Snow that lasts all year

Sunday, January 2, 2005

It's a wintertime fantasy of many children to build the perfect snowman.

But sometimes conditions don't cooperate: It might be too cold outside or there might not be enough snow. On the pages of children's picture books, however, the snowmen and everything around them seem to be just right.

The blindingly bright star of Michael Roberts' "Snowman in Paradise" (Chronicle, $16.95, ages 4-8), for one, has it all. He wishes that after his busy holiday season he could go on a vacation to a sunny and warm locale just like everyone else.

A magical little bluebird grants his wish, casting a spell that keeps him from melting in the sun.

The snowman lives it up! He wears a Hawaiian shirt on his flight to paradise and puts a garland around his head when he gets there. He lounges in a hammock and grows a garden full of tropical, exotic flowers. But when December comes around again, the snowman returns home -- with a suitcase full of souvenirs.

Warming up to book

It takes a little longer to warm up to "Snow Dude" (Hyperion, $16.99, ages 3-8) by Daniel Kirk.

The snowman that Nick and Kara Candlewick build is quite a handful. He's a rebel and a little bit of a devil, but he's also cute, talented and, as readers eventually learn, loyal. Pretty soon, everyone wants a Snow Dude of their own.

Max and Ruby, who, as rabbits are already white and fluffy on their own, would rather spend their day sledding than building a snowman.

In fact, in Rosemary Wells' "Max and Ruby's Snowy Day" (Grosset & Dunlap, $6.99, baby-preschool), Max doesn't even want to wait to go outside to start zooming around on his big green sled. Luckily, Ruby has enough common sense for the two of them and she gets them into their snowsuits and out on the hill.

A sweater, a muffler, mittens and boots might help bundle you up and protect against the weather that brings all this winter fun, but all the gear can also weigh you down, as one little girl finds out in "Under My Hood I Have a Hat" (HarperCollins, $14.99, baby-preschool) by Karla Kushkin and illustrated by Fumi Kosaka.

Some winter sports take practice. People -- and pink critters with long ears and even rosier cheeks -- don't become ballerinas on ice overnight, warns Pearl's mother in "Pearl's New Skates" (Greenwillow, $15.99, ages 4 and up) by Holly Keller.

But when Pearl got her new skates ("real ones, not double runners"), she thought she'd sail across the pond without any trouble; she learns, of course, that it's OK to start slowly.

"Snowboard Twist" (HarperCollins, $15.99, ages 6-10) is a lesson in snowboarding terms, humility and the physics of avalanches. The book by Jean Craighead George and illustrated by Wendell Minor is part of the Outdoor Adventure series.

Two boarding rivals, both hot-doggers on the slopes, learn that the best way to enjoy the powder in the Teton Mountains is to respect nature.

A young cub decides to explore the arctic in the darkness of winter in "Polar Bear Night" (Scholastic, $15.95, ages 3-5) by Lauren Thompson.

While she misses the warmth of her mother's fur, the cub does discover many wonderful things, including the moon and the stars that light up the cozy den she normally would be in with her family.

Steven Savage's linocut artwork is simple yet somehow captures all the details of this curious cub's adventure, and it complements the story nicely.

As flakes fly through the nighttime sky, a quiet calm blankets the first few pages of "This Place in the Snow" (Dutton, $15.99, ages 5 and up) by Rebecca Bond. The text is laced through drawings of a picturesque town that later awakens to a flurry of activity brought on by the fresh powder.

Mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends create the best darn sledding hill one could imagine. Then, they need a cup of hot soup to recover.

"Robert's Snow" (Viking, $15.99, ages 3 and up) by Grace Lin is everyone's snow, but to such a tiny mouse, snow is an amazing thing. Mind you, Robert had never touched the snow, but he knows he's going to love it.

He doesn't listen to his family's warnings that a snowstorm can be dangerous to a creature of his size and ventures out -- and gets lost. A kind "big animal" wearing a ski parka and work books helps him out.

Meanwhile, the mice in "Now It Is Winter" (Eerdmans, $16, ages 3 and up), by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Mary Newell DePalma, are impatient and want the spring to come as soon as possible. But then they discover the joys of snowflakes and sleds, hot oatmeal and warm beds. And skating! And snowmen!

Maybe this whole winter thing isn't so bad.

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