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!)
Kate Messner - Website
Christopher Silas Neal - Website
"PROCESS behind the art - Over and Under the Snow"
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
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