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