December 21 marks the first day of winter, and I’m reminded of Lois Ehlert’s brilliant cut-paper collages. That’s because so many of her books celebrate the wonders of nature and the changing of the seasons. One of my favorites is Leaf Man, a simple tale about a man made of leaves, who blows away in the wind. Not so simple are the spectacular collages made of autumn leaves that depict the Leaf Man’s journey. Ehlert works her magic with fall foliage to create cows, squirrels, ducks, fish, butterflies, even an orchard and vegetable garden.
Now that winter is approaching, I’m reminded of another favorite, Snowballs. If you love snowmen and winter, you’ll love this book. An unseen narrator asks, “Do you think birds know when it’s going to snow?” You see beautiful cut-paper cardinals pecking away at birdseed. In the background, snow is falling. The narrator tells us: “We’d been waiting for a really big snow, saving good stuff in a sack. Finally it was a perfect snowball day.” The double-page spread shows us what the narrator means by “good stuff”—sunflower seeds, peanuts, popcorn kernels, and colorful woven material.
Then the fun begins: The following spreads (seen vertically) reveal a snow dad, mom, boy, girl, baby, cat, and dog. These collage creations put traditional carrot-nose and top hat snowmen to shame. For example, the snow dad sports raisin eyes and a bright Bolivian hat. Snow mom has coffee-bean eyes and hair made of a Guatemalan belt and ties. Snow baby has bottle cap ears and fork arms. I love the fact that these snow creations serve double duty. Each is decorated with a mixture of food for birds and squirrels, and nontraditional objects (like a foil candy wrapper, seashell, and metal washers).
As an added bonus, the last several pages identify the objects that were used to decorate the snow family, offer factual information about snow, and feature photographs of real snowmen (their imperfections making them even more adorable). Even the back flap contains a bonus: a recipe for making popcorn balls. After seeing Snowballs, I guarantee kids will be inspired to think outside the box when it comes to building their own snowmen.
Are you a fan of Lois Ehlert’s picture books and her distinctive artwork? Which is your favorite?