Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Book Review: Happy Winter

We just love the book Happy Winter by Karen Gundersheimer. We first checked it out from our library a year or so ago, and Caroline was captivated by the rhythm and rhyme of the text. What I especially love, for our family, is how the story is about two sisters. The older is brunette, and the younger is blonde, just like my girls. The story is sweet and simple, with little "chapters" about each part of a winter's day... it is a refreshing return to a day where children were unhurried, unscheduled, and had lots of time within the family and the home. It is full of creativity and warmth, with the little girls playing with dress-up clothes, reading books, going out in the snow, helping bake a cake... and not watching TV or playing computer games! It is just heartwarming to read, in my opinion, and makes you want to make some hot chocolate (if your kids will drink it! ;) and pull out the open-ended toys for the kids.

Some excerpts, just to give you a taste for the writing style:

From Morning:

Happy Winter, rise and shine!
I love the early morning time.
My sister snuggles close to me -
Two bugs in a rug, we laugh and see
How frosty patterns look like lace -
Each window has its special face.

From Outside:

Happy Winter, shout and laugh!
I'll be the first to stomp a path
So follow me - my boots make tracks
That wind about and double back
To one smooth place of sparkly snow
Then plop! Spread arms and legs like so
To make an angel shape - come see!
My angel's just the size of me!

Here are my "Happy Winter girls" (as Caroline refers to the girls in the story), dressed "fat, in bulky clothes," although it wasn't snowing here... yet! It is supposed to possibly snow tomorrow! I took this photo so I'd have something to show for the 20 minute ordeal (longer when Cecilia needs a diaper change after being bundled up!) of dressing children to go out in 33 degree weather... we had fun taking a walk and breaking up ice we found in the woods!)

From Baking:

Happy Winter, time to bake
Some really yummy kind of cake.
So Mama flips through recipes
Just like she does for company
And reads them all - her favorite ones
Are Sunshine, Angel, Marble, Crumb.
But we pick Fudge, and no nuts please -
So tie on aprons, roll up sleeves.

From Evening:

And now switch on the bedside light
To shoo away the dark of night.
We read until we yawn, and then
With one last flick it's dark again.
The big black night is soft and spread
Just like the quilt upon my bed.
I'm warm and toasty, very snug.
Then Mama comes for one last hug
And sings a winter lullabye.

The book also includes the recipe for Happy Winter Fudge Cake and the words to the winter lullabye. My only wish is that there was music to accompany the lullabye's words (not that I'd be able to translate it into a tune myself, ha! But I bet somebody could do it for me and hum me the tune!).

And I haven't even mentioned the illustrations yet... Some might call them "busy," but I would prefer the word "detailed" to describe them. For instance, the section where the girls are getting dressed shows each step they take in the process, and all the articles of clothing are shown. All the ingredients for the cake are drawn into the baking section. But the drawings themselves are very simple and sweet, particularly the faces of the two girls. Maybe I will take some photos from it to add to this post (would that majorly violate copyright laws?) - there don't seem to be any images of the book online, perhaps because it is out of print. I was very fortunate to have found a used copy for under $10 on over the summer... right now, I don't see it listed for a reasonable price at all.

This book inspires you to enjoy the coziness of winter and to establish your own winter traditions for your children... taking the time to bake with them and to provide open-ended playthings, for instance.

Here is a new winter idea I have done for the girls a few evenings now since we have been having highs in the 30s lately... turning on the fireplace (gas logs - so it wouldn't be right for me to claim that I had "started a fire," really!) and setting out their pajamas in front of it, so that after their bath, they can get dressed in front of the warm fire. Reminds me of my childhood, when I would get up and sit by the air vent to feel the heat blowing out, and I would tuck my knees under my baggy sleep-shirt and hold it over the vent, trapping the heat inside my shirt... so toasty and cozy. :)

What are your favorite cozy winter traditions and activities?


girls dress up games said...

Thanks for posting!

mel said...

That book sounds darling!
Our favorite wintertime tradition is to make maple candy when the first snow falls. We started this after I read Little House in the Big Woods to Maria in the 3rd grade. :) You can used crushed ice instead of snow! But we wait for the first snowfall...usually we at least get one or two. This year we've had lots!