Thursday, January 5, 2012

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner - Winter Birch Tree Art

Every spring, when the snow thaws, we find zigzagging tracks in our grass. Tiny creatures, presumably mice or voles, make the tracks as they spend much of the winter scampering in the subnivean zone, the layer between the snow and the earth. Lots of different animals spend the winter under the snow, safely hidden from predators. Kate Messner, in her newest picture book, Over and Under the Snow, informs young readers of this "secret kingdom under the snow."

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. Chronicle Books (October 2011); 9780811867849; 44 pages
Book Source: Copy from public library

"Under the snow is a whole secret kingdom, where the smallest forest animals stay safe and warm."

Winter picture books are easy to come by, but quality books, with well-written text, gorgeous illustrations, and educational components that appeal to a broad age range -- those books are few and far between. Kate Messner's Over and Under the Snow is a rare treasure, not only perfect for parent/child one-on-one reads, but also a useful addition to any elementary teacher's winter curriculum. The book presents the topic of animals in the snow in an interesting way, focusing on animals that live under the snow as well as touching on a few of the animals above.

As girl and her father ski across snow covered ground, they notice and remark on actions of animals over and under the snow. The daughter first sees a flash of a red squirrel as it disappears under the snow. The daytime sky slowly darkens to night while the pair continues their casual cross-country ski outing and they observe many other creatures including a shrew, an owl, a deer, voles, a chipmunk, a red fox and even beavers and fat bullfrogs near a reedy marsh. An author's note at the end explains the subnivean zone in detail and also provides further information on the various animals mentioned in the book.

Messner, in her poetic text, really captures the whole experience of skiing in a snow-covered forest as well as describing the animals. The sights, the sounds are all wonderfully expressed in her phrases. "Over the snow I glide. A full moon lights my path to supper. / Under the snow, a chipmunk wakes for a meal. Bedroom, kitchen, hallway -- his house under my feet." She creatively continues this "over the snow," "under the snow" pattern throughout the book.

Christopher Silas Neal's illustrations are an excellent complement to the text. His mixed media art skillfully portrays the hidden, under the snow world in a way children can appreciate. He applies his artistic license and presents a visually interesting, sleekly designed winter world that is realistic enough to look believable. His landscapes show many perspectives. Sometimes the father and daughter appear in the foreground and other times farther back as tiny profiles in the background. My kids greatly enjoy looking at and pointing out all the creatures tucked away under the snow and dirt. (They found the page where a fox scratches away at the snow to grab a mouse really interesting, though perhaps a little startling. That's real life in the winter forest, for sure!)

Related Links:
Kate Messner - Website
Christopher Silas Neal - Website
"PROCESS behind the art - Over and Under the Snow"

☆ ☆ ☆ Tape Resist Birch Tree Art ☆ ☆ ☆

Nearly all the illustrations in Over and Under the Snow include images of bare trees in winter with long trunks extending off the top edge of the pages. A couple of the pages show the daughter and father skiing through a forest of birch trees. I've been wanting to do a tape resist birch tree art project with my kids for awhile now, and the project is the perfect story stretcher to go along with this picture book.

Several elementary art teachers like to use tape resist birch tree art projects to demonstrate positive and negative space and contrast as well as composition relating to background, middle ground and foreground. While many birch tree art projects use watercolors, after reading a blog post at A Palette of Primary Grade Kids, we decided to experiment with paint and oil pastels. We also expanded our project to also talk about ways to picture cross-sections underground. This is a nice, multi-step art project appropriate for a variety of age levels.

Stick painters tape onto colored paper (we used card stock) to create tree outlines. (Make the tape less sticky by rubbing against your clothing first.) Also, leave a little extra tape at the top to make pulling off the paper easier. Paint tree outlines and the ground area with white paint.

While the paint is still wet, remove tape to reveal sky. (One of my son's favorite parts)

Use an oil pastel crayon to outline trees and create lines on the birch trees. This is a wonderfully challenging task for preschoolers,and my son was bound and determined to make all those lines! My daughter used a little heavier line in detailing her trees.

Glue coffee grounds to the bottom of the page to represent the dirt underground. (And enjoy the fragrance of the coffee.)

Finished Images: My son elected to use photocopied animals from the book. He chose the squirrel and chipmunk for his painting. He LOVES the coffee grounds dirt.

My daughter chose to draw all the animals in herself using pastels. Her drawing depicts a cardinal, red fox, mouse, bird in the hole of a tree and fish in a snow covered pond with a single reed. No coffee on her drawing!

