The publisher is in Minnesota, where they know a thing or two about snow. The book is full of snowy scenes with children dressed in bright winter clothes, and consists of rhyming couplets on each two-page spread:
I see trees without their leaves / I see smoke rings ride the breeze.
This makes it easy for young children to listen to the rhymes and spend time looking at the scenes. The wintry skies are not storybook blue but rather dark and smoky, or purple-grey and damp, giving it a nice, chilly feel.
My preschooler and I both enjoyed getting from this book a taste of the winter we wish we could have. I would recommend snuggling up on a cold day to read it, even if there is no snow outside. I would even recommend it for a hot, humid summer’s day whenever you need to think cooling thoughts.
The author does include a Christmas scene, but since this is a book about winter, that's to be expected. It also seems the illustrator tried to fit every possible ethnic group into each scene, which makes skating on the frozen pond look like a mini “United Nations" on ice. I doubt a child would notice, but as an adult, I found it a bit distracting.
Nonetheless, it's a fun read. So get the hot chocolate ready, imagine putting on your snow boots, and take a mini-vacation up North for a spell, where the tire chains jingle and the snow is deep.
And if you enjoy this tale, pick up the other three I See books (I See Spring, for example); there is one for each season.