*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post that contains affiliate links, however, as always, all opinions shared here are my own.
Welcome to the Itsy Bitsy Nimbus Book Club! Each month we partner with Nimbus Publishing to pick out an Atlantic Canadian book that we think you'll really enjoy.
Running a book club for little kids is lots of fun, and knowing you're playing a role in teaching kids how to love reading is so rewarding. We've put together some tips to get you started and each month, we provide you with a guide for your book club meeting inspired by the book (whether that's with a group of friends, or just you and your child is completely up to you!). For this month's selection, The Snow Knows, we've included a song, two activities and some snack ideas.
THE SNOW KNOWS
The Snow Knows is written by Jennifer McGrath, with illustrations by Josée Bisaillon (for information on where to buy this book, please scroll to the bottom of this post). It's suitable from young toddlerhood up to middle-elementary age.
This book is the epitome of Atlantic Canadian wildlife fun in the winter and it is also a great example of the value of the perfect author/illustrator partnership. McGrath's melodic prose is a joy to read aloud and captures each animal's movements and antics so perfectly. With such well-chosen words to describe the critters' anitics, such as the "hush-shush of the owl's wings" and "where the porcupine ponders," you can't help but have fun reading this book aloud.
Bisaillon's illustrations are so in tune with the tone of the story they look as if they were created simultaneously with the writing. The animals and scenes are charming and beautiful, and the sweet element of hide-and-seek with the animals will delight young children as they track down the critters.
CREATE A PAGE
For this activity the children will be creating their own pages inspired by The Snow Knows. Grab a bunch of magazines (ideally nature ones with photos or drawings of North American wildlife, but you could also pick another theme, such as Arctic animals or Ocean creatures), some paper, glue, scissors and something to colour or draw with (pencils, pastels, watercolours, crayons).
Look through The Snow Knows again with the children and examine the images and talk about how the words describe the picture, and the method with which the illustrations were created. Bisaillon uses a technique for this book where she draws pictures of individual elements, such as the animals, then cuts them out and creates a scene using them, along with drawing and colouring in the background. See her Facebook page for examples of her work.
Have the children imitate this technique by either drawing their own animals and cutting them out, or cut out photos and drawings of animals in the magazines (you may want to cut out some in advance to have on hand).
Talk about what the animal they've chosen may like to do in the snow and write "The Snow Knows" on their page, and then fill in what they say, or have them do it if they're eager new writers, like Miss M (5yo). Both my children also chose other animals to hide around the page, like they saw in the book.
Have the children use the images to create a scene by gluing it onto the paper. Children can also colour or draw on more details if they wish.
If they create enough pages, or there is a group of children, you could attach all the pages together to create your own version of the book!
Another way to add on to this activity would be to do some research about different parts of the world and then find animals and backgrounds from those to create other versions; for example, The Desert Sand Knows, The Rainforest Trees Know or The Ocean Knows.
MUSIC: DOWN IN THE SNOW
Children love to sing, so it's fun to include a song that fits with the theme as part of your meeting. Jingle Bells and Frosty the Snowman are great snow-related ones that everyone knows but it's always fun to modify an old favourite to fit with the book.
Down By The Bay is a silly song that makes a perfect follow-up to the first activity and is a tune most children know, or catch on to quickly. Turn it into Down In The Snow, singing it as you turn the pages in the book and using each animal on the page in the song. It's SURE to get a lot of giggles.
Down in the snow/Where the animals go/Back to my home/I dare not go/For if I do/My mother would say...
- Did you ever see a weasel, painting on an easel?
- Did you ever see a bunny, eating a jar of honey?
- Did you ever see a porcupine, standing in a grocery line?
Don't worry if it doesn't make sense, or you can't find a good actual rhyming word, whatever you or the kids come up with will be hilarious to them. Animals doing human stuff is always funny, trust me on this.
SNOW DOUGH SENSORY BIN
This story begs for a chance to be acted out and a sensory box filled with white powdery "snow" and critters to play in it is a great way to explore the story further. Get a bin (such as a wash basin or new litter box) and fill it with snow dough, also known as cloud dough (8 parts flour to 1 part baby oil).
Mix it all up using a pastry cutter, although a couple knives or potato masher work too. If you have children who still put things in their mouth you can swap baby oil out for vegetable oil.
Snow dough is lots of fun as it moulds into shapes so it's perfect for creating snow mountains for critters to peek out from behind, just like in the book.
It can be messy so be sure to lay out a mat or garbage bags on the floor under the bin to contain the mess. Some alternatives to snow dough are playdough or to take the activity outside and fill it up with real snow!
We found a set of North American wildlife animals and added them to the bin, along with some plastic trees from other play sets we had but any toy animals you have can be used. For example, you could make one with barnyard animals in the snow and use the book's wording for inspiration to come up with your own words to describe how horses and pigs play in the snow.
Sensory boxes are very simple and they have lots of benefits. They encourage children to use their imagination by reenacting a story or creating their own plot; they help with fine motor development through exploring the materials; and enhance language development through storytelling.
My little bookworms had their animals converse together, sneak up on each other and play a lively game of hide and seek inspired by the illustrations in the book. We also flattened out sections and had the animals step in it to examine the different prints they left, to see if the snow really does know!
A way to extend upon this activity would be to create salt dough casts of children's hand prints and talk about how different animal prints look, using books or the internet to examine what different tracks look like, and then follow up with a walk in the woods after a fresh snowfall to see what tracks can be found.
THE SNOW KNOWS SNACKS
Our snack was inspired by the type of food we thought wildlife might eat and so we had fruit and trail mix. Some other ideas might be snow ice cream, ants on a log (cheese or peanut butter on celery with raisins), or, if you're more creative than I, snacks that looks like the animals in the book. I made a Pinterest board filled with great snack ideas inspired by The Snow Knows for you to check out for ideas.
Thanks for joining us on at our first book club meeting. Our next book will be announced on Facebook in February, with a chance to win a copy of the new book!
We would love to see pictures of your book club meeting - either doing the activities we have suggested, or some that you came up with yourself. Email them to me or share them on our page on Facebook or Twitter!
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