Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Fun: A Perfect Pair

Now that the heart of winter is here, it’s just the right time to share perhaps the most obvious fiction-nonfiction pairing I’ve ever come across. My book Under the Snow and Kate Messner’s new title Over and Under the Snow are indeed a perfect pair.

In Over and Under the Snow an adult and child cross-country ski through a winter forest wonderland, they discuss and imagine what’s happening under the feet. Messner’s spare, poetic text is enriched by and Christopher Silas Neal’s woodcut-like illustrations rendered in a lovely gray/brown/ice-blue palette.
Using clear, simple language and beautiful watercolors in muted tones, Under the Snow offers young readers a lyrical look at the surprising ways animals living in fields, forests, ponds, and wetlands spend the chilly winter months. Some fish and insects rest, but others stay active. Voles spend their days burrowing through the snow. Red-spotted newts dodge and dart, whiz and whirl just below the ice.

Discussion Questions
• What do the two books have in common. [They are both about how animals survive in winter.]
• How are they different? [One is fiction and focuses on a winter forests. The other is nonfiction and looks at life in four different habitats.]
• Discuss what makes one book fiction and one nonfiction.
• Ask students to review what they have learned about animals’ winter behavior from these two books.

Related Activities
Materials: Notebooks in plastic bags, pencils, black construction paper, magnifying glasses
If you live in a place where it snows, take the students out while snow is falling. Have the students catch snowflakes on black construction paper and look at them with a magnifying glass. Ask the students to make detailed drawings of the snowflakes in a notebook. When the class goes back inside, have students share their drawings with one another. Ask the students how the snowflakes are similar? How are they different? Make a list of their responses.

Materials: Notebooks or drawing paper, pencils, a digital camera, field guide to animal tracks
If you live in a place where it snows, ask students to look for animal footprints after a new snow. Suggest that they draw or photograph the prints and bring them to school. Using the book Big Tracks, Little Tracks: Following Animal Prints by Millicent Selsam (HarperCollins, 1998) or a field guide to animal tracks, try to identify the creatures that made the footprints.

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