Phillis Gershator







About me



Snow jacket

It Starts

illustrated by Martin Matje

Holt, 1998

*CCBC Choice, 1999
*Braille edition
*French edition, translated by Elisabeth Guinsbourg
*Japanese edition, translated by Masayo Koike
*Working Mother, Best of '98
*Starred review, Publishers Weekly
*Paperback big book edition––14 1/2" x 17 1/2"

From the book jacket:
     What if if starts to snow?
     What do you do?
     Where do you go?

     So begins this charming question-and-answer story as each animal––from the mouse to the bear––tells us what it will do and where it will go when the snow starts to fall from the sky.
     Phillis Gershator’s lyrical text and Martin Matje’s imaginative pictures make this an ideal picture book for sharing in a cozy classroom circle, or reading under the covers when the weather gets nippy.

A little about the book:

     When I saw Holly Meade’s final, sun-filled illustrations for Rata-pata-scata-fata, I fell in love with her work. I asked her what she wanted to work on next and she said, “Snow.” So I tried to write a book about snow. My first version wasn’t successful, and Holly went on to create other books (some featuring LOVELY scenes of snow!). But I kept doing revisions on the snow theme, and thus began my connection with a wonderful editor, Christy Ottaviano. She selected Martin Matje to illustrate our snow book, the artist’s first children’s book in the United States. I had hoped to do another picture book with Martin, and one was planned, but he died at a tragically young age. His legacy includes so many terrific books filled with artwork uniquely imaginative, inventive, and witty. I feel lucky to have had the chance to collaborate with him. 

     A special song for When It Starts to Snow is included in the CD for kids titled "This Is the Day! Storysongs & Singalongs."

     For using Snow in the classroom, check out the many suggestions in the blog Speech in the Schools.

From the reviews:

“In this engaging picture book about the chain of events set in motion by a snowfall, a cluster of animals respond in rhyme to a boy’s question.... Gershator writes with a simple, lilting eloquence....French artist Matje inventively renders the winter sky in the color of hot chocolate tinted with whipped cream, a perfect evocation of both the coziness and chill of a snowy day. This striking visual element provides the backdrop for his boldly graphic characterizations...everyone, even the hulking bear, has tiny bright eyes that peer out at the audience in comic wonder. With words that roll off the tongue, pictures of charming woodland inhabitants and a dash of science, this one will have readers raring to go on a snow quest of their own.” Publishers Weekly, starred review.

“Matje’s illustrations lead the eye from one scene to the next in a kind of flow, out the door, over the ice, to the pond, into the forest, and back to the house....The text has a rhyming, rhythmical pattern with enough repetition to be read easily by beginners. this is a charming book to read aloud with the younger set, in anticipation of the change from fall to winter. The rhyming, repetitive text gives a rolling rhythm while reinforcing concepts of seasonal change and animal behavior--such as migration, coloration, and hibernation.” Five Owls, selected title

“In simple rhymes and soothingly rhythmic language, common animals describe, in succession, their responses to falling snow.... Matje, a French illustrator, makes his American debut with uncluttered gouache scenes of simply drawn creatures, seen through a mild, fluffy snowfall. Although the text is longer here, the mood and simplicity of expression recall Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day (1962) and Ruth Krauss’ The Happy Day (1949).” Booklist

“The bright white snowflakes are satisfyingly fat and ever-present, and the child’s glee in the ‘brand-new snow/coming down/coming down’ is contagious....a cozily satisfying lapsit for the toddler fascinated by both snowflakes and animal noises.” Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

"...another great title for looking at how winter weather affects animals and people differently. As a young boy excitedly roams in the building snow, he asks each animal he encounters "What do you do? Where do you go?" There's a different answer from everyone, but all are looking for a warm place to wait out the chilliness. From the rooster crowing in the barn rafters to the bear heading for his den, everyone has a plan for when the snow flies. And that includes our hero, who is so thrilled by the presence of the white stuff that he can't sleep! This one's for the kiddo in all of us, spellbound by the sight of the whiteness building and drifting just outside our windows."
Sprout's Bookshelf