Foul winter weather could curb enthusiasm for outdoor adventures. After splashing around in the rain or trudging through the snow, it’s nice to snuggle under a blanket and sip cocoa with your little ones.
Bonnie Beaudoin, storyteller at Metro Parks’ W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory, suggests parents utilize this downtime with a book or two. Reading to or with your kids is a great way to bond. This time of year, choose reading that connects your children to winter’s natural marvels.
You can’t go wrong with classic picture books such as Virginia Lee Burton’s “Katy and the Big Snow.” Katy, first published in 1943, may not be as famous as Burton’s “Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel,” but she’s a hit with boys and girls just the same. This is the story of a tough little tracked vehicle who builds roads in summer, plows them in winter. When Katy’s city is overwhelmed by heavy snow, she comes to the rescue.
Another oldie is “The Big Snow” by Berta and Elmer Hader, a Caldecott award winner in 1948. The Haders, like Burton, were author-illustrators; the book features lovingly rendered drawings and watercolors of animals in the wild. Probably because the Haders lived and worked in upstate New York, the book features two birds not native to Washington: the blue jay and the cardinal.
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A second Caldecott winner on Beaudoin’s list is “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats. It’s about a boy named Peter who goes out for a walk in the snow, comes home with a snowball in his pocket and is later surprised by its disappearance.
All of these books are richly illustrated, but if you’re particularly entranced by intricately rendered picture books, pick up one or two by Jan Brett. “The Mitten,” her take on a Ukrainian folk tale, is perfect for winter.
You don’t have to stick to fiction. “Snowflake Bentley” by Jacqueline Briggs Martin is a picture book biography of Wilson Bentley, a Vermont farmer born in 1865 who pioneered the use of photography to study snow crystals. Amazing hand-colored woodcuts by Mary Azarian help tell his story.
Beaudoin also is a huge fan of the Pierce County Library’s Science to Go book backpacks. Each has a theme, with hands-on, science activity sheets and suggestions for local outings.
Since we often get more rain than snow, the “Rain” backpack, aimed at preschoolers, is ideal. Lauren Lindskog, the youth science librarian who selects the books, is particularly fond of one book in the backpack: “Raindrops Roll,” by April Pulley Sayre. Lindskog praises its luscious, close-up photos and says, “This is a great book to read before taking a winter or spring nature walk. The vibrant photographs and simple text will help cue children to slow down and look closely at the world around them.”
Lindskog also recommends “The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder” by Mark Cassino. Including “absolutely beautiful photographs of snow crystals,” this book explains the how and why of snow formation.
A book that combines a story with a seasonal lesson is “Under and Over the Snow” by Kate Messner. A girl and her dad go skiing over a secret kingdom under the snow. “Kids will be astonished to learn that snow can keep animals warm,” Lindskog said.
Another father-daughter tale that happens to be high on the lists of Beaudoin and Lindskog is “Owl Moon” by Jane Yolen. Based on real events, it tells of a nighttime owl hunt. “Patience and quiet are virtues in this world, and they are rewarded,” Lindskog said.
After you’ve warmed up, get ready to take your kids back out to explore nature with a few tips from a book for parents. Beaudoin can’t speak highly enough of “I Love Dirt!” by Jennifer Ward. The subtitle says it all: 52 Activities to Help You and Your Kids Discover the Wonders of Nature. “It has all kinds of things kids can do in all kinds of weather. And they’re open-ended. That’s what I like about it,” Beaudoin said.
For example, the book suggests “a walk on the wild side” by getting your kids to pantomime movements in nature. Or adapt a traditional Simon Says game by asking players to pretend they are animals, rolling waves or leaves fluttering to the ground. Another of the book’s ideas is to experiment with gravity by dropping different natural objects from the same height to see which lands first. Hint: Unless one of the objects has a large surface area, such as a leaf or a feather, all should land at once.
Who: Bonnie Beaudoin, storyteller.
Topic: Worms and soil.
Featured book: “Inch by Inch” by Leo Leonni, the story of an inch worm who likes to measure.
When: 11 a.m.-noon, Feb. 10.
Where: W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory in Wright Park, 316 S. G St., Tacaoma.
Cost: $3 suggested donation.