Teaching young kids about the seasons can feel routine, but these three books ensure that it’s a rich, engaging, and visually delightful experience.
Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner with art by Christopher Silas Neal
Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner, art by Christopher Silas Neal, is a gorgeous ode to winter. While most descriptions end at snowfall and barren trees, this book elegantly shifts the reader’s perspective between outdoor family fun (conversation, skiing, bonfire cookout) and animal activity. Effortlessly incorporating scientific facts on hibernation, seasonal changes in daylight, life cycles, camouflage, and more — it reads like fiction while meeting a young child’s ravenous appetite for knowledge. Bonus: the book closes with more details about featured animals and additional reading references that are great for teachers and homeschoolers alike.
“Under the snow is a whole secret kingdom, where the smallest forest animals stay safe and warm. You’re skiing over them now.”
Over the snow I glide, past reeds where tadpoles play tag in springtime. Under the snow, fat bullfrogs snooze. They dream of sun-warmed days, back when they had tails.
Over the snow I glide. A full moon lights my path to supper. Under the snow, a chipmunk wakes for a meal. Bedroom, kitchen, hallway— his house under my feet.
Over the snow I swoosh— down, down, faster, faster, down, faster, faster, whoops! Under the snow, a snowshoe hare watches from a shelter of spruce. Almost invisible, she smooths her fur—a coat of winter white.
Extra information on Bullfrogs, Beavers, Red Foxes, Chipmunks, & Black Bears
Extra information on Bumblebees and references for Further Reading
Tree by Britta Teckentrup
Tree: A Peek-Through Picture Book by Britta Teckentrup is a beautiful observation of the seasons from the perspective of an owl sitting in its tree. This book is an all-time favorite with my kids and is probably the most requested book at bedtime—and that’s saying a lot in our house! Colorful, stylized images with strategic cutouts, clever opportunities for counting, and lyrical text perfect for teaching rhyming words make it irresistible. Its message is so effective, that we reference it whenever my kids are trying to identify seasonal changes. We’ve also found that it is an excellent book for early reader practice!
In the forest, all is still, gripped by winter’s icy chill. Owl sits watching in his tree. No one sees as much as he.
Now summer’s here, the sun is high, bees are humming in the sky. Juicy apples, ripe and sweet, almost ready for you to eat.
Autumn leaves turn red and gold. Days are warm and nights grow cold. Food is gathered and stored away. Ready for a winter’s day.
Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner with art by Christopher Silas Neal
Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner, art by Christopher Silas Neal, is the companion text to Over and Under the Snow— they should really be sold as a set! Covering Spring, Summer and Fall through the lens of a garden, it mirrors its predecessor in shifting perspective from people to animals and effortlessly including scientific information. It beautifully captures the life cycle of a garden, and conveys the interdependence of the garden, animals and seasons. Each illustration enriches the text to add nuance to the seasonal descriptions—young buds, sweaty brows, a cool breeze, barren flower beds. The images of garden critters are so engaging that my son started carrying this book with him everywhere, shortly after his first birthday. It’s a must-have if you’re starting a home garden or teaching about food production. Bonus: it also includes fact-packed pages and further reading at the end.
Spring sun shines down to melt the sleepy snow. Wind whistles through last year’s plants, and mud sucks at my rain boots. “It’s not quite time,” Nana says. “Down in the dirt, things need to dry out and warm up.” “What’s down there?” I ask.
Up in the garden, it’s time to plant. I trail a furrow with my finger and sprinkle seeds in a careful row. “Give them a drink,” Nana says. We pat them down to snuggle in the dark. Down in the dirt, a tomato hornworm rests, waiting for wings—and the leaves where she’ll lay her eggs.
Up in the garden, carrot plants sprout. Pea blossoms bloom. Wasps are on the prowl, and honeybees visit, legs loaded with pollen.
Up in the garden, there’s so much to eat! Ladybugs feast on aphids. Nana crunches green beans. I bite a ripe tomato, warm from the sun. Juice dribbles down my chin.
Up in the garden, the wind grows cool. Pumpkins blush orange, and sunflowers bow to September. Nana ties them together to build a house fo reading.
Up in the garden, frost draws lace on leftover leaves, where secret egg sacs hang, waiting for the warm to return. We say good-bye and spread the winter blankets. Down in the dirt, beetles burrow. Ants scurry home. Earthworms curl tight in the dark.
Author’s Note, Further Reading, and About the Animals: chickens, pill bugs, tomato hornworm, honeybees