KidPages: Cold Snap by Eileen Spinelli

Jan 11, 2013

I was going to save this book for a later post and feature it with a couple other winter-themed picture books. But today the weather dictated a change in my plans.

We woke up to an abundance of snow--at least 12 inches of beautiful, powdery fluff. I was supposed to teach a couple of piano lessons this morning before school. I didn't. Maxwell was supposed to go to preschool. He didn't. Mike was supposed to take the bus to work. He didn't.

The snow is so thick and so deep that as Mike trudged back home from the bus stop, he had to dig out two cars (in less than two blocks). The roads are so slippery, people are abandoning their vehicles because they can't make it up the dips at the road intersections. And here it is, nearly 1:30 in the afternoon, and it's still coming down, slowly but steadily.

Sorry for the less-than-lovely picture of our recycling can, but it was the best way to show the depth of the snow.

Many schools closed, including Weber State University and Salt Lake Community College. I kept expecting Salt Lake School District to cancel (since the roads were so backed up that traveling even a couple of blocks was nearly impossible), but they never did. Sometimes people should just listen to Mother Nature and hole up in their homes while she has her say.

Which is exactly what we did.

And what's more appropriate on a day like today than cozying up on the couch with a frigidly snowy picture book? Luckily, I happened to have one on hand (hehe).

In Cold Snap, the town of Toby Mills has been hit hard by a winter storm (hmmm, sounds familiar...). For days, the snow falls, the temperature drops, and the icicle on the end of General Toby's nose gets longer and longer. (I should probably mention that General Toby is a statue.) The townsfolk try to make the best of it (the Sullivan sisters knit mittens for all the children, Millie Moffat makes a snow angel, and Pastor Pickthorn takes a nap with hot-water bottles taped to his feet), but in the end, everyone begins filing complaints to the mayor (as if he can do anything about it). In the end, it's the mayor's wife who saves the day and helps all of Toby Mills warm up.

This is such a cute book. The cover biased me from the start (it's covered with glitter, for crying out loud!), but the inside was just as good.

I felt like I had just been plunked down in the town of Toby Mills and it was just assumed that I would already know who everyone was: Millie Moffat and Franky Tornetta and Stix Hartman and Miss Dove and Pastor Pickthorn. This might have been annoying except that it was this assumed familiarity that gave the story an instant homey feel and made me love it right from the start.

The illustrations are done by Marjorie Priceman (of How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World and Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin fame). She is so good. I love her soft lines and bold textures and beautifully subtle shadings. I would say her illustrations are detailed in a loose kind of way (you can't see every pine needle on the trees and every person has the same black dots for eyes, but she has a way of adding just the right somethings to make you feel like you're on the page yourself.)

Take this one, for example:

See what I mean about the pine tree and the people's faces? But at the same time, can't you practically feel the icy wind whipping around you? Notice the snowy swirls, the flying trash can lid, the scarf caught in the tree and the blowing hair. Brrrrr! (Oh, and in case you're curious about General Toby, there he is on the right side of the page, with his icicle hanging down to his waist.)

At the end of the story, Miss Dove drizzles hot maple syrup over bowls of clean snow, which hardens into delicious candy. At the back of the book is the recipe for "Miss Dove's Sugar-on-Snow Candy." It called for "fresh, clean snow," and since we happened to have an abundance of that...

...we decided to give it a try.

The boys put some snow into bowls (and I noticed that they sampled it to make sure it was cold enough) while I boiled the maple syrup until it reach 250 degrees F.

Then I drizzled it over the snow (without the finesse of Miss Dove), handed out some forks, and the boys dug in. Even Bradley was a huge fan.

It's pretty sweet (what would you expect from pure maple syrup?), but my favorite part of the recipe is the note at the bottom: Some people follow the candy with a bite of sour pickle or a saltine cracker or a doughnut. What? I assume they're trying to cut through the sweetness, but a doughnut? That, I don't understand.

So if you're trapped inside or maybe longing for a little snow of your own, I'd recommend this as a great wintery read.

This post is linked to The Children's Bookshelf and the Kid's Co-op. If you're looking for more great ideas, these are the places to go!


  1. I guess some people can never get enough sweetness:) Love this. I can't believe how much snow you guys got! They close the schools here if we get a flurry.

  2. What fun that you made maple syrup candy! We got all that snow too up here in Box Elder county... and NO SCHOOL CLOSURES. I swear, this district never ever closes things down! The snow is beautiful though, and I'm just thankful that this storm system brought the temps up a bit. I was getting tired of single and negative digits on the thermometer... too bad they are back on the forecast! Oh well. That book is wonderful! We recently borrowed it from the library. :)

  3. Yes! We loved this book, too (though I like just about anything Eileen Spinelli has penned). My 3yo also wanted to make the snow candy, but we haven't gotten a good snow here yet. It's on the bucket list :)


    1. I hope you get some good snow soon! It was almost kind of magical for my boys to get to bring the snow inside, drizzle sugar over it, and then eat it! In their wildest dreams, I don't think they ever thought they'd be allowed to do that! :-)

  4. Whoa. Tooo cool.

    That book sounds fantastic.

    And talk about yum!

    You're a great fun mom.

  5. I love this idea! I'll have to check out the book sometime. And thanks for your nice comments about the braces. I've currently got a horrible head cold anyway, so the braces are just making things ten times worse. But I can hang on. :)

  6. What fun! That candy is a good way to make memorable snow days!! :)

  7. I loved this book so much and I am very jealous of your snow! Thanks for linking up to The Children's Bookshelf.

    1. The snow is fun, but I'm ready for it to be gone! :-)

  8. What a wonderful post! While I LOVE living in California -- every once in awhile I miss the snow! Your post made me miss it! :) We've just checked out Cold Snap from the library. I'm looking forward to reading it later today!

    1. I have to admit, I'm a little bit jealous of your California weather (the snow and cold make it difficult to go places with little kids). But this book is a GREAT winter read! I hope you enjoy it!

  9. I'll have to look for this one - looks perfect for a snowed in day. Of course, I'm hoping we don't have any more of those this year. ;)


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