cover image Cracked Corn and Snow Ice Cream: A Family Almanac

Cracked Corn and Snow Ice Cream: A Family Almanac

Nancy Willard. Harcourt Children's Books, $18 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-15-227250-0

Newbery Medalist Willard and Dyer (Animal Crackers) dipped into their respective rural Midwest family histories for this nostalgic, exquisitely designed and compulsively readable picture book. Part family photo album, part farmer's almanac, it's an American quilt of fact and folk wisdom (""For good luck, turn your apron over when you see the new moon""). The book is organized in a calendar format. Each month gets four pages and starts off with seasonally synchronized verse (poets range from Shakespeare to Dickinson), followed by lists of ""Dates and Festivals"" (both old and new) and variable feast days, a farmer's calendar (in July, ""To keep your hens laying, give them free range for at least part of the day""), as well as ""Worth Knowing"" and ""Worth Cooking"" sections with fun facts (""How many cows fit in an average classroom? 33"") and recipes (e.g., pumpkin fudge or curds and whey). ""The Voices"" section should score highly with young readers who enjoy hearing stories of their grandparents' childhoods: quotes from Willard's and Dyer's families tell of coming to America and offer a peek back at a time when children milked the cows before walking to school. The months are separated by a ""season"" spread of turn-of-the-century photos. Dyer embroiders the cheerfully busy pages with thumbnail illustrations (e.g., tiny seed packages or a child with a plow) and hand-lettered banners--a visual context that's as cozy as a front porch in summer inviting readers to drop in for a visit. A book to be savored. All ages. (Sept.)