The Arts and Winter Picture Books

“The color of springtime is in the flowers, the color of winter is in the imagination.”  ~Terri Guillemets

Here is a collection of winter picture books that I hope will give you and your children inspiration through the cold months and provide some ideas you might use to bring books to life as you enjoy the aesthetic and creative messages and qualities of each story.

Brett, Jan. The Mitten. New York : G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1989

Jan Brett’s retelling of this Ukrainian folk tale is wonderful because it provides different opportunities for creative play.  The first time you read it, children can predict which animal will be the next to climb inside the lost mitten, simply by looking into the little windows in the illustrations.   The next time the story is read, consider encouraging the children to role-play it.  Using the templates provided at the author’s website ( you can easily create your own felt board pieces for telling the story.  The pictures can also be coloured, cut out and affixed to headbands that children can wear as they pretend to be the different animals.  I have done a retelling where each child can crawl under a white blanket and experience the fun of squeezing into a mitten.  They love it when the bear sneezes and the blanket is lifted up into the air!  Role-play helps children to remember the story and to enjoy imagining what it feels like to be the characters. 

The Mitten

Perkins, Lynne Rae. Snow Music. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2003

This gorgeous picture book uses words very sparingly, which leaves space for readers to hear different winter sounds – snow falling, a bird hopping, a squirrel scurrying, a dog running or a snow plow salting the road.  The way the text is integrated into the illustrations makes you chase the words across each page, so you descend with the snow, run frantically with the squirrel, and follow the track marks of plow tires, all the while following characters who are searching for their missing dog.  Perkins’ beautiful words and artwork really capture the images and sounds of winter – the sounds in our awareness by day, and the falling of snow while we sleep.  Peth, peth, peth, peth, peth… shhhhhhhh!

Carlstrom, Nancy White.  Goodbye Geese. New York: Philomel Books, 1991

In this beautiful book about the coming of winter, a boy asks his father many questions -  does winter have fingers, hands, a voice, ears? The father’s responses are poetic, and paint a lovely portrait of what we should expect as autumn transforms into winter.  Winter listening is everything we dream about.  I was mesmerized by the conversation between father and son which ended when they bid their last farewell to the geese flying south for the winter.  The illustrator, Ed Young wrote his dedication “to old acquaintances, fond memories, and thanksgiving in the coming of winter.”  It seems appropriate then, that the book should be read as George Winston’s Thanksgiving plays in the background.


Kovalski, Maryann. Omar on Ice. Markham, Ont.: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1999

I like this book a lot because it addresses how hard we can be on ourselves when we think the things we create and do are not good enough.  Omar wants to be a great artist when he grows up, but is easily discouraged when his drawings are compared to those of the other children in his class.  He is ready to abandon his dreams.  However, when Omar puts on his skates, and gets lost in the moment while doing something he loves, he discovers an unexpected outlet for his creativity.  He realizes that he is an artist, after all.  The book provides a wonderful opportunity to talk to children about what they like to do and to create, what they believe they do well and what gives them true joy.

Lionni, Leo. Frederick. New York: A.A. Knopf/Pantheon, 1967

This is one of my favourite picture books that speaks to the importance of the imagination and of creative thinking.  Four little mice collect food to sustain them through the winter, and wonder why the fifth one, Frederick, spends his time gathering sun rays, colours and words.  It is only when the mice have run out of food and conversation that they recognize the value of Frederick’s poetry for keeping them warm, lifting their spirits and giving them hope.


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3 Responses to The Arts and Winter Picture Books

  1. Mariam van Deventer Breed says:

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Sabina says:

    Thank you for bringing back my memories of the days when I used to read ‘the mitten’ to my daugther. She wanted me to read that book over and over again, and I really admired the beautiful illustrations. This was one of those books that puts smile on my face. Great recommendations.

  3. andrea thomas says:

    I have a home daycare and am really excited to introduce my children to these books. Unfortunately I have never read “The Mitten” but plan on purchasing it immediately and making it a part of my winter story telling. Thank you for the inspiration.

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