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The Picture-Book Club > December 2013: Snow Animals (Discuss Our Club Reads Here)

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message 1: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 5763 comments Mod
In December the Picture Book Club will explore the world of snow animals. Here are the titles we will read:

Over and Under the Snow

Ookpik: The Travels of a Snowy Owl

365 Penguins

Pipaluk And The Whales

First Snow in the Woods: A Photographic Fantasy

Sixth/Alternate (for slightly older readers):

Leo the Snow Leopard

I hope you will all be able to join the discussion come December and wish you the best of luck securing all the titles in the meantime. Looks like it will be a great month!


message 2: by Dolly (last edited Dec 01, 2013 08:51AM) (new)

Dolly (dollymart) | 252 comments We've put Over and Under the Snow, First Snow in the Woods: A Photographic Fantasy, and Leo the Snow Leopard on hold at our local library. We are looking forward to reading them.

We've already read 365 Penguins and Pipaluk And The Whales and we liked them. I've already posted my reviews, and I doubt that I'll reread them. Unfortunately, I can't get Ookpik: The Travels of a Snowy Owl at any of our local libraries.

Overall, it looks like a good collection of animals and stories.


message 3: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 5763 comments Mod
I already read and loved Over and Under the Snow last year. I found it a beautifully told, beautifully illustrated and (bonus!) informative story about the animals that live under the snow (and some that live over it) in the winter time. It's a great introduction to the "subnivean zone" -- the network of tiny open spaces and tunnels between the snowpack and the ground. The back matter tells more about each animal--the only thing I would have liked is information about the parts of the country in which the animals can be found (for example, white-tailed deer are highlighted here--but we have mule deer in my area). All in all, a charming story and fine educational tool for exploring the "secret kingdom under the snow." I especially liked it because one of my favorite things about the ocean is knowing so many wonderful creatures live beneath the waves. Like the little girl in this story, I will enjoy knowing about all the creatures under the snow next time I am out in a winder wonderland.


message 4: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 5763 comments Mod
I loved the photography in First Snow in the Woods: A Photographic Fantasy but the story was just so-so for me. I really appreciate what the authors are trying to do here--make beautiful wildlife photography "accessible" to children by pairing the story of a fawn's first snow with beautiful photographs to match the text. The story itself would probably not be that remarkable but paired with the amazing photography it is more enjoyable and the overall product is strong. This would make a good read-aloud and a bit of different fare amongst all the illustrated holiday/winter reads out there. I hesitate to mark it as a children's book because I think it could well be enjoyed by adults not otherwise drawn to "children's books" if they are interested in wildlife and/or photography.


message 5: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (last edited Dec 01, 2013 12:54PM) (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2328 comments Mod
I found Leo the Snow Leopard at my branch library today and read it. It is a wonderful true story accompanied by gorgeous photographs that really show how beautiful these big cats are. I am so glad that Pakistani goat herder decided to rescue Leo rather than shoot him. And that he was willing to seek out other accommodation for him when he was too large for the herding family to take care of. Eventually, after lots of paper work, Leo is brought to the Bronx Zoo in New York, and was introduced to a female snow leopard. The hope is that the two will mate and produce more snow leopards.
I have loved snow leopards ever since I first saw them in the San Antonio Zoo, many years ago. Unfortunately, I don't believe this zoo has snow leopards any more.
For those who liked this book, you might also like Snow School. This is a fictional look, based on what scientists know about snow leopards, at a mother snow leopard who is teaching her two cubs how to survive in their harsh mountainous environment. It is illustrated with very nice watercolor and pencil paintings.


message 6: by Tricia (new)

Tricia Douglas (teachgiftedkids) | 312 comments Kathryn wrote: "I loved the photography in First Snow in the Woods: A Photographic Fantasy but the story was just so-so for me. I really appreciate what the authors are trying to do here--make beau..."

