A young child enjoying a full day of cross-country skiing narrates this gentle tale, explaining both her own activities and what the animals are doing.
“Over the snow I glide, past beech trees rattling leftover leaves and strong, silent pines that stretch to the sky. On a high branch, a great horned owl keeps watch. Under the snow, a tiny shrew dodges columns of ice; it follows a cool tunnel along the moss, out of sight.” A deer, bullfrogs, beavers, a fox, mice, chipmunks, a bear and a bumblebee are among the other animal inhabitants of the “secret kingdom” under the snow; some are snoozing, some foraging and some hunting for the others. Backmatter includes an author’s note, a paragraph of information about each featured animal and a list for further reading. Neal’s two-dimensional mixed-media illustrations are minimal in both detail and color. Simple outlines give shape to the trees, animals and leaves, while white is the predominant color. The lyrical descriptions of the text and the gray/brown/ice-blue palette of the illustrations leave readers with a retro feel that harkens back to earlier days of children’s books and bygone times when life seemed simpler.
Utterly charming, and informative, to boot; readers brought up on a diet of rhymes, bright colors and adorable fluffy animals will find its simple beauty a balm. (Informational picture book. 4-8)