PPBF: Over and Under the Snow


Image courtesy of Chronicle Bks

 Over and Under the Snow

Written by Kate Messner and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. Chronicle Books, $16.99,  Ages 4 and up

Do you think you know all about snow?  In New England this winter we have certainly had many, many opportunities to watch the fine flakes fall, to slide and glide, to shovel and plow. But I guarantee that even if you feel a little weary of the ice and cold, Kate Messner’s delightful book Over and Under the Snow will restore your appreciation for the magic that takes place in nature’s secret subnivean kingdom.

A girl enjoying a day of cross-country skiing with her father narrates the story, describing where she goes and what she sees.  “Over the snow I glide.  Into woods, frosted fresh and white.  Over the snow, a flash of fur – a red squirrel disappears down a crack. ‘Where did he go?’ ‘Under the snow,’ Dad says.

As they proceed through the woods, they discover many signs of animal life, lyrically described and simply outlined. Beautiful pale blue, brown and icy gray illustrations reveal tunnels and caves below the snow surface.  Messner’s menagerie includes shrews, snow hares, bullfrogs, bears and even bumblebees, all munching, scratching, snoring or snoozing above and below the snow.  An informative author’s note profiles each animal in depth, and gives additional information about their homes, diets and behavior.

Neal’s minimalist illustrations are simple in tone and slightly retro in feel. The quality of this book is enhanced by its thick unvarnished paper, offering a satisfying heft to the feel and turn of each page.  The final image features animal constellations gleaming in the cold night sky while our heroine curls up in her snug warm bed, tying it all cozily and perfectly together.

Follow animal tracks in the snow, or mud!
Try cross country skiing on a sunny snowy day.
Bundle up and look at the stars on a cold winter night.

Image courtesy Chronicle Bks

Image courtesy Chronicle Bks

In the mood for a warmer, greener tale? Messner and Neal have just released the springy sequel Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt (Chronicle Books, March 3, 2015)

I can’t wait to dig into this new book, and into the dirt!

Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

Portions of this review first appeared in North Shore Children & Families, March 2015. Read your issue online here.


About Cathy Ballou Mealey

Children's book author, repped by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency. Wife, mother, daughter, sister, alumna, autism advocate, book reviewer. Reach me via email at cmealey@post.harvard.edu or Twitter @catballoumealey
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33 Responses to PPBF: Over and Under the Snow

  1. rnewman504 says:

    Cathy, Sounds like a beautiful book! Will add it to my list. Terrific review! 🙂

  2. I’m adding these books to my “to read” list. Thanks so much for sharing them!

  3. Oh, my granddaughter would love this book. She would enjoy studying where they disappear to during the winter — nature’s secret subnivean kingdom.. I like that Messner includes information about each animal. Her spring book looks just as interesting. Thank you for the introduction.

  4. I’ve heard Kate’s books are amazing. I guess it’s about time I see for myself. Thanks for the nudge.

  5. Catherine Johnson says:

    Ooh I must look out for the dirt one. I love your header btw.

  6. I have a copy of that book and love it! Thanks for letting us know about the spring version. It’s on my list:)

  7. These both sound lovely. Thanks for the review.

  8. I seriously love reading your reviews! I know I told you that on Goodreads already, but I had to tell you again. 😉 I really like this book, but you’ve managed to make it magical for me all over again. I can’t wait for the Spring companion either.

  9. Being in the Bay Area of Northern California, we don’t see any snow. My son has been begging us to live somewhere where it snows. Until I can accommodate that request, I think this book might be just the ticket to appease him (and me, it looks gorgeous!). I dare say this book looks like it may also inadvertently teach him something while dazzling him at the same time!

    This looks wonderful! Thank you for the great review! I look forward to reading it soon.

    • A snowy trip north, or east, might be in order one day just to experience the frozen fluffy stuff! Lots of snow themed books, but this is one of my favorites. Here’s one flake from me to you *

  10. Sue Wang says:

    Oh snow. My mother’s name. Bright Snow. Then there is Boston’s snow, and Snowflake Bentley (I think?)… Very cool book that gives a lot of info 🙂

  11. Creatopath says:

    Living in Australia, we never see snow so this book would be a good one to read to learn about all the great qualities of snow.

  12. tinamcho says:

    Thanks for sharing! How neat this is now a series!

  13. Sue Heavenrich says:

    I love Over & Under the Snow – and can’t wait to read the book about gardens. Kate writes with such lyrical language … her words just carry you along.

  14. I’m adding this to my list. The amount of snow you all received in New England made me keep my mouth shut every time our small 2-3 inch snowstorms arrived. There’s still a chance we’ll have more snow, but feels like spring. Thanks for the book recommendation.

  15. This is a great pick! Especially now that the snow is melting and we can see what’s down there 😉 I just got Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt to review. It looks like a good one! 🙂

  16. Cathy, this is a fabulous post and I SO want to read both books. Love the pairing. A title for New England for this year, Will The Snow Ever Go? 🙂

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