Sonderbooks Book Review of

Winter Is Coming

by Tony Johnston

illustrated by Jim LaMarche

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Winter Is Coming

by Tony Johnston

illustrated by Jim LaMarche

Review posted October 10, 2014.
A Paula Wiseman Book (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), New York, 2014. 32 pages.
Starred Review
2014 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #4 Picture Books

I usually don’t fall for quiet, meditative picture books. They need some zing to keep kids from squirming in Storytime. And surely Autumn has been done to death?

However, this book is so completely gorgeous, it won my heart. The text is gentle and lovely, and the story in pictures of a girl watching the natural world, observing and sketching, snuck its way into my heart.

The girl has a platform set up in a moss-covered old tree. She has binoculars and a sketch book. The book starts in early Autumn. The girl comes and sees wildlife come to the clearing, first a fox sniffing the last apple on their apple tree. Each new scene ends with the words “Winter is coming.”

Over the months that follow, she sees a bear and her cub, a family of skunks, a pair of woodpeckers, a group of rabbits, a lynx, chipmunks, deer, geese flying south, and finally a flock of wild turkeys. With each new day, the girl observes the animals and how they are getting ready for winter. Finally:

It’s late November now.
Gray as honkers, clouds crowd low.
The red fox returns,
prowling, prying, poking.
But the apples are gone.
The day goes still.
The red fox is quiet, quiet.
I am quiet, quiet. Then –
the clouds dust us with
Soon snow lies everywhere.

Winter is here.

Besides being beautiful to look at, the pictures, even though they are all from the same basic setting, are presented from a wide variety of angles and perspectives. Paired with the poetic language and insights about nature, this book won my heart.

We can learn from animals, my father says.
About patience. About truth. About quiet.
About taking only what you need
from the land because
we are just its keepers.