I’m typing next to an open window, and there has been a steady stream of pedestrian traffic outside. It’s up to 28 degrees today, and it’s a comparative heat wave. Last weekend, we were preparing for a Freezepocalypse of ridiculously low temperatures (even for Minnesota), and my family spend two and a half days stuck inside our small apartment. Here are three picture books that, together, represent our Freezepocalypse:
I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black is for my six-year-old, for obvious reasons. I felt more like the mama penguin who needed a little time to herself in Baby Penguins Everywhere by Melissa Guion. Side note to parents: Do you need a time out yourself? Read your kids this book to introduce the idea. You’re welcome.
Fortunately, my wonderful partner decided it was a Soup Day as in Soup Day by Melissa Iwai, so we were well fed. Soup makes everything better.
Books and soup. That’s how we got through our Freezepocalypse. How about you?
If you would have asked me a month ago, I would have looked for the answer in a picture book. It seems like a picture book sort of question, doesn’t it?
“Snow came singing a silent song,” writes Lynne Rae Perkins in Snow Music. In this book, winter is quiet after a snow fall, but there is a whole symphony of sounds if you listen for them. Cars, trucks, and animals all sound different in the winter. There’s a beauty in the whispers of snowfall and the loud scrapes of trucks clearing the way. There’s a beauty in the differences.
For the past several weeks, I have had a different answer to the question. I have had Haley Bonar’s new EP Wntr Snds on repeat, and these six songs are spare and intimate in a way that creates just the warmth that we need in a cold, cold Minnesota winter. “Like Ice and Cold” is my personal favorite. In this song, winter sounds like change, like hope. Maybe it isn’t so different from Snow Music.
If you need a little encouragement to see what winter can offer during this sub-zero week, try one of these and listen closely.
Find Snow Music at your local library or indie bookstore. Or get more wintery picture book suggestions here.
My buses have been all but empty this past week. Nicollet Mall usually bustles with activity, but this week, the only people downtown are the ones huddled in bus shelters peeking out with hopeful looks or walking quickly with only their eyes showing against the fierce wind. In a cold snap, the city gets quiet and lonely.
On my way to work, winter is harsh winds, icy sidewalks, and heavy snow. But at my desk surrounded by children’s books, winter is quite different. The snow is delicate and perfect for play. The ice and wind are no match for us in a children’s book. If only I could live in Toby Mills, the town in Eileen Spinelli’s Cold Snap. Their winter is awfully cold, but it is warm with nostalgia and community. This is a town that knows, the only way to get through a cold winter is to come together.
For all of you braving the cold Minnesota days for the rest of the winter, when it feels like too much, read a picture book. Try Cold Snap. Or if that doesn’t boost your spirits, try A Perfect Day by Carin Beger for a wonder-filled exploration of a snowy winter day. It will help you to remember that winter is more than hopeful looks and speed-walking to warmth.
I can’t change the sub-zero temperatures we’ve had recently, but I can change how I see them. It’s still cold out there, but I’m smiling anyway.
There is more snowy picture book art at 7 Imp, and I talk more about the above books at Books in Bloom. A few photos here on my photo blog, or check out some really beautiful shots of a Minnesota winter from Minnesota Public Radio.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.
Two Saturdays ago we woke to snow falling outside our windows. It didn’t stop falling until later that night. Throughout the day, buses and then plows were taken off the roads. I spent the day intermittently following the various Twitter hashtags dedicated to the event (#snownami, #snowpocalypse, #snOMG, #snowmageddon, and #blizzardpeople just to name a few), reading snow-related picture books to my kiddo, and trying not to think about the book I’d recently finished (Trapped by Michael Northrop: a teen fiction ARC about a group of kids stranded at their high school during a snowstorm the size of a natural disaster).
It was just a few weeks ago that I posted an entry about my family’s joy at the first snow fall and how we navigate winter in the city. Two weeks after #snownami, I’m over it. Monday morning after the snowstorm, I climbed on top of a snowbank to stand with my feet level with the top of a city garbage can to catch my bus out to the suburbs where the sidewalks are not cleared. One morning this week, a woman yelled “Be careful!” from her car window as I walked down the side of a busy Burnsville street to get to work. I shrugged my response in a way that I hoped came across as “I’m trying!” or perhaps a resigned “What are you going to do?”
What are we going to do? Be careful where we park our cars, dress in warm layers, and just keep on with our regular lives to the best of our ability through whatever as true Minnesotans.
Also, huge thank you to everyone in my Minneapolis neighborhood who cleared the sidewalks in front of their homes. Extra thank you’s to those who live on corners and shoveled a path to the street. I love you.
When I still lived in sunny Chicagoland, my husband sold MN winters to me by telling me that it was the great equalizer. It was the time of year when we all have hat hair, red cheeks, and unfashionable but warm clothing. That is still our family philosophy when it comes to winter. We stop worrying about looking cool, and we just live and let live. Perhaps that’s the way it should be all the time.
Happy winter, everyone. Stay warm.
Brownie and Pearl See the Sights by Cynthia Rylant
Winter in the city. It looks so adorable in Brownie & Pearl See the Sights. My three-year-old laughs at how even the birds are wearing their winter hats too, and I think about how neither the birds nor the title characters appear to be shivering at all as they walk on a snow-lined sidewalk from shop to shop on a winter day. I do a lot of walking and a lot of waiting at bus stops, and I doubt it looks nearly that cute. I have my old pink coat, the hat my mom crocheted for me, and totally inappropriate shoes as I have yet to get myself out to buy a pair of boots. Six years of living in Minnesota, and I still find myself unprepared for winter.
That doesn’t mean I don’t love it though. The first snow, in particular, is practically a holiday in my family. We walked and bussed and played outside with a new zeal just a few Saturdays ago when Minneapolis was doused in snow for the first time this year. All that snow seemed to bring with it a special energy. I don’t think it was just us. It seemed like it was everyone. It felt magical to me. I especially liked the part when we were all back inside drinking hot cocoa.
I guess winter in the city is a lot like in the book. Here’s hoping our winter is as adorable as a children’s book.
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