Snow – book reviews

Snow – book reviews © Jason and Clare www.flickr.com

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Curl up in the warm with a cool book this winter. Every reader will find something to love in this selection of seasonal, snowy titles, reviewed by children’s book expert, Anne Faundez.

The Snow Merchant

the snow merchant

Title: The Snow Merchant (HB)
Author: Sam Gayton
Publisher: Andersen Press
Price: £5.99

The author weaves a magical universe around the phenomenon of snow in this beautifully crafted story. Lettie Peppercorn, whose mother vanished years ago, leads a lonely life at the White Horse Inn.

One stormy night, she opens the door to a stranger with a cold and devious manner, dragging a mysterious mahogany suitcase behind him. Seeking refuge, he claims to be an alchemist, his suitcase full of his latest invention – snow – which heralds untold wealth to its owner. Bewilderingly, he presses the snow upon her, so triggering an extraordinary adventure that takes her across the seas in the company of her friend the wind and a gentle, strange-looking boy.

The otherworldly setting is brimming with atmosphere and enchantment, reinforcing the inventive plot and sharply delineated characters. As Lettie finds friendship, family and love, we come to understand the meaning of snow. This is an extraordinary tale, both fantastical and profound, with a plot that twists and turns towards a wonderful conclusion.

Hidden in the Snow

Hidden in the snow

Title: Hidden in the Snow (HB)
Author: Barbara Taylor
Publisher: QED Publishing
Price: £4.99 each

Discover how animals survive in snowy regions with this highly informative and beautifully presented nonchronological report. Characteristics, life cycles and survival techniques of species as diverse as harp seals and Arctic wolves, mountain sheep and polar bears, puffins and orcas are examined here through stunning photographs and an engaging text.

Each double-page spread, set out as a chapter, contains an introductory paragraph, a secondary paragraph focusing on a particular species, labels, captions and fact boxes. There is also a glossary, an index and a page of notes for parents and teachers.

Just Right for Christmas

 Just Right

Title: Just Right for Chrismas (PB)
Author: Birdie Black
Illustrator: Rosalind Beardshaw
Publisher: Nosy Crow
Price: £6.99 each

Hard to match for Christmas cheer is this thoroughly upbeat story. On Christmas Eve, the king buys a roll of bright red cloth on a market stall. It is perfect for making a long cloak for his daughter. His sewing maids discard the unwanted fabric remnants, leaving them on the back doorstep. Then along comes Jenny the kitchen maid, who scoops them up, for they are just right for making a jacket. She, in turn, does away with the leftover scraps… just as Bertie Badger enters the scene and finds a use for them.

The story continues in this manner, the scraps becoming smaller and the animals who recycle them ever tinier! By the end of the story, celebrations abound. The illustrations are wonderful, the snowy landscapes the perfect background for the rich colouring of the cheerful figures and deep reds of the fabric and finished garments.

The Snow Queen

The snow queen

Title: The Snow Queen (HB)
Author: Sarah Lowes
Illustrator: Miss Clara
Publisher: Barefoot Books
Price: £6.99 each

Presented as a small-format chapter book for independent readers, this is a spellbinding retelling of, and introduction to, Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale. In the poorest part of town live a boy and a girl called Kay and Gerda. One night in the depths of winter, Kay watches as a snowflake turns into the Snow Queen. She blows Kay a kiss, throws splinters of ice into his heart and then lures him away to her frozen palace in the north, where there is no colour, laughter or warmth. Gerda, anxious and missing her friend, sets out to find him, encountering an enchantress, a raven, a bandit girl and a wolf – and all sorts of obstacles – along the way.

The story is elegantly told, perfect for reading aloud, and the pages exquisitely embellished with highly stylised, multi-layered images adding a dreamlike quality that almost tips into nightmare.

Christmas Tales Storyworld series

Christmas Tales   Storyworld

Title: Christmas Tales Storyworld series (HB)
Author: John and Caitlín Matthews
Illustrator: Miss Clara
Publisher: Templar Publishing
Price: £6.99 each

Young children can create their very own Christmas story with these attractive cards, perfectly sized for small hands. Twenty-eight in all, each card is laminated, with a detailed and atmospheric illustration on one side and, on the other, a statement about the pictorial content and open questions to trigger ideas about plot, setting and characterisation.

Themes are wide ranging, from ‘the frost king’ and ‘the magic pudding’ to ‘the Christmas star’ and ‘the friendly snowman’. An accompanying booklet offers ideas on using the cards and, for each image, a synopsis and list of key words. This is an excellent way of introducing children to the endless possibilities of storytelling.

The Snowy Day

the snowy day

Title: The Snow Day (PB)
Author: Anna Milbourne
Illustrator: Elena Temporin
Publisher: Usborne
Price: £4.99 each

The boundaries between fiction and non-fiction are blurred in this simple story packed with information and attractive illustrations. Three young children set off into a snowy landscape, looking for adventure. Each step along the way brings them into contact with different aspects of snow – from the weather conditions that are necessary to its formation to the shape of snowflakes and the ways of birds, fish and mammals as they cope with wintry conditions. The softly coloured artwork shows enough detail to invite discussion on wrapping up warm, camouflage, animal prints and hibernation.

More in this category: « Author interview – Clare Bevan

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