Snowballs by Lois Ehlert: A Children's Book Review with Preschool Lesson Plan
Story Summary of Snowballs by Lois Ehlert
There are children's books, and there are PICTURE books. falls into the latter category. The colorful and whimsical collage art of artist/author Lois Ehlert makes this children's picture book a fun and engaging read for even very young ages. With its large pictures and double-page spreads, this is a perfect read-aloud story for large groups of young children. The visual elements will keep your audience's attention. Snowballs
Snowballs is a simple story depicting what one person does to fill their landscape with snow people—a snow dad, mom, boy, girl, baby, family cat, and even "our dog Spot." And when the snow melts...well, that's just part of the story.
Ehlert's illustrations combine the whimsical rainbow colors of objects from countries all over the world into fun and fascinating figures with textured papers and paper shapes. The term "visual feast" is perhaps a trite bit overused when it comes to children's books, but the term applies here.
Using "Good Stuff Saved In a Sack" Lois Ehlert makes collages from unexpected multicultural items from Central America. A Mexican Broom forms the hair for snow girl, while colorful striped Guatemalan belts give snow mom's hair an almost dreadlock effect. You will enjoy discovering all of the materials and the unique ways Ehlert combines them to form pictures that evoke the hushed, tranquil skies of a snow day.
Sit with your toddler or preschooler and enjoy this book at face value, then go back and search for objects through the pages! This fun snow day book will make you long for a perfect snow day so you can build your own snow menagerie.
- Lois Ehlert
Preschool Lesson Plan
You can read this book to preschoolers as part of several different possible thematic units, including: snow, snowmen, snowflakes, winter, or winter holidays. The following lesson ideas mainly focus on a snowman-themed lesson.
Music and Movement
Music and movement are important elements in teaching preschoolers. Children are very quick to memorize short songs and poems, which reinforces any subject you might teach them. Involving children in a movement activity reinforces the idea that story time is starting and engages young children's attention before you begin reading to them.
The song Once there was a Snowman (a short, easy to learn action song) is a perfect match with this story. The song is used by my church's children's Sunday School as an attention activity:
Once there was a snowman, snowman, snowman, Once there was a snowman tall, tall, tall. (Gradually move hand higher) Then the sun it melted, melted, melted, Then the sun it melted small, small, small. (Gradually Move hand lower)
Once There Was a Snowman-And Then Some
Movement Activity: Build a Snowman
Tell the children they are going to build a pretend snowman with you:
- Say: It's cold outside "brrr!" (Pretend to shiver, hug yourself)
- Say: Let's put on our coat! (Pretend to put on coat)
- Say: Let's put on our hat! (Pretend to put on hat)
- Say: Let's put on our mittens! (Pretend to put on mittens)
- Say: Oops! We forgot to put on our boots! Take off your mittens! (Pretend take off your mittens)
- Say: Now let's put on our boots! And mittens (pretend to put on your boots, then mittens)
- Let's open the door and go outside. (Pretend to open door)
- Time to walk through the snow. Lift your feet high (Walk in place)
- Lets make snowballs! (Pretend to make a snowball, roll it around. Repeat) 10. Time to stack the snowballs! (Pretend to stack snowballs)
- Our snowman needs a hat! (Take off your pretend hat and put it on pretend snowman)
- Whew, that was hard work! Good job making your snowman!
Finger plays, short poems, and short rhymes make great transitional activities in a library storytime setting. One of the key factors to your success as a story presenter is to keep your young audience fully engaged at all times. I am personally a big fan of using props and storyboards or finger plays.
If you are presenting to preschoolers with the story Snowballs, you will probably also want to read an additional story, with something short in between to help children get their wiggles out. Here are several transitional ideas you could do, or you could also incorporate into a more involved music and movement time.
Bag of Great Things
Bring a paper bag containing "great things". Ask kids how they would use the great things in the bag to build a snowman. Take the items out one at a time. You could add the "great things" to a flannelboard story using simple round felt pieces cut to make a snowman, or you could make your snowman a 3D sculpture using styrofoam balls. Encourage participation from the audience as your group and situation allows.
Snowman Art and Craft Ideas for Your Story Hour
Here are some snowman-themed craft ideas. Remember that the purpose of a craft component during story hour is not to create perfect trophy or "copycat" crafts. Help children explore new art materials and don't focus on the end project too much.
(Appropriate for older preschoolers) Have children cut out shapes from pictures in magazines to form their own "favorite things" collages. To make this activity more appropriate for toddlers, use pre-cut, torn, or die-cut shapes in the collages. Young toddlers don't have scissor skills required to cut complicated shapes.
Paint and Salt Snow Pictures
Achieve a glistening snowman picture by painting a small sheet of dark blue construction paper with white tempera paint. Cut the sheet in half so that it will fit into reusable plastic tray that you might get at the grocery store to hold deli meats. Use large round-tipped sponge brushes in a few different sizes to create the snowmen by daubbing the paper with the round tip of the sponge. then, using salt in large salt shakers, shake the salt onto the drying paint. It is helpful to let these pictures dry overnight before taking them home. Decorate the snowmen with buttons and other found objects.
Purchased playdough can be a lifesaver for busy storytime presenters who want to add a craft component, but who do not to incur the mess or cost of more complicated crafts. White playdough can also be made at home. I am not a very big fan of coloring a picture after storytime week after week, but I think it can be OK if it is all your time and resources allow. Playdough is also a relatively "green" choice because it can be reused over and over if stored properly and won't be thrown away by parents as soon as they get their children home.
There are a plethora of snowman coloring sheets on the internet. If you don't like these, just do a Google search!
Paper Tube Snow
This is an easy, inexpensive craft if you have a large group, are short on time, or have limited crafting resources. This green craft can find a use for some of those toilet paper and paper towel tubes.
Reading Snowballs with Young Children
The large-print text, short storyline, and large, vivid illustrations make this book a good choice for library story hour presentations and is short enough to combine with other books on a winter theme.
Older preschoolers and even school-age children will enjoy the "search and find" element of Ehlert's complex illustrations. And teachers of many age groups will want to consider using this book or other stories by Lois Ehlert as a launch-point for a unit on art, color, or collage.
This book has simple, repetitive words and can be used by emergent readers who will be encouraged by seeing some repeat words often as they begin to read alone. Also, the text of the book is over-sized and very easy to read.