This soft, reassuring tale is ideal for teaching seasonal changes as well as the need for transitions.
—School Library Journal
Simple, quiet illustrations executed in a soft, elegant, swirling style trace the transition from tawny autumn’s bareness to early winter’s silvery wonderland. . . . Reassuring, inviting bedtime fare.
Please tell us about your book.
Beautifully illustrated by Ramona Kaulitzki, WINTER LULLABY is a conversation between Small Bear and his Mama. Like many young ones, Small Bear isn’t quite ready for bed. After all, Chipmunk is gathering nuts beside the lake, and Hare and Skunk are romping through the leaves. If they’re not sleeping, why should he?
To each of Small Bear’s questions, Mama Bear offers the coziest of answers, reminding her cub that as winter arrives, all bears must sleep. Soon enough, the days will brighten, the world of ice will melt to green, and Small Bear will wake to new adventure in Spring.
What inspired you to write this story?
When I wrote the initial draft of WINTER LULLABY at least 16 years ago, I was teaching first grade and, inspired by Denise Fleming’s lovely picture book TIME TO SLEEP, I hoped to write both a bedtime book and a general introduction to the ways changes from fall to winter mean changes in animal behavior.
Though my original manuscript received nice comments from editors, something was missing. And so, WINTER LULLABY sat on my computer for years.
Much later, I pulled the manuscript out of the archives. I’d always felt it had promise, and finally, with my agent’s help, I was able to revise the ending and resubmit again.
Could you share with readers how you conducted your research or share a few interesting tidbits you learned while researching?
Although this is first and foremost a bedtime book about Small Bear settling down for the winter, I also hoped the story might inspire additional opportunities to talk about the many ways animals spend the winter.
Some – like raccoons – don’t officially hibernate but can disappear for long stretches inside their dens during extreme weather. Others, like deer mice, go into torpor. Some, like skunks, are sometimes out during the day, but are mostly nocturnal. And so on… There were many things to consider, and these various bits of information needed to be taken into account when I chose which animals to include in the narrative and how I’d frame the lines of text related to them.
What are some special challenges associated with writing a bedtime book or any story told in rhyme?
The biggest challenge to writing a picture book in rhyme is the danger of being “wooed” by the language. STORY must always come first. In the same way that a picture book writer must consider every word, it’s also important that each line move the story forward. This can be challenging when writing couplets because, if we’re not careful, the need to rhyme with a second line can “drive the bus,” causing lines that are merely “fillers” that complete the rhyme but don’t move the story forward. Another danger is the temptation to manipulate the word order in a way that is convoluted or unlike ordinary speech.
The second challenge of a bedtime book is to find the right way to change the rhythm ever so slightly, so that the child listening to the book read aloud can slowly transition from awake to asleep. This is as much about the pacing and page turns, as it is about word choices that make space for a tender moment between the parent, guardian or reader, and the child.
What topics does your book touch upon that would make it a perfect fit for the classroom?
I hope teachers might use WINTER LULLABY, along with other books about the wintering habits of animals, in the same way that I used Denise Fleming’s, TIME TO SLEEP when I was teaching elementary school.
Companion books to pair with WINTER LULLABY:
OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
SNACK, SNOOZE, SKEDADDLE: How Animals Prepare for Winter by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Claudine Gévry
WOODLAND DREAMS by Karen Jameson, illustrated by Marc Boutavant
GOODBYE AUTUMN, HELLO WINTER by Kenard Pak