Children's Corner: Picture books to warm young hearts in wintertime

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Winter's here, and so is a great new crop of picture books that celebrate the season:

• It's wintertime, and a little boy named Henry has just gotten a puppy, which he has named Charley. Henry's parents are clear about the rules for having Charley: It's up to Henry to walk and feed the dog, and Charley must sleep in the kitchen, not in Henry's bed. As author Amy Hest and illustrator Helen Oxenbury detail in "Charley's First Night" (Candlewick Press, $15.99, ages 4-7), however, Charley has his own ideas about where he wants to sleep. Henry tries hard to obey his parents' rule about having Charley sleep in the kitchen, but his love for the puppy overcomes his efforts at obedience, and the last page shows the two fast asleep in Henry's bed, with the face of Henry's bemused mother just visible in a bedside mirror.

Ms. Hest's engaging story is narrated by Henry, a boy who is clearly besotted with his new puppy. Henry's narration is comically paired with Ms. Oxenbury's illustrations, which extend the text in important ways. For example, in the two-page spread where Henry notes that his parents are firm about requiring Charley to sleep in the kitchen, the right-hand page has an illustration of Henry's dad talking to him while the illustration of a piddling Charley on the opposite page indicates a reason -- never mentioned by Henry -- as to why the puppy is consigned to the kitchen.

• Artist Erin Stead burst onto the children's literature scene two years ago, when her debut picture book, "A Sick Day for Amos McGee," won the 2011 Caldecott Medal. Given annually by the American Library Association to the best illustrated children's book, the Caldecott Medal is one of the most prestigious children's literature awards in the world; by winning it, Ms. Stead immediately became a picture book star.

In 2012, Ms. Stead published two picture books, both centered on seasons. One book is "And Then It's Spring" (Roaring Brook Press, $16.99, ages 4-7), written by Julie Fogliano, an ode to a young boy's persistence in growing plants. The second book, "Bear Has a Story to Tell" (Roaring Brook, $16.99, ages 4-7), is set just before winter begins and focuses on a storytelling Bear with no audience.

Like "A Sick Day for Amos McGee," "Bear Has a Story to Tell" was written by Ms. Stead's husband, Philip Stead. Together, the Steads make a terrific team. Philip Stead's spare, appealing text is masterfully expanded by Erin Stead's illustrations, which mostly show Bear and his friends on a white background that magnifies their expressions and indicates that snow is about to fall. Young readers will particularly enjoy the way that Ms. Stead emphasizes the strong friendship between Bear and his friends, despite their obvious differences in size. And they'll love the way Mr. Stead brings Bear's story full-circle in a way that calls for the book to be read again, and again.

• It's a crazy idea, but two siblings decide that they're going to sell "Lemonade in Winter" (Schwartz and Wade/Random House, $16.99, ages 4-7). As author Emily Jenkins relates, Pauline and her younger brother John-John decide to ignore the weather and their parents' negativity about the idea and set up a lemonade stand on a snowy street.

At first, there are no customers. But Pauline and John-John refuse to give up and instead come up with various ways to drum up business: shouting sales slogans, doing cartwheels and then finally lowering their price. It works, at least enough so they can sell all the lemonade (and limeade) that they had made. Even though the business isn't terribly lucrative in the end, there's still enough for Pauline and John-John to each purchase a popsicle as they continue to thumb their noses at winter.

Ms. Jenkins' story is an entertaining introduction to money for young readers. The story's humor and whimsy is carried still further in the illustrations by G. Brian Karas, who used ink, pencil and Photoshop, as well as a muted palette, to create a wintry world. Mr. Karas' last illustration concludes the story on just the right note, showing Pauline and John-John finally giving into the idea of winter as they drink from mugs of hot chocolate.

Here are a few other good picture book choices with winter themes:

• Author/artist Carin Berger allows readers to revel in the joys of winter in "A Perfect Day" (Greenwillow, $16.99, ages 3-6). The simple text is complemented by collage illustrations filled with texture and detail.

• At first, the residents of a town called Toby Mills were enjoying winter. But then each day it got colder and colder, until the whole town was shivering miserably. In "Cold Snap" (Knopf, $17.99, ages 4-7), author Eileen Spinelli shows how the mayor's wife saves the day by hosting a winter bonfire that warms the townspeople's spirits and bodies. The illustrations by artist Marjorie Priceman showcase her trademark color and verve.

• In "A Flower in the Snow" (Sourcebooks, $16.99, ages 3-6), author Tracey Corderoy spotlights the special relationship between a little girl named Luna and Bear, a polar bear. The story is greatly enhanced by the delightful illustrations by Sophie Allsopp.

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Karen MacPherson, the children's/teen librarian at the Takoma Park, Md., Library, can be reached at Kam.Macpherson@gmail.com.


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