Ezra Jack Keats set the gold standard for snow stories with his Caldecott Medal-winning book, The Snowy Day, in 1962. Two picture books are worthy additions to his legacy.
A cold and snowy day has never been so cheery as in the delightful A Sled for Gabo, which contains a winning combination of picture and prose. Author Emma Otheguy’s rich text conveys both narrative and mood in an evocative but spare style, beginning with the opening spread: “The day it snowed Gabo followed the whistling sound of an old steam radiator into the kitchen.” Illustrator Ana Ramírez González paints the large, inviting kitchen in bright colors and includes a red table, a purple and orange stove, and walls covered in light blue paint and red, green and yellow tiles.
Gabo can’t wait to head outside to play, but he doesn’t have snow gear or a sled. His mother reassures him by saying, “Vamos a resolver”—Spanish words and phrases are skillfully sprinkled throughout the story—and equips her son with his father’s hat, multiple pairs of socks and plastic bags over his sneakers. With understated, matter-of-fact determination, she sends Gabo outside to solve his own problem.
Otheguy perfectly captures the meandering freedom of a child on the hunt for fun and adventure. Gabo, who is “much too shy for anyone just his age,” roams his lively neighborhood in search of a sled and encounters a variety of friendly adults, a stray cat and a frolicking dog. When one adult joyfully presents him with a cafeteria tray, Gabo can’t help feeling “very small and very sad” because he desperately wants a real sled. But before long, Gabo finds a new friend, a girl named Isa who quickly shows him that his tray will make an excellent sled.
Ramírez González bathes Gabo’s snowy outdoor world in warm tones. The sun gleams bright yellow, the houses sparkle with a multitude of colors, and reds, oranges and pinks burst forth from everything, including Gabo’s hat and his shoelaces. The illustrations accentuate how, in this welcoming neighborhood, everyone looks after one another—even the stray cat.
By the end of the day, Gabo has learned an important lesson about the joys of friendship and about sharing and making do with what you have. A Sled for Gabo’s friendly spirit will wrap itself around your heart like the warm helping of dulce de leche that Gabo and Isa share after their perfect day of sledding.
In Ten Ways to Hear Snow, a blizzard helps a young girl understand how her beloved grandmother copes with the difficulties of aging. Lina has been looking forward to making warak enab (stuffed grape leaves) with Sitti, her Lebanese grandmother. An evening snowstorm has left their city “muffled and white,” but that doesn’t stop Lini from heading to her grandmother’s nearby apartment.
Author Cathy Camper transforms Lina’s journey into a sparkling study of both keen observation and onomatopoeia. “Ploompf!” goes the powdery snow falling from a pine tree, and “swish-wish, swish-wish” is the sound of people brushing snow off their cars. Basking in every moment of this winter wonderland, Lina tallies nine different snowy sounds during her walk. Illustrator Kenard Pak’s images are full of muted tones and plenty of white space, which emphasizes the vast, quiet mood created by the newly fallen snow. His art sets the perfect stage for Lina to hear so many different and unfamiliar sounds.
Once Lina reaches her destination, the joy of her relationship with Sitti takes over the tale. Although Sitti is losing her eyesight, grandmother and granddaughter work side by side in her kitchen, filling grape leaves with lamb and rice. When Lina holds a grape leaf up to her nose and suggests that it looks like a mustache, a cheerful illustration shows the pair clowning around and taking selfies. Sitta may be getting older, but she remains independent, energetic and full of fun.
In a final, touching scene, Lina asks Sitti how she can see snow with her diminished eyesight, and the two discuss the importance of listening. Finally, hand in hand, they venture outside, where Sitti teaches her granddaughter one final way to hear snow. Ten Ways to Hear Snow is a quietly powerful story about the ways that both young and old can help each other adapt to a changing world, told with care and insight.