- Bibliography: Cordell, Matthew. Wolf in the snow. London: Andersen Press, 2019. ISBN 9781783448548
- Plot Summary: Wolf in the Snow is a story about a little girl who gets lost on her way home from school. As she tries to find her way back home, she runs into a wolf pup who is also lost. She decides to return him to his wolf pack. When she returns the pup, she is frightened of the large wolf who greets her, but the wolf only licks the pup and the pair leave peacefully. After nightfall, the girl continues her trek home, but exhausted and cold, she collapses. The wolf pack find her, forming a protective shield around her and howl, which alerts her parents of her whereabouts. In the end, the little girl is found and she returns to the safety of her warm home.
- Critical Analysis: Stylistically, this chapter book is singular. It exists in negative space with sparse imagery and even sparser text. At the outset, there is a sense of love and familial comfort as readers watch scenes of the girl nuzzling her dog and a lively schoolhouse with children in bouncy, colorful overcoats. But these sequences stand in stark contrast to the images of her walking alone in the snow with no one, save the wolf pup. The landscape is pale and grim. The only thing that offsets these muted pages is the persistent redness of the girl’s coat, a testament to the perseverance of her spirit — and the reader’s too, who journeys with her across this hostile landscape. The illustrations reveal a distinction between the cartoon, nearly cone-shaped girl and the realistic rendition of the wolves. These choices force the wolves into the foreground of scenes, allowing the reader to really see them in all their complexity and regal beauty. The major characters in this story are the little girl, the wolves, and the setting. The girl is believable as a loving child who has great capacity for deep empathy and growth, despite initial fears. Her altruistic actions are not portrayed in a way that is hamfisted or saccharine, but rather as a series of moment to moment choices that are believable and tender. The wolves are almost always shown as a dynamic collective—searching, moving, and protecting. The scene that deviates from this is the climax, where the alpha and girl stare at each other for a moment, while the readers hold their breath. The setting too is a character, revealing itself as a brutal force. It is in fact, the only real danger in the story as the elements threaten the girl’s safety and the wolves come to her aid. Cultural markers in the story are one of the most subtle elements, but they are there. First, there is the culture of the people who live in this wild landscape, braving elements, isolation, and challenging encounters few others face. Then, there is the culture of the wolves, who must remain vigilant, wary, and connected to survive. The book’s themes are also successful because they are not forced on the reader, but revealed through careful storytelling. The adults who read this book will recognize the allusion to Little-Red Riding Hood. Except, here wolves are not monsters, but members of a family who want to feel safe and loved and are really no different than us.
- Awards: 2018 Caldecott Medal Winner
- Review Excerpts:
— From Publisher’s Weekly “The girl’s story is a hero’s journey, and Cordell tells it with skill and heart.”
— From Kirkus Reviews “A near-wordless story of kindness repaid.”Connections: Read book in conjunction with other books about inclusivity such as A Family is a Family is a Family by Sarah O’ Leary, Illustrated by Qin Leng ISBN: 978-1554987948, Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena, Illustrated by Christian Robinson ISBN: 9788484705499, andThe Big Umbrella by Amy June and Juniper Bates ISBN: 978-1534406582 .
–Can be paired with traditional fairy tale stories such as “Little Red Riding Hood” or “The Three Little Pigs” and children can discuss differences in wolf depiction in between these stories.
–Book can be paired with a science unit on the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park.
- Bibliography: Lewin, Betsy. Thumpy Feet. London: Andersen Press, 2019. ISBN 9781783448548
- Plot Summary: Thumpy feet is “a day in the life of” story. In the first scene, the reader is introduced to the titular cat, “Thumpy Feet.” In the second, the readers sees Thumpy Feet eating from her food bowl. The cat then spends some time bathing, playing with a toy mouse, sleeping, and upon waking, she chases a red ball of yarn and the adventure continues.
- Critical Analysis:Thumpy Feet is a whimsical story with which any cat owner will quickly identify. With stylistic phrases like “smacky smack,” “lick licky licky,” and yaa awwwny yawn,” Onomatopoeia permeates the text. This creates a fun and humorous tone throughout the story. The titular character is your basic housecat. She enjoys a life of leisure and relative bliss. The reader is given a window into a typical day in Thumpy Feet’s life complete with everyday cat hijinx such as pouncing on a toy mouse and chasing a ball of string. This plot and characterization creates a sense of familiarity and comfort for children and adults alike. Although at first glance, it may seem that Thumpy Feet is too “surface” and playful for the presence of any deeper theme, a theme is definitely present. This is a cat who knows how to enjoy life as she invites the reader to carpe diem alongside her! The illustrations are cartoon-inspired, but their movement and overall dynamism are authentic. Everything about this cat involves movement. Even when Thumpy Feet sleeps, she is either rolling over on her back or twitching her tail. All of this activity beckons the reader to join in the fun of “cat culture” and living life to the fullest!
