Monday, February 8, 2010

Snow Day! Story Time for a Winter's Day

It's been snowing here on and off for a couple days. Nothing compared to what the mid-Atlantic states have seen this past week, but snowing none-the-less. All the snow brought a couple books to mind: "Here Comes Jack Frost" and "Snowflake Bentley."

"Here Comes Jack Frost"
By Kazuno Kohara
For ages 3 – 8
The holidays are over and Jack Frost is here. Many children get tied, bored and a little depressed by the grey of winter. In “Here Comes Jack Frost” a lonely boy is befriended by Jack Frost and learns to appreciate the winter. They pirouette on skates across the pond, sled down the hill and build snowmen versions of themselves. The boy forgets that he is bored by winter and enjoys the fun the season has to offer. Jack can stay and play as long as the boy never mentions anything warm, which isn’t a problem until the boy notices the first bud of spring. Not to worry, Jack promises to return next year.

Kohara illustrates the tale with white silhouettes. The hard, crisp edges pop from the crystal blue backgrounds adding an enchanted wintry ambience. "Here Comes Jack Frost" is a great selection for a wintery, snow day, story time.

"Snowflake Bentley"
By Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Illustrated by Mary Azarian
For ages 3 – 8
Published in the winter of 1998, and winner of the 1999 Caldecott medal, "Snowflake Bentley" is the biography of a self-taught scientist who photographed thousands of snowflakes so that he could study the unique individually snowflake formations.

The book shows Bentley's fascination with snowflakes and ice crystals beginning from a young age. He was determined to share his belief that they were little miracles by capturing them on film and sharing the formations with everyone. Few people understood his passion, but his patience and determination helped him develop the technique for microphotography which allow the camera to capture ice crystals' hexagonal shapes. He also proved that no two snowflakes are alike. 

Martin is very lyrical in telling Bentley's story, which is very fitting to the beauty and artistry of Bentley's photography. The text has several sidebars with interesting bits of information about Bentley and his techniques. Azarian's woodcut illustrations use bold black lines to anchor the images and provide a visual contrast to the delicate snowflake patterns. Tinted with watercolors the illustrations offer a heartwarming feel to the story.

The cherry on top of this sundae are three of Bentley's black and white photographs of snowflakes. The inclusion of his remarkable photography helps children and parents alike better understand his artistry.

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