Over and Under the Snow
Ben Partridge
Oct 19, 2011

Sweeping snow drifts, white shrouded evergreens, bonfires, and plenty of winsome forest creatures living in the secret subnivean zone below the snow, Author Kate Messner's new book, with illustrator Christopher Silas Neal, sets a magical mood for winter explorations, and snuggling under quilts. Plus, I'm a total sucker for any cutaway illustrations of animal burrows.

As a father and daughter cross-country ski across a quiet woodland landscape, the sight of a red squirrel's tail disappearing down a crack in the snow triggers the girl's curiosity about the creatures that secretly exist in a realm beneath the heavy blanket of winter. Deer mice huddle together in a nest of feathers and fur, bullfrogs hibernate in mud, beavers gnaw at aspen bark, a tiny shrew scurries along a mossy tunnel, and a fox listens for the "scritch-stritch-scratching" of an invisible mouse.

Neal's mixed media art and muted palette of brown, gray, blue, and lively instances of scarlet, create a hushed mood of wonder, and excitement, while invoking a sense of coziness. And Messner's text is informative but lyrical, lending itself to being read over and over as a nightly ritual. And for the more inquisitive kids, author's notes and an animal glossary elaborate in more detail on the winter habits of the creatures featured in the book.

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner with art by Christopher Silas Neal (Chronicle Books), $10.73

(Images: Ben Partridge)

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