- Review Excerpts:
—From Publisher’s Weekly “Minimally propped and set against crisp white backgrounds, the action couldn’t be more catlike in its concision.”
–From Kirkus Reviews “Anyone who has ever known and loved a cat will be instantly captivated by Lewin’s fun-loving feline creation.”
–Can be paired with other Betsy Lewin books such as Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type written by Doreen Cronin ISBN: 978-1481465403 or Thump, Quack, Moo: A Whacky Adventure written by Doreen Doreen Cronin ISBN: 978-1416916307
— Students can draw pictures of any pets they have or would like to have and share what their pets are like
- Bibliography: Keats, Ezra Jack. The Snowy Day New York: Viking Press, 1962. ISBN 978-0-670-01270-1
- Plot Summary: The Snowy Day is a story of a little boy named Peter who wakes up one morning to find that it has snowed. He goes outside to play in it and engages in curiosity-inspired activities such as leaving different types of foot tracks in the snow, knocking down snow from trees with a stick, making snow angels, and even packing a snowball in his pocket for safekeeping! Naturally, this leads to disappointment when he looks for it later, but realizes it’s gone. Soon after, he goes to bed where he dreams the snow has melted, but the next day it is still there and he invites his friend to go out and play in it once more.
3. Critical Analysis: The Snowy Day is a rather contemplative children’s story. Even though it’s about an exciting event – Snow covering an entire neighborhood – the plot is told with a sense of restraint and quiet wonder rather than over the top glee. Nonetheless, there are many gleeful moments such as when Peter slides down a large mound of snow or when he flutters his arms and legs to make snow angels. Despite this, the tone remains one of tempered enthusiasm. The character also shows restraint as he initially opts to play by himself rather than join the older boys in a snowball fight– “He knew he wasn’t old enough — not yet,” the story says, demonstrating Peter’s good judgement. Although this may be uncharacteristic of many young children, Peter’s actions along with the narration helps establish a mood of awe and wonder that is far more powerful than many adventure stories. This book’s strength comes from what the readers don’t see. They won’t see a young child roughhousing or engaging in overly rambunctious behavior. Instead, they’ll see him perform small acts of playfulness such as studying the footprints he leaves on the ground or wedging tightly packed snow in his pocket. The reader is also met with onomatopoeia with the “crunch, crunch” of the snow as he walks on the ground and some cheeky word humor like the elongation of the word “s-l-o-w-l-y” with dashes between each letter helping the reader feel the languid steps the child has taken. The illustrations also complement this whimsical yet tempered tone. One shows Peter’s adorably tiny footprints in the snow pointing this way and that, and another reveals one curious eye peeping from under a red hood just after a snow clump falls on his head. A great deal of the landscape is covered in white (for the snow) and in some scenes most of the action and color are relegated to a smaller space of the page. Although this may seem counterintuitive for a children’s story, it helps establish this story’s quiet setting and is an essential part of creating its tone. The scenes that look quite different are indoors where rich colors display warmth and represent family and safety. But even in these parts, most of Peter’s insights occur in private, such as when he discovers his melted snowball or in his dreamscapes such as when he thinks the sun has melted away the snow. In the end, this book is about learning new things and growing up. It is also about the small realizations children encounter as they experience the world around them. From an inclusive standpoint, the story shows an African American child as the protagonist, which was groundbreaking for the time and it is one of the reasons this book has helped the genre of children’s literature grow and develop, not unlike Peter himself.
4. Awards: 1963 Caldecott Medal Winner
5. Review Excerpts:
— Excerpt from Publisher’s Weekly “Ezra Jack Keats’s classic The Snowy Day, winner of the 1963 Caldecott Medal, pays homage to the wonder and pure pleasure a child experiences when the world is blanketed in snow.”
— Excerpt from The Hornbook Inc. “Never static, but sparkling with atmosphere.”
— Can be read in conjunction with A Poem for Peter ISBN: 978-0425287682 so students can understand the background behind the creation of this story.
— Can be paired with “Snow Kisses” poem by Barbara Vance.
— Children can make their own snowflakes and decorate them with glitter.
— Can be studied along with a science unit on weather and snow in particular.
Children’s Book Review: The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. (n.d.). Retrieved September 13, 2020. Publisher’s Weekly. https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-670-86733-2
Children’s Book Review: Thumpy Feet by Betsy Lewin. (n.d.). Retrieved September 13, 2020. Publisher’s Weekly. https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-8234-2901-1
Children’s Book Review: Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell. (n.d.). Retrieved September 13, 2020. Publisher’s Weekly. https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-250-07636-6
Review of The Snowy Day. (n.d.). Retrieved September 13, 2020. Hornbook Inc. https://www.hbook.com/?global_search=the-snowy-day
THUMPY FEET. (2013, August 01). Retrieved September 13, 2020. Kirkus Reviews. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/betsy-lewin/thumpy-feet/
WOLF IN THE SNOW. (2017, January 03). Retrieved September 13, 2020. Kirkus Reviews. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/matthew-cordell/wolf-in-the-snow/