I agree with your remarks, Kathryn. The photos were incredible, especially if you look at the details that were caught in many of them. However, I think the story would be enjoyed most by the younger group - even my almost two year old would love the pictures - but older children wouldn't be that thrilled with the storyline. Because I have a hobby in photography myself, I loved the split-second moments that were caught just right. This is a beautiful book for anyone who is a nature-lover.


message 7: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2328 comments Mod
Re: First Snow in the Woods: A Photographic Fantasy

I have to agree that this is a gorgeous book with fabulous nature photos. The mother deer licking her fawn, the little raccoon poking its wee face out of the tree trunk--such appealing photos! I think this book would work well in a pre-school story time.


message 8: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (last edited Dec 08, 2013 02:39PM) (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2328 comments Mod
Re: Over and Under the Snow

When I first saw this book a couple of years ago, I thought it was a very clever concept. Still think that. Until this book, I was unaware that there was a subnivean zone. But then, of course, I live in San Antonio where it rarely snows. It was very interesting to compare which animals stay above ground, which animals wander around the subnivean zone, and which animal burrow into winter nests. The understated colors in the book's mixed media illustrations reinforce the coldness of the environment.


message 9: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (last edited Dec 04, 2013 04:19PM) (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2328 comments Mod
Re: 365 Penguins

The story was somewhat humorous, and the math concepts clever, but I disliked the illustrations. The pictures were all in blue, black, white, and orange (and I HATE orange!) The penguins looked OK, but I've seen much cuter penguin illustrations in other books, such as If You Were a Penguin.


message 10: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2328 comments Mod
Re: Pipaluk And The Whales

This is a lovely story and I liked that it was based on a true event. Himmelman builds the suspense nicely and the denouement was spot on. I thought the watercolor illustrations were nice, but nothing special. But they did enhance the text.

John Himmelman has written and illustrated several other very cute picture books, in case anyone is interested.


message 11: by Tricia (new)

Tricia Douglas (teachgiftedkids) | 312 comments I'm probably going to only get to two of the books this month. I already did a short review on First Snow in the Woods: A Photographic Fantasy which I liked a lot. Over and Under the Snow was just okay for me. The text was very simplified, but I think younger children would like it. I liked that the author provided the fact about the subnivean layer for older readers and even at the back gave more detailed info on the animals mentioned. The illustrations didn't do much for me. Again for younger children they would get the point across, but the perspective of the animals "under" the snow was lacking. Some of the animals looked like they were on top of the snow. Even the girl when she crawls into bed and goes "under" the covers, the picture shows her on top of the covers. I would have liked more realistic pictures. But I had just finished reading our photographic essay for this month, so maybe that book made me wish for more in this book.


message 12: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 5763 comments Mod
I'm bummed I can't get Pipaluk. Sounds great and I like the cover illustration. Enjoying the reviews here.

The synopsis brought to mind the film "Big Miracle" based on the true story of the rescue of whales in frozen Alaska waters.


message 13: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2328 comments Mod
Kathryn wrote: "I'm bummed I can't get Pipaluk. Sounds great and I like the cover illustration. Enjoying the reviews here.

The synopsis brought to mind the film "Big Miracle" based on the true story of the resc..."


You are so right. I saw "Big Miracle" also, and the two stories are very similar.


message 14: by Cheryl is busier irl atm., Newbery Club host (new)

Cheryl is busier irl atm. (cherylllr) | 6247 comments Mod
I believe Over and Under the Snow to be the exemplary book for this theme. Good science, with appealing pictures & a lucid text - just perfect. Of course its relevance is limited to northern arboreal forested areas, but that's only natural.

Leo the Snow Leopard is a valuable book, but somehow it just didn't wow me. Of course, I'll always have trouble with accepting the possibility that zoos might not be totally horrible. I have to admit, the bit about the name, Leo, coming not from "Leo-pard" or even from "Leo the Lion," but rather from the sound the cub made, was the most interesting bit to me.


message 15: by SamZ (new)

SamZ (samwisezbrown) | 220 comments 365 PenguinsThis was a cute counting story, and I loved the illustrations. The book didn't really hit me as amazing, though. Just cute, and we wished there were more facts about penguins themselves.


message 16: by SamZ (new)

SamZ (samwisezbrown) | 220 comments Leo the Snow Leopard
This was an interesting story, but more of a travelogue than we were looking for. My mom works in a zoo, so I understand their uses in rehabilitation of wildlife, but I don't understand what, if anything was done to return Leo to the wild. I wish there was more info about Leo and snow leopards than about the WWF and Bronx Zo


message 17: by SamZ (new)

SamZ (samwisezbrown) | 220 comments First Snow in the Woods: A Photographic Fantasy
The pictures were good, but the text was long and sort of boring. Didn't hold our attention at all.


message 18: by Cheryl is busier irl atm., Newbery Club host (new)

Cheryl is busier irl atm. (cherylllr) | 6247 comments Mod
365 Penguins was just, well, odd. And trying to send them to the North Pole is wrong on so many levels. Haven't ecologists learned anything about invasive species? And the territory in the N. arctic is shrinking even faster than that in Antarctica. And of course finding the money & other resources to care for them is pure fantasy.... what a strange book. I'll read other reviews to see if maybe I'm missing something, but I'm probably giving it 2 stars. I did like the pictures, kind of.


message 19: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (last edited Dec 12, 2013 02:29PM) (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2328 comments Mod
Cheryl in CC NV wrote: "365 Penguins was just, well, odd. And trying to send them to the North Pole is wrong on so many levels. Haven't ecologists learned anything about invasive species? And the territor..."

Actually, according to many news sources, the Arctic has 60% more ice this year than last year. However, penguins still should not be relocated to the Arctic.


message 20: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 7213 comments Mod
Cheryl in CC NV wrote: "365 Penguins was just, well, odd. And trying to send them to the North Pole is wrong on so many levels. Haven't ecologists learned anything about invasive species? And the territor..."

I have not read this book and will now definitely not read it. It is amazing that with all of the knowledge about what havoc invasive species can cause and have caused that these so-called ecologists would even consider relocating penguins (or any animal) to the arctic (and the arctic has one of the most delicate ecosystems anyhow).


message 21: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (last edited Dec 12, 2013 11:30AM) (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2328 comments Mod
Gundula wrote: "Cheryl in CC NV wrote: "365 Penguins was just, well, odd. And trying to send them to the North Pole is wrong on so many levels. Haven't ecologists learned anything about invasive sp..."

I certainly don't believe that the authors of the book were serious about moving penguins north. The book was supposed to be silly, and perhaps they intended for the math concepts used for grouping the penguins to be the focus of the book.


message 22: by Cheryl is busier irl atm., Newbery Club host (new)

Cheryl is busier irl atm. (cherylllr) | 6247 comments Mod
It's just weird that it was such a mix of fantastic & educational. I mean, humor can be used to make learning fun, but this just put fact & fiction in such close conjunction that there's no way a child could be expected to sort out which is which. In my opinion. :)

I had not heard that the Arctic ice may possibly be growing. I'd love to learn that trend last more than one year!


message 23: by Fjóla (new)

Fjóla (fjolarun) | 260 comments Excepting Over and Under the Snow, I couldn't locate any of these Snow Animals books at my library, so I won't comment on them. If you're really interested in sea ice levels however, that "No, the World Isn't Cooling" story has been debunked for instance in With Climate Journalism Like This, Who Needs Fiction? (The two first thumbnail graphs clarify what's going on with respect to the numbers touted).

About Over and Under, I really did like the book's earthiness and after initially finding the pictures a tad dull, I began to appreciate them more and I better understood the color scheme after learning about the process they used in creating the illustrations (thanks to whomever posted that link). I probably will try to check out the illustrators new book: Lifetime


message 24: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (last edited Dec 12, 2013 11:32AM) (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2328 comments Mod
Cheryl in CC NV wrote: "It's just weird that it was such a mix of fantastic & educational. I mean, humor can be used to make learning fun, but this just put fact & fiction in such close conjunction that there's no way a ..."

I agree with your comment about the mix of the fantastic and educational being a weird mix in this book.


message 25: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 5763 comments Mod
I agree that "365 Penguins" was quite an odd combination for a picture book. On one hand, if viewed as a fantasy only, it's kind of fun and an entertaining way to do a bit of math. I found the illustrations quite humorous. However, I agree that it fails completely as a biology or ecology book. I wish that the uncle had been purely wacky, not an "ecologist" as that lends credibility to his (not at all credible) ideas. That or there needed to be an author's note or something explaining more. It would be a shame if people read this and took away from it the idea that one can simply relocate a species from one area to another as a way to save them.


message 26: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 5763 comments Mod
Also, I was kind of bothered that the penguins were crammed in filing cabinets and not cared for properly (though the family tried!) Didn't seem like a very nice thing to do to them. I mean, I know it's supposed to be humorous but again the "ecologist" seems pretty irresponsible.


message 27: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2328 comments Mod
Kathryn wrote: "Also, I was kind of bothered that the penguins were crammed in filing cabinets and not cared for properly (though the family tried!) Didn't seem like a very nice thing to do to them. I mean, I kno..."

