Straddling the informative and the evocative, this lovely study of the ways animals spend the winter in a "secret kingdom under the snow" combines Messner's (Sea Monster's First Day) graceful prose ("Over the snow, the fire crackles, and sparks shoot up to the stars. I lick sticky marshmallow from my lips and lean back with heavy eyes") with debut illustrator Neal's quiet, woodcut-like portraits of the snowy forest. A human father and daughter are tiny figures in a field of white, cross-country skiing past fir trees and glimpsing the occasional animal, while other creatures are visible in cutaway views below ground ("Under the snow, a queen bumblebee drowses away December, all alone. She'll rule a new colony in spring"). The rhythm of the girl's discoveries balances thoughtful discovery with moments of muted excitement, as when she skis downhill, then watches a fox pounce on a mouse ("His paws scratch away to find the mouse he heard scritch-scritch-scratching along underneath"). Unvarnished pages and an elegant layout enhance the sense of magic in a natural world just out of view. Includes an afterword and bibliography. Ages 4-8. (Nov.)Copyright 2011 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
PreS-Gr 2--A girl spends the day with her father skiing through the woods. As they proceed through the wintry landscape, he tells her about the secret kingdom of animals under the snow. He explains how a red squirrel and shrew move through cracks and tunnels, and how deer mice stay warm in their nests by covering themselves with feathers and fur. When the sky is light, the voles, beavers, and chipmunks gather food to eat, but as the sky grows darker, the queen bumblebee, bullfrogs, and black bear are shown sleeping in enclosures under the snow. Aboveground, the child and her dad are joined by the mom and have a bonfire, complete with cocoa and hot dogs sizzling on pointed sticks, before going to bed to dream about the secret kingdom under the snow. Throughout the book, Neal's crisp, clean mixed-media illustrations cleverly provide above- and belowground views, and Messner's back material will educate children about the subnivean zone and animal adaptations. Some of the uses for snow (entertainment, warmth, camouflage, shelter) can be discussed after reading this book.--Tanya Boudreau, Cold Lake Public Library, AB, CanadaCopyright 2011 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.