January 16, 2015

Winter's Coming: A Story of Seasonal Change

by Jan Thornhill
Illustrated by Josée Bisaillon
32 pp.
Ages 5-8
October, 2014

Sure, reviewing a book called Winter's Coming before winter would have been more logical–hence Owlkids' October release for the book–but isn't it just as great to read a book about the changes that come with winter while in the throes of that season's cold and snow?  (Apparently I thought so.)

Lily, a young snowshoe hare, is surprised by the changes she sees in her surroundings, which she'd always enjoyed as green.  Now there are colour changes in the trees and massive flocks of birds heading south because Winter's coming.  If they have to escape, she wonders whether she should be evading this danger as well.  Luckily the squirrel who is preparing a cache of food tells her she won't need to do the same, and Lily is relieved to know that, "Whatever Winter was, at least it wasn't interested in her food." (pg. 9) Also inquiring of the chickadee, mosquito, tree frog, caterpillar, snapping turtle and black bear, Lily still finds Winter a mysterious entity.  
Would it be as tall as the trees and have humongous, smelly feet?  Or would it be stretched out like a weasel, with a hundred pointed teeth?  Would it have a bald head like a turkey vulture?  Or would it have hair so long that it swished along the ground?  Would it make noise like thunder? Or would it fly on silent wings like an owl?  Lily had no idea, but she was convinced that Winter would be big and powerful. (pg. 20)
It's not until she watches Winter arrive and the black bear points out Lily's own change for winter that Lily understands what all the animals have being sharing with her.

Winter's Coming is as charming a book as it is educational, explaining animal adaptations to the coming of our coldest season as seen by a young snowshoe hare who doesn't know what to expect having never experienced winter.  Lily is inquisitive, but never precocious (thank you, Jan Thornhill!), always taking in what she sees and hears and tries to make connections with what she knows already.  She's on guard for potential threats, as a wise hare will be, but insightful and thinking beyond Winter as a predator.  Her thinking is probably similar to that of a child for whom a new concept, whether it be math or behavioural or whatever, is just out of reach of understanding.

Complemented by Josée Bisaillon's collage illustrations that emulate the bits and pieces of the natural world as it changes in response to the coming season, Jan Thornhill's newest nature book (she has an astounding repertoire of award-winning non-fiction) will be enjoyed just as easily as a story as much as an information book.  Winter's Coming will be an worthy addition to any library, personal, school or public.

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