January 2004

Poems that celebrate the season

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Winter is all about the juxtaposition of cold and warmth, and Laura Whipple's poetry anthology, A Snowflake Fell: Poems About Winter, is sure to warm hearts of all ages. This collection is one of those rare volumes that I can share with both my four-year-old twins and my 10-year-old son. So, as Whipple advises in her introduction, "pop some corn; put your fuzzy slippers on, and use your imagination to experience the sharp smell of winter air, the sound of ice skates on a frozen pond, the touch of snow on your face and even the taste of the first snowflake as it falls from the sky."

Whipple's book features a wonderful selection of poems about animals and the natural world, including Jane Yolen's "Winter Song of the Weasel," Douglas Florian's "The Winter Tree" and Ted Hughes' "Goose." Marilyn Singer's delightful "Deer Mouse" replicates the rhythms of a deer mouse scampering over the snow to gather food: "get get get get get/get/out of the nest/get/into the cold." Older readers will recall how it feels to be a kid during winter when they read Jack Prelutsky's "My Mother's Got Me Bundled Up." Few poets can rival Prelutsky's humor: "It's hard to move, and when I try/I waddle, then I flop/I'm the living, breathing model/of a walking clothing shop." Richard J. Margolis' "Downhill" is a funny ode to the question of who steers on a sled, while Bobbi Katz's "Skiing" speaks wonders in its quiet simplicity: "Skiing is like being/part of a mountain."

Tying the myriad poems together are the splendid illustrations of Japanese artist Hatsuki Hori. The endpapers of the book swirl with snow falling on evergreens and deciduous trees, and Hori's soft touch captures the bluish shadows of snow and the yellow glow of a warming fire. Whether she's illustrating a deep blue sky over a snowman or the northern lights over a snowbound cabin, Hori makes winter's icy world appealing.

Stash away a copy of A Snowflake Fell for those winter moments when the kids complain that there's nothing to do. Pour some hot cocoa, and you'll be ready for a literary feast.

Alice Cary writes from Groton, Massachusetts.

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