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Children's Nonfiction Country Life

Winterberries and Apple Blossoms

Reflections and Flavors of a Mennonite Year

by (author) Nan Forler

illustrated by Peter Etril Snyder

Initial publish date
Oct 2011
Country Life, Cooking & Food, General
Recommended Age
5 to 9
Recommended Grade
k to 4
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2011
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


With an evocative poem for every month of the year, young Naomi introduces us to her family and hosts a journey through the seasonal rhythms of her rural Mennonite community.

In the winter there’s a quilting bee with chattering, friendly women to warm the frigid night, visits to a general store with all its treasures, and the awakening of the sap in the sugar bush. Spring months bring the hard work of clearing the fields and the sweet reward of shoofly pies. Under the hot summer sun there’s home-made ice cream, baseball to play, and a horse-drawn buggy to drive. Then it’s autumn when the shy narrator must help sell produce at the road-ide stand, while she thinks of the snows to come. And all year long there are delicious, child-friendly recipes to make and sample.

The poems and recipes are perfectly complemented by Peter Etril Snyder’s lovely paintings. Winterberries and Apple Blossoms is a beautifully produced book, perfect for gift-giving, or sharing with anyone who appreciates simple, enduring values.

About the authors

Contributor Notes

Born in Elmira, Ontario, Nan Forler has degrees in both music and education. She has taught junior kindergarten through to grade eight for over twenty years. For several years, she ran a cooking school for kids, where she shared her love of seasonal foods with children and their parents. Her first children’s book for Tundra, Bird Child, won many
accolades. Nan Forler lives in Waterloo, Ontario.

Peter Etril Snyder was born in Waterloo, Ontario. He began painting at the age of twelve and attended the Ontario College of Art. In 1969 he began to paint Mennonite life, and since then, he has gained national and international recognition for his art and reproductions. In 1999, Snyder received his Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Wilfrid Laurier University.

Editorial Reviews

“…sunlit acrylic scenes that convey a close-knit family that works, plays, and prays together. Along with Forler’s graceful verse, and recipes for every season, it all adds up to a warm portrait of a community seldom found in the spotlight.”
—Publishers Weekly

“…Together, Forler and Snyder offer readers of all ages a glimpse into Naomi’s world –by way of a poem and painting for each month of the calendar year…. Forler includes 12 recipes for traditional Mennonite desserts in keeping with the book’s calendar theme. Think vanilla ice cream made in coffee cans, Dutch apple pie and of course, Apple Blossoms, those delicious pastries filled with apples, brown sugar and cinnamon. Yum!”
Waterloo Region Record

Librarian Reviews

Winterberries and Apple Blossoms: Reflections and Flavors of a Mennonite Year

Raised in the Old Order Mennonite tradition, Naomi is a young girl who lives a simple life on a farm. Computers, televisions, automobiles and fancy clothing are not part of her milieu. Instead, her life revolves around religious beliefs, chores, going to school and playing with siblings. Through 12 poems (one for each month of the year), readers are invited into Naomi’s world. We observe how she clears the land, drives a horse-drawn buggy, harvests apples and participates in her first quilting bee. We also witness her joy as she visits the general store and bakery, plays baseball and savours homemade ice cream.

Author Nan Forler introduces us to an unforgettable character who, though guided by strict beliefs and customs, has deep, introspective thoughts about her place in the world. Most likely, Naomi has never travelled outside of her community, but she yearns to learn about what lies beyond. A visit to the general store serves as a catalyst: “By the cash register, / I peer at the View-Master cards with one eye open, /white cardboard circles with miniature pictures/ of places far away:/ the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, China./ I hold the package close, trying to see the world/in the tiny, dark squares.” Forler writes with great sensitivity, creating vivid images in readers’ hearts and minds. We feel Naomi’s anticipation when she drives a buggy for the first time. We sense her longing for the colourful print dress material rather than the usual plain navy blue. The text allows us to understand Naomi as she moves through her days, months and seasons. Twelve Mennonite dessert recipes are also included, created with children in mind.

Peter Etril Snyder, an artist already recognized internationally for his depictions of Mennonