Straddling the informative and the evocative, this lovely study of the ways animals spend the winter in a “secret kingdom under the snow” combines Messner’s (Sea Monster’s First Day) graceful prose (“Over the snow, the fire crackles, and sparks shoot up to the stars. I lick sticky marshmallow from my lips and lean back with heavy eyes”) with debut illustrator Neal’s quiet, woodcut-like portraits of the snowy forest. A human father and daughter are tiny figures in a field of white, cross-country skiing past fir trees and glimpsing the occasional animal, while other creatures are visible in cutaway views below ground (“Under the snow, a queen bumblebee drowses away December, all alone. She’ll rule a new colony in spring”). The rhythm of the girl’s discoveries balances thoughtful discovery with moments of muted excitement, as when she skis downhill, then watches a fox pounce on a mouse (“His paws scratch away to find the mouse he heard scritch-scritch-scratching along underneath”). Unvarnished pages and an elegant layout enhance the sense of magic in a natural world just out of view. Includes an afterword and bibliography. Ages 4–8. (Nov.)
"Beautifully rendered" - The Horn Book Magazine, starred review
Marion Vannett Ridgway Book Award Winner: Illustration 2012"
[A] lovely study of the ways animals spend the winter." - Publishers Weekly, starred review"
Utterly charming, and informative, to boot." - Kirkus Reviews"
Throughout the book, Neal's crisp, clean mixed-media illustrations cleverly provide above- and belowground views, and Messner's back material will educate children about the subnivean zone and animal adaptations" - School Library Journal"
This book depicting beauty in nature is a gem... Anyone looking for a picture book that also teaches science will love this title" - Library Media Connecton, Starred Review"
Messner packs much information into the serene wintry landscape, beautifully captured in Neal's stunning retro-style illustrations." - The New York Times"
Kate Messier... weaves a nature lesson" - USA Today
PreS-Gr 2—A girl spends the day with her father skiing through the woods. As they proceed through the wintry landscape, he tells her about the secret kingdom of animals under the snow. He explains how a red squirrel and shrew move through cracks and tunnels, and how deer mice stay warm in their nests by covering themselves with feathers and fur. When the sky is light, the voles, beavers, and chipmunks gather food to eat, but as the sky grows darker, the queen bumblebee, bullfrogs, and black bear are shown sleeping in enclosures under the snow. Aboveground, the child and her dad are joined by the mom and have a bonfire, complete with cocoa and hot dogs sizzling on pointed sticks, before going to bed to dream about the secret kingdom under the snow. Throughout the book, Neal's crisp, clean mixed-media illustrations cleverly provide above- and belowground views, and Messner's back material will educate children about the subnivean zone and animal adaptations. Some of the uses for snow (entertainment, warmth, camouflage, shelter) can be discussed after reading this book.—Tanya Boudreau, Cold Lake Public Library, AB, Canada
A young child enjoying a full day of cross-country skiing narrates this gentle tale, explaining both her own activities and what the animals are doing. "Over the snow I glide, past beech trees rattling leftover leaves and strong, silent pines that stretch to the sky. On a high branch, a great horned owl keeps watch. Under the snow, a tiny shrew dodges columns of ice; it follows a cool tunnel along the moss, out of sight." A deer, bullfrogs, beavers, a fox, mice, chipmunks, a bear and a bumblebee are among the other animal inhabitants of the "secret kingdom" under the snow; some are snoozing, some foraging and some hunting for the others. Backmatter includes an author's note, a paragraph of information about each featured animal and a list for further reading. Neal's two-dimensional mixed-media illustrations are minimal in both detail and color. Simple outlines give shape to the trees, animals and leaves, while white is the predominant color. The lyrical descriptions of the text and the gray/brown/ice-blue palette of the illustrations leave readers with a retro feel that harkens back to earlier days of children's books and bygone times when life seemed simpler. Utterly charming, and informative, to boot; readers brought up on a diet of rhymes, bright colors and adorable fluffy animals will find its simple beauty a balm. (Informational picture book. 4-8)