Prather’s Pick: ‘Winter is Coming” a celebration of autumn |

Prather’s Pick: ‘Winter is Coming” a celebration of autumn

Diane Prather/For Craig Press
"Winter is Coming," by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Jim La Marche
Courtesy photo

I thought about this week’s picture book for children this past weekend, when we were working cattle up on Morapos; the wind came up, and it started to snow.

“Winter Is Coming” was written by Tony Johnston, author of more than 100 books for children. The absolutely gorgeous artwork was done by Jim LaMarche, an award-winning illustrator. The illustrations were rendered in acrylics, colored pencils and opaque inks.

This week’s book was inspired by visits the author made to her cabin in the California countryside. The story is set in autumn — September, October and November — just before winter. The only human character in the book is a young girl who gathers up her sketchbook, pencils and binoculars and heads out for the woods. She climbs the wooden steps nailed to a huge apple tree and settles herself on a platform, which resembles the floor of a tree house and has been placed across the trunk of the tree, with one end secured between two of the branches.

It is September; the leaves of the tree are an orange-brown color, and all around, there is matured grass. A short distance away is a wooded area, thick with slender trees and rocks. The girl can watch the activity in the woods through her binoculars.

It is a cold, icy morning, with winter not far away. It is very quiet. If the animals notice the girl sitting on the platform, they don’t show it. She doesn’t bother them, and they don’t bother her. She’s there to sketch pictures of them in her notebook.

First, a red fox comes right up to an apple tree. His red coat shines. The fox stands on his hind legs, props a front leg on a branch of the tree and sniffs at a wrinkled apple that has been left on the tree. The fox is searching for food.

So are a mama bear and her cub. This illustration is breathtaking, with the flaming leaves against the brown bear fur. The girl sits very still and watches through her binoculars as the mama bear turns over a small rock, hunting for food. They then snuffle for food on the ground. They’re getting ready for winter.

The book continues in this manner. As the months pass, the girl wears warmer and warmer clothing. She watches a family of skunks as they scamper around just under her platform, woodpeckers, a family of rabbits, a lynx, some chipmunks, a doe and her fawns and more. The animals are all hungry. As I read the book I wanted to feed them.

This book is wonderfully gentle, and it leaves the reader with an appreciation for wildlife.

“Winter Is Coming” is a Paula Wiseman book, published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. The hardcover edition costs $17.99. You can also find the book in the children’s room at the Craig Moffat County Library.

Next week’s book is a retelling of the Little House series of books and presents a story told from Caroline’s point of view.

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