Early one morning, after a fresh now, I took our dog for a walk. At first, only one car had made tracks; they traveled down the road ahead of us in two long skinny lines.
A little farther on, they were joined by another set of tire tracks, along with the tracks of a deer, a squirrel, a rabbit and some birds. And Lucky’s tracks, and mine. All the little footprints rambling back and forth over the long straight lines of the tire tracks reminded me of notes on a music staff.
As I was thinking about this later, and painting a watercolor of the squirrel, these words popped into my mind:
“I think — I think I left it — I think I left it here — Somewhere…”
It seemed like what the squirrel might think as it scampered back and forth in its short, erratic spurts.
The story unfolded from there.
I savored many types of joy while making this book: The beauty of snow falling under a streetlight. The coziness of nests. Adventures and reunions. Words and music.
I think these are joys that grownups and children can share and have fun with.
From reviews of Snow Music:
“Onomatopoeic language, offbeat details, and skillfully nuanced tones of earth and sky all convey the charms of quiet observation — of looking and listening, and of whispering, like softly falling snow.”
— The Horn Book (starred review)
“Endpapers covered with snowflake notes signal that in Perkins’ hands, this is anything but ordinary… The story comes full circle, ending with a snow globe on the cover… a miniature replica of a children’s whisper-quiet winter world. Masterful and unique.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“All together, this is an extraordinary accurate expression of the winter experience, which will elicit immediate recognition from winter veterans and convey the special quality of a newly snow-tempered world to youngsters who’ve never experienced it. Read it aloud for the pure pleasure, or to inspire audiences to listen to their own seasonal music.”
— The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)
“…the reader-aloud can take up the story’s invitation to imitate various sounds, like cars and snowplows. Just as the story works on all kinds of levels, so does its retelling, and not all of its sound is caught in language. Snow Music offers a sophisticated experience, yet that richness is accessible to all.”
— New York Times Book Review
Other ideas to explore:
Animal tracks could be explored in a variety of ways, from looking at them in books to going outdoors and looking at the real thing.
Nancy Kielian-Boyd, a music teacher at Breton Downs Elementary School in East Grand Rapids, did a variety of wonderful things. Her students:
- listened to Debussy’s “The Snow is Dancing.”
- choreographed a creative movement piece based on falling snowflakes.
- worked on a “Mr. Snow Rap” piece — I don’t know the details of this.
- worked on a “sound composition” where they made their own short musical compositions based on different parts of the book.
Making snow globes
After reading Snow Music with a child, you might be in the mood to make a snow globe together. Here’s how:
1. Wash and dry jars and lids thoroughly.
2. Make sure figures (not water soluble!) will fit inside, then glue to lid with waterproof glue or cement. Let dry.
3. Fill jar nearly to top with distilled water. Add a few drops of glycerin (from the drugstore) and pinches of white glitter.
4. Smear a little adheasive inside lid and screw on tightly.
5. Let dry and flip it!
Snow Music: Ideas for group reading
I have found that this works best with a little prep work. I usually talk about three things before reading it, which may sound complicated, but it’s not, really.
1. “This may look like a book, but it’s really a movie. We’re going to look at the book, but together we are going to be the soundtrack for the movie.”
Ask kids what kind of sounds we hear when we watch a movie. We’re going to make all of these kinds of sounds. For example:
- People talking to each other (conversation, dialogue)
- Someone who tells us what’s going on (the storyteller or narrator)
- Sound effects (car crashes, someone breathing fast, feet crunching gravel)
- Music (How do different kinds of music – scary, happy, exciting, for example – let us know what’s going on?)
This is a good place to play a few different kinds of music and ask kids to listen and imagine that they have the job of picking the music for a movie about animals walking in the snow. “Which animal would this kind of music be good for?”
2. “By making these sounds and looking at the pictures, we will tell two stories at the same time.”
- Story #1: Snow falls during the night while creatures, including children, are asleep in their nests. They wake up and go outside. During the day, the sun melts the snow. As evening falls, it begins to snow again, everyone goes home.
- Story #2: A dog gets loose, and two friends search for him until they find him.
3. “All orchestras need to rehearse at least once.”
Go through page by page to try out the different ways of story-telling that will be employed.
- There are three short poems. They could be assigned to better readers, or the teacher could read them.
- “car” and “truck”: divide the class into sections for a real orchestral/choral experience
- “dog”: choose a huffer and a jingler. And a handful of pennies works well for the jingling.
- Possible solos: bird, squirrel, deer. “Letting your fingers do the walking” can illustrate the pacing of these pages. Kids like to do this, too.
- Dialogue parts can be assigned or read together.
- Everyone can go “peth, peth,peth,” “fep,fep, fep”, “k-tk”, “ssh” and “oops.” It is helpful to teach the conductors’s hand motion for ending a piece of music so you can get everyone to stop at once.
Invite children to suggest other sounds they think falling snow might make.
Once you’ve rehearsed, you’re ready for your performance. I had one group of younger children who felt they had already done enough just after rehearsing but other groups were all ready and willing to perform
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I, too write children’s books and music. I would love to meet up with you sometime!