Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, January 23, 2020

What Is . . . This?

Usually in northern Michigan our snow arrives and leaves annually as anticipated.  When the first snow falls it is not unusual for everyone to pause, wherever they are, and watch, a soft sigh escaping unbidden. (Or, in the case of my students, running to the bank of windows at the back of the library, and laughing out loud.)  Yet, when the final patch of snow melts, months later, it's cause for jubilation.  Normally, the snow changes from month to month in texture and depth.  This year, though, has been one of many surprises.

Our snow goes from a stormy seven inches deep to gooey-wet in a matter of days.  It's as if Spring does not want to let Winter have its proper time.  This weather gives us a huge variety of ever-changing snow characteristics.  Some Snow Is . . . (Putnam, G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC, November 5, 2019) written by Ellen Yeomans with illustrations by Andrea Offermann offers readers an ode to all the various types of snow.

Some snow is First Snow.
We've waited for so long snow.
Is it really snow snow,
or only heavy rain?

When snow first falls it rarely lasts, but as the narrator says, we wait for the snow which stays.  In between, there will be a blend of rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow.  Sometimes the snow is so light, it simply goes where the wind blows.

As it deepens there is play; children falling with arms and legs spread and making angels.  The snow quality shifts allowing the building of snow forts and snowballs.  It is a time to be an architect or simply a maker of shapes.

On the days the snow pours from the sky, wet, heavy and deep, we shovel to help our father clear a pathway and the driveway.  We move it from one place to another place.  It gets higher and higher.  Guess what we do now?

We wander in the woods, looking at tracks made by all sizes of creatures.  Who went there?  Who went here?  We join other children, towing sleds to the top of the hill and careening down at take-your-breath-away speeds.  And we do it again because we can.

There is one snow better than any other kind of snow.  It's so wild and windy, we huddle cozy inside until the next morning we roll and sculpt another chilly child, a familiar figure seen across lawns and fields.  He stands until snow is but a thought we hold until the next First Snow.

The words in this book written by Ellen Yeomans reveal a personal connection to snow, portraying vivid experiences.  The snow described here is as children see it.  It's depicted as an abundance of opportunities.  At the end of the fourth and eighth lines a word rhymes, tying the rhythm together.  Here is another passage.

Some snow is Angel Snow.
Finally covers all snow.
Lightly and slightly deep snow---
drop down and make some wings.

The liberal use of blue on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case evokes the chill of winter.  The primary colors in the children's clothing with the green in the one coat is a colorful contrast.  Everything is enlivened with the falling snow and snowy text.  This image is pure happiness.  To the left, on the back, is a crisp white canvas with three smaller pictures of children enjoying snowy activities.  Words from the narrative describe the kind of snow:

First Snow!
Sledding Snow!
Snowman Snow! 

On the opening and closing endpapers is a continuation of the falling snow against shades of a paler blue sky.  On the title page we are standing inside the children's home, next to a chair used to drape snow clothing. A pair of boots are beneath it.  The door is open to the snowy world outside.

Each illustration, rendered

with pen, ink, and watercolor with digital touches

by Andrea Offermann is a cheerful celebration of each day filled with each kind of snow.  Her attention to detail is superb.  Her point of view shifts from bird's eye as the children look up at snow, to a wider-angle of snow starting to gather on neighborhood homes to a panoramic view of the community atop the sledding hill.

The scenes are a beautiful depiction of an array of settings with our eyes drawn immediately to the children.  The facial expressions on these characters are wonderful portraits.  These pictures, ranging in size from double page to full page and to a group of three smaller images, are so spirited you expect them to come to life at any minute.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  We are looking down at a large snowy expanse.  In the upper left-hand corner, we see a small portion of a wooden fence and open gate.  In the lower right-hand corner, a child, hands on hips, is standing and looking as we are.  Next to them is a pooch pal seen in some of the pictures.  We are all looking at snow angels spread before us, connected by footprint paths.  The angels are accented in blue and yellow.

This book, Some Snow Is . . . written by Ellen Yeomans with illustrations by Andrea Offermann, is for remembering and wondering.  It is brimming with joy and appreciation for snow.  It would be a wonderful addition to a theme on winter, snow or perhaps a study of Snowflake Bentley.  You'll want to add this title to your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Ellen Yeomans you can follow her on her Instagram or Twitter accounts.  To discover more about Andrea Offermann, you can access her website by following the link attached to her name.  She maintains a blog and an account on Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view the title page.

On a personal note I want to introduce you, if you aren't already familiar with it, to a blog maintained by author and reviewer Julie Danielson titled Seven Impossible Things Before BreakfastI have visited this blog for more years than I can remember.  I have learned wonderful things about authors and illustrators through her posts.  In this post, I discovered Some Snow Is . . . I am grateful to Julie Danielson and to her passion for children's literature.

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