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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Subnivean Zone

While drinking my tea and nibbling a chocolate chip cookie this afternoon, I paged my way through a pile of books next to my chair. Do you learn something new each time you read a book? I do. From Kate Messner's lovely picture book Over and Under the Snow, I now know where the subnivean zone is located and what goes on in that environment. This year in Minnesota the subnivean zone might be non-existent, given that it is the  airy place (more accurately, it is a connected network of small places) between the ground and the snow cover formed from the warmth of the ground melting the snow. There are few snow-covered spaces in my yard or in the nearby woods. Creatures like mice, moles, voles are safer from predators in the subnivean zone.

"Under the snow, a chipmunk wakes for a meal. Bedroom, kitchen, hallway - his house under my feet."

Kate's book, charmingly illustrated in mixed media by Christopher Silas Neal, is narrated by a young Nordic skier who moves over the snow with her dad. He tells her about the "secret kingdom" that exists under their skis, and the two encounter many "over the snow" creatures on their journey toward a supper bonfire in the moonlight. The illustrations are cross sections of the snow and woods, perfectly portraying the animals moving, dozing, and working. One last page shows the cross section of the narrator under her covers, dreaming of the creatures she encountered. The author's note gives information about each of the animals in the book and a great list of titles and websites for further investigation.


  1. And it seems like I learn something new each time I read your blog!

  2. I see evidence of the subnivian zone every spring (after we have winter snow): squiggly chewed grass tunnels where the snow drifts were. Kate Messner's book is lovely in all ways.