Prather’s Pick: Special gifts for a special friend
February 16, 2016
I wish I had found this week's picture book earlier in the winter. It's "The First Day of Winter," written and illustrated by Denise Fleming. I didn't find it until now, but there's still plenty of winter left, including snowman-making days. I think this book would be a great tool in teaching young children numbers, colors, and words, especially first through tenth as this is a cumulative tale. The story is told in rhyme.
When the reader opens the book, he or she finds a partially finished snowman, the head, body and arms. It's on the credit page. A squirrel and cardinal bird are checking him out.
The story begins with an illustration of a December calendar, with 21 circled in red. It's the first day of winter, and the snowman is about to receive a gift from a child.
"On the first day of winter my best friend gave to me… a red cap with a gold snap."
The story is told in the rhyming pattern of "The First Day of Christmas."
The child puts the cap on the snowman's head and a squirrel sits down on it. There are several animals in the story, including the squirrel, deer, rabbit, mouse, cat and some different kinds of birds.
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The story continues. "On the second day of winter …" This time, the child puts two bright blue mittens on the ends of the snowman's tree branch arms.
"On the second day of winter my best friend gave to me, 2 bright blue mittens and a red cap with a gold snap."
Throughout the next eight days, the child gives the snowman items such as striped scarves, prickly pinecones, birdseed pockets and others, including items that will make up his facial expression. Especially inventive are the peanut feet.
Finally, on the tenth day, the snowman seems to come to life.
According to information on the credit page of the book, the winter scenes were created by pulp painting, using colored cotton fabric, hand-cut stencils, and squeeze bottles. Whatever was used, the illustrations are enchanting.
Fleming collaborated with her husband, David Powers, on the book design.
"The First Day of Winter" is published by Henry Holt and Company. The hardcover book costs $15.95. The book can also be found at the Craig branch of the Moffat County Libraries.