A group of children list all the important materials you need to create a snowman, beginning with the first snowflake.
The process of building a snowman takes on a life of its own in cadence and rhyme in this story, which builds excitement as it goes along, teasing the reader with each spread. “One small snowflake/fluttering down—/that’s all you need/for a snowman” begins the first spread, but the word EXCEPT on the lower right hand corner of the page tells the reader there’s more to come. The next spread brings the next adds more snowflakes: “two more snowflakes…/three flakes… four…/five… six… seven thousand…/eight million more…”, followed by the rolling of the snow into a ball, then two smaller balls, then choosing a hat, until the snowman stands, towering over the group. The word EXCEPT shows up on every other spread, pushing the reader to continue the story and building anticipation in the listener. The artwork brings an interesting look at a multicultural group of children by emphasizing the children’s profiles and shadowing one half of each face as if the children possess both light and dark skin. Ms. Lavallee’s watercolor and gouache paintings use light blue snowflakes as a background to the children’s snowman building activity, and she changes perspective from close-ups to full scenes that work with the pace of the text. The plain black font plays with the space, never interfering with the story and yet becoming part of it as it stacks to the side of the artwork or teases at the bottom of a page.
This would be a great story to read during a winter/snow read-aloud. The rhyme and cadence of the text would be soothing to listeners even as they became excited to learn what comes next in the snowman-building process. There are many printables and fingerplays available featuring snowmen, and a fun craft would allow children to create their own snowmen with cutout shapes that mirror some of those mentioned in the story: big snowballs, smaller snowballs, hats, “bottle caps” for eyes, “carrots” for noses, scarves, earmuffs, boots and belts. The Perry Public Library has many suggestions for Winter read-alouds.
The Children’s Literature Network offers an author webpage for Ms. Schertle with a biography and featured covers of some of her works.