You have made some very valid points!


message 28: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (last edited Dec 12, 2013 04:08PM) (new)

Kathryn | 5763 comments Mod
Thanks, Beverly

I know sometimes I read too much into what are supposed to just be "fun kids' books" and maybe I miss some of the humor, I don't know. I think I hold children's books to such a high standard (more so than the "grown-up" books most times) because the intended audiences are at once so innocent and yet so wise. They deserve to be treated intelligently and in books that are supposed to be educational they also deserve good and accurate information. At least, that's what I look for in my favorites. (Of course, books can also be very good fun -- and just good fun -- but it's a shame when they tout being educational and give misinformation).


message 29: by Cheryl is busier irl atm., Newbery Club host (last edited Dec 13, 2013 04:02PM) (new)

Cheryl is busier irl atm. (cherylllr) | 6247 comments Mod
I agree that children's books need to be held to a high standard because of the vulnerability of the audience. Thank goodness for involved parents who can point out the inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and other issues.

That's why I have such a problem with Lulu and the Brontosaurus. It would have been a cute book, if there actually were such thing as a brontosaurus.

Sometimes children can learn more from discussions about books than from the books themselves. Actually, that applies to all of us! :)


message 30: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 5763 comments Mod
So true, Cheryl! Sometimes when I close a book that holds content I am not necessarily pleased about I think, well, that makes a good spring-board for a discussion! ;-)


message 31: by Cheryl is busier irl atm., Newbery Club host (new)

Cheryl is busier irl atm. (cherylllr) | 6247 comments Mod
I just enjoyed Ookpik: The Travels of a Snowy Owl. Good science, lovely pictures, but a little dry unless the reader is already interested in the subject. A little long for the littlest ones.


message 32: by Daniel (last edited Dec 20, 2013 08:17PM) (new)

Daniel Spencer | 8 comments funny thing about the Brontosaurus... isn't it?! That said, I love Viorst.

Living where I do, there are no English pic books in our library. So, I have to depend on my own purchases and likely won't have many on my own shelves from The Club.

I seem to have lots of Snow themed books
Snowflake Bentley by Martin and Azarian
The Snowy Day by Ezra Keats
Snow by Shulevitz
The Snowman by Briggs

Perhaps my only qualifying book is
Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers


message 33: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 5763 comments Mod
Daniel wrote: "I seem to have lots of Snow themed books
Snowflake Bentley by Martin and Azarian
The Snowy Day by Ezra Keats
Snow by Shulevitz
The Snowman by Briggs"


I have read many of those and they are great. "Snowy Day" is one of my long-time favorites :-)


message 34: by Aimee (new)

Aimee | 54 comments I loved Over and Under the Snow for its lyricism. The parallel worlds and the repetition of "over the snow" and "under the snow" provided a lovely structure to the story.

I think the factual information was presented with poetic flair that will heighten the simple tension for the reader. I'm thinking, for example, of the moment when all is quiet just before the fox pounces.

The art is striking as well, and I felt it helped me experience the wintry wonder of the woods.


message 35: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 5763 comments Mod
Lovely review, Aimee! Thanks for sharing your thoughts :-) This is one of my favorite winter books.


message 36: by Aimee (new)

Aimee | 54 comments Thanks, Kathryn. I loved this book. I was unable to get copies of the others on our list, so I was particularly happy to read this one.


message 37: by Aimee (new)

Aimee | 54 comments As mentioned a couple of comments ago, I also love The Snowy Day. it so perfectly captures the wonder of a new snowfall.


message 38: by Jenny (new)

Jenny | 722 comments I really enjoyed Over and Under the Snow. I enjoyed reading this book that told about the subnivean zone. The illustrations were wonderful, and the book kept the attention of my 5, 8 and 10 year old daughters. It was fun to compare what the people and animals over the snow were doing with what the animals under the snow were doing. I appreciate that the author included end notes that told more about the subnivean zone and about each animal. I may use this in my second grade class as I teach about animal adaptations. So glad I was introduced to it by this group.


message 39: by Jenny (new)

Jenny | 722 comments 365 Penguins In the end, I have to agree with Cheryl about this one. Not my favorite. Reminds me a bit of Mr. Poppers Penguins (which was never one of my favorites)0. If this had been strictly a fantastical math book, I think I would have enjoyed it more. But the idea of transporting penguins to the North Pole is a poor one. The fact that Uncle Victor (who is an ecologist?!) admits that he has exported penguins, an endangered species, which is illegal is a poor example for young readers. It is troublesome. I'd be less troubled by the book if the ending was different...but the ending was very troublesome.


