Friday, July 24, 2015

By Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by Laura Stringer

OH, Cynthia Rylant!! How do you do it?  Rylant always inspires me with her incredible talent and ability to use words to create imagery and emotion. 

Snow would be a compelling mentor text to use for upper elementary grades (including grade 6) in a grammar study of figurative language. It is a great read aloud for lower elementary, as well!

Beautifully written, Snow, created in lyrical free verse, would be an especially powerful mentor to use in locations that do actually get a lot of snow.(Of course, it can be used as a mentor text in any locale!) Students who have experienced snow on a regular basis will be able to completely relate to the similes, metaphors and other figurative language that Rylant uses to describe the different types of snow. Rylant breaks a lot of conventional rules by writing long, drawn out sentences—yet by arranging them in verse, they flow down the page in a beautiful melodic, storyteller-type voice.  This writing move is a great example for students who are ready to experiment with their own writer’s voice.

Connecting to the text in this way will bring a strong sense of engagement for students and open a path for them to be influenced by Rylant to try to emulate some of her writing moves.

Book Talk
The narrator begins by simply describing different types of snow to readers.

The storyteller’s voice is singsongy and flowing as the snow is compared to a shy friend, described as sometimes being fat and cheerful, or sometimes being so heavy that it buries everything around it.

A favorite line:
The best snow 
is the snow that 
comes softly in the night,
like a shy friend
afraid to knock,
so she thinks she’ll
just wait in the yard
until you see her.
This is the snow 
that brings you peace”

Throughout the book, the simplicity of snow is characterized in numerous, lyrical and wondrous ways.

Another favorite line:
“Children love snow
better than anyone does,
and they never complain
as they pull on their
red boots and mittens 
and make plans
to catch
wet flakes on their tongues
and roll their small bodies
to the bottom of a hill.
The snow loves them back.
It gives them angels
and new friends.”

Rylant has said that her childhood in West Virginia inspired various books that she has written.  Snow is one of them and it is indeed, written with a child-like wonder at the white wintery beauty. 

As Rylant says on her website (see below): “Simple things make good stories.”

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Poetry: Lyrical, free-verse
Reading Workshop strategies: Maintain Fluency, Connecting, Visualizing, Analyze, Summarizing
Writing Workshop genre and strategies: Poetry, Inspiring Writers, Elaboration, Strong lead,
Curricular Themes:  Winter/ Seasons, Grammar (figurative language, sentence fluency, similes, metaphors)

Cynthia Rylant’s website:

Laura Stringer’s website:

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