Other Birch Tree Winter Art Project Ideas:

Textured Winter Birch Trees and Cardinals - ARTASTIC!
Birch Trees Watercolor Lesson - Deep Space Sparkle
Birch Trees in Winter Watercolors - A Faithful Attempt
Winter Birch Trees - Art Projects for Kids
Birch Trees - Got Art

Shibley Smiles
A Mommy's Adventures hosts the "stART" meme (Story + Art) each week. Add your kids craft post to the Kid's Get Crafty linky at Red Ted Art's Blog. Join in Read Aloud Thursday at Hope is the Word. Wrote a post about play? Join the It's Playtime party! Find more great book tie-ins at JDaniel4's Mom Read, Explore, Learn link-up. Browse more book posts at Little Sprout Books' Feed Me Books Friday.

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alice@Supratentorial said...

This book looks fantastic! And the art project is great. Off to put it on hold at the library.


Unknown said...

This is FANTASTIC! I love it! I've never heard of this book and can't wait to pick it up from the library.

Michelle said...

WOW I absolutely love this book and art project! I can't wait to see if my library has it. Emily would love doing this project too :)

Thank you for linking up and sharing your stART project!


Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I agree with all the previous commenters--what a terrific looking book and project! I think we might have to do this one!

Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

Wow - this turned out beautiful! Thanks for the book review too - I'll add it to my TBR pile.

Anamaria (bookstogether) said...

I've been looking forward to this book, and we're definitely going to try the tape resist trees. Thanks for the review and project idea!

JDaniel4's Mom said...

These books look really awesome! I love your craft! The trees remind me of some we have in our backyard.

Camille said...

I love the illustrations from that book - and what a fun art project to go with it. My daughter would love it! I am going to have to give it a try.

Nina Crittenden said...

Ooh, I'll have to check out Over and Under the Snow, and I am so impressed at the artwork your kids made! Such talent! What a very, very cool blog you have here. Thank you so much for visiting mine! :)

Russ Cox said...

That was so cool to see the kids working on illustrations. Thanks for sharing the steps.

maggy, red ted art said...

Oh my! Those books look LOVELY!!!! So sweet. And your craft is adorable. I love it. Wonderful.

Thank you for sharing on Kids Get Crafty!


JenFW said...

I love that you married an art activity to a book. That's what I call an "enhanced" book!

You've also sold me on the book. I look forward to finding and reading it.

Eric VanRaepenbusch said...

Your projects are always so cool! Love the coffee grounds for dirt (makes me want my afternoon cup!).

Reading this prompted a thought/question: Do you keep all the projects you do with your kids for the blog? IF you do, do you have a organizational tip you could share?

I kinda just throw stuff in a bin. Gotta be a better way.

Jackie Higgins said...

Their art is wonderful!!
You are right, there are only a handful of great winter books and I haven't seen a lot of new books that cover winter well. We usually go back to white snow, bright snow and The mitten-- more of the classics. I'm excited to check out this new title!

Beth ( said...

I LOVE your project!! I am going to put a hold on that book =-) Super cute idea! I am your newest follower. I'd love for you to follow me back, if you want to =-) I also wanted to invite you to link up at TGIF Linky Party -
Have a great weekend,
Beth =-)

The Educators Spin On It said...

Love this activity. I have a special fondness for birch and it is one of the trees I miss most living in the south. We are starting a collection of books and activities on our blog and this is exactly what we are looking for. We would love to have you link this and any other book and activity post up as well. The link will be open year long!

Mindy said...

I just read that book today and loved it. I especially love the art project! I will definitely be trying it with my kiddo. :)

Amy said...

Your project instructions are fabulous - such great detail, especially the tip about rubbing the tape on your clothes to make it less sticky.

Perogyo said...

How much do I love this project and book? The book looks amazing, there is a world under the snow which I have forgotten now that we get no snow. ;)

I have been looking for birch tree art for a while, now maybe we can make ours instead! Thank you.

PS. I absolutely love the title of your blog. Thanks for visiting me and introducing me to it.

Unknown said...

Love seeing winter books out there. The birch tree art project looks like a lot of fun. Thanks for posting about it.

Ms. O said...

I'm still waiting for the library copy I ordered to come in ... may have to get my own. Love this!

And I wonder if I will be brave enough to try this project with some classes at school. This will be totally out of their element ... many of the kiddos have never even seen snow.

But anyway, so glad the comment challenge led me your way. I'll be back!

Anonymous said...

What a great activity! Somehow I didn't know this book was by Kate Messner. I'm more familiar with her middle grade chapter books, but have always loved this picture book. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

AWESOME art project! What a fantastic follow-up to a great book. Thanks so much for sharing!

Storied Cities said...

Wow. I love your craft for this.

I checked out Over and Under the Snow after I had heard so much buzz about it and saw it on the NY Times list, and when I got it I agreed that it was a visually lovely book and I liked the text. Sadly, however, neither of my boys took to it.

Ticia said...

I accidentally deleted a whole slew of posts last week, and it looks like this one fell victim to that as well.

I love how you made the paint resist. I keep meaning to do that, and yet haven't yet.

Amy said...

You always write such good, well-written reviews and choose good books to review! Thanks for sharing this one!