First Snow in the Woods: A Photographic Fantasy This was absolutely beautiful. The photography was stunning. Read this to my 5, 8 and 10 year old daughters. My 5 year old began to lose interest near the end. But my older two were captivated by the photos. The story is of a fawn meeting other animals preparing for the winter. The fawn is unsure whether it is ready for the first snowfall. While not a true science book, it certainly touches on many of the adaptations these animals have to survive the winter...hibernation, migration, gathering and storing food, and growing thicker fur. (Camouflage is not mentioned, but could be discussed with several animals...perhaps other adaptations as well.). With a little extra discussion, this could be used to help support my science unit on adaptations. Truly, the photos are gorgeous!

I have checked the other three out from the library, but between holiday celebrations and travel, we have not read them yet. I'll try to report back in January about our reactions to them.


message 40: by Cheryl is busier irl atm., Newbery Club host (new)

Cheryl is busier irl atm. (cherylllr) | 6247 comments Mod
You make me wish I'd had access to First Snow... Thank you so much for sharing your family's reactions, and I hope you do get a chance to come back and share more. :)


message 41: by Jenny (new)

Jenny | 722 comments Pipaluk And The Whales: Beautiful story based on a real event. Thousands of beluga whales (thousands...that's so hard to contemplate) were stuck in an ice hole far from the ocean. A village works together to keep the hole from closing while a ship comes to break the ice and rescue them. It is so neat that music was used to lead the whales to safety. I love that while the whales could have fed the village for months, they refused to hunt them when they had no chance for escape and in fact began feeding the whales their fish. I appreciate the author's note about the real event.

My children were captivated by the story and it reminded us of a similar movie we saw a couple of years ago although we can't remember the title. In the movie it was one family of (much larger) whales and was also based on a real event (although I believe they were different events... I think the movie took place in Alaska...while this book occurred in Russia). Glad I was introduced to this book and so many other books from this group. Still have a couple left to read. Ookpik and Leo.


message 42: by Cheryl is busier irl atm., Newbery Club host (new)

Cheryl is busier irl atm. (cherylllr) | 6247 comments Mod
Oh man, now I really want to see that, too.


message 43: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2328 comments Mod
Jenny wrote: "Pipaluk And The Whales: Beautiful story based on a real event. Thousands of beluga whales (thousands...that's so hard to contemplate) were stuck in an ice hole far from the ocean. ..."

"Big Miracle." See also messages 12 and 13 above.


message 44: by Jenny (new)

Jenny | 722 comments Thanks, Cheryl. I am not sure how I missed that. :).


message 45: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 5763 comments Mod
I'm so bummed I wasn't able to get Pipaluk and the Whales; it sounds wonderful and I am very grateful to all these fine reviews so at least I am now familiar with the remarkable story!


message 46: by Jenny (new)

Jenny | 722 comments Sorry, should have thanked Beverly. I am a bit tired and brain dead. I lost an uncle that I was very close to a couple of days ago and it must be affecting me.


message 47: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 5763 comments Mod
I'm so sorry to hear that, Jenny. Please take care and don't worry about posting unless you feel like it.


message 48: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2328 comments Mod
Jenny wrote: "Sorry, should have thanked Beverly. I am a bit tired and brain dead. I lost an uncle that I was very close to a couple of days ago and it must be affecting me."

My condolences for your loss. I'll keep you in my thoughts and prayers.


message 49: by Jenny (new)

Jenny | 722 comments Thanks, Beverly and Kathryn.


message 50: by Londa (new)

Londa (londalocs) | 47 comments Me and my apprentice reviewer are a little behind :)

Over and Under the Snow 4 stars

This book was very informative and creative. Loved the illustrations. Being Floridians who have never even seen deep snow (sadly) in person, this was a real treat. It was fun to learn about where all of the animals spend their winter. I especially loved the part about the fox hunt. At one point, I remember the 8 year old saying "Haven't we already read about this one?" and I thought we had too. I guess the pages all looked so similar that started to feel repeptitive. Perfect educational resource.


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