Thursday, February 23, 2012

SPL Shelf Life [kids]

Winterberries and Apple Blossoms by Nan Forler, with paintings by Peter Etril Snyder, 39 pages.
Some picture books can be considered as works of art, and Winterberries and Apple Blossoms is definitely one of them. Sub-titled Reflections and Flavours of a Mennonite Year, this book offers a month-by-month peek at a year in the life of a young Old Order Mennonite girl through the detailed paintings of artist Peter Etril Snyder and the reflections, poems and recipes of Nan Forler.
Naomi and her close-knit family lead a plain life without modern conveniences such as computers, televisions or cars. They travel by horse and buggy. There are no expensive toys or fancy, colourful clothes. Naomi’s day is spent helping her mother in the home, helping with the farm chores, attending school and playing with her brothers and sisters.
In January, we see Naomi attending her first quilting bee and learning how to quilt. In February, we see her making a trip to the general store with her mother to purchase the dark cloth needed for a new dress. March finds Naomi in the sugar bush with her father, and in April, the family is picking stones from the fields in preparation for planting.
In each month of the year, we discover more about the peaceful, orderly life of an Old Order Mennonite community, a contrast to our fast-paced world. Naomi’s life is different in many ways from that of other children outside the Old Order Mennonite community - but there are similarities too.
Both artist Peter Etril Snyder and author Nan Forler live in the Waterloo area. Raised as a Mennonite, Mr. Snyder is well-known for his widely exhibited paintings of Mennonite country life and rural landscapes. Winterberries and Apple Blossoms is truly a visual treat for all ages – both children and adults – all the more so with the many details to be found in the paintings and the inclusion of twelve delicious recipes for Mennonite desserts at the end of the book.  
** Recommended for ages 5 years and up.

Over and Under the Snow, by Kate Messner, 38 pages.
Under the snow is a “secret kingdom” of creatures which remain safe and warm there during the cold winter months.
Children will be fascinated to discover that mice, chipmunks, voles, shrews, groundhogs and other small animals are beneath the snow on which we walk, ski and play. Out of the sight of predators such as owls, hawks and foxes, small creatures are sleeping, eating, looking for food and traveling along narrow tunnels and paths under the snow.
Scientists tell us that this “secret kingdom” really does exist. Known as the “subnivean zone”, it consists of small open spaces, cracks and tunnels between the snowpack and the ground, created when heat from the ground melts some of the snow next to it, leaving a layer of air just above the dirt and fallen leaves. With the snow acting as insulation, the subnivean zone stays close to 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) through the winter, giving warmth and shelter to the small creatures which depend on it for their survival.
The muted illustrations of Christopher Neal effectively depict the stillness of a quiet, snowy landscape which so effectively hides a living world beneath it. Children will be both intrigued and informed by Kate Messner’s new picture book.   
** Recommended for ages 3 to 7 years.

These reviews appeared in The Stratford Gazette on February 16, 2012. Written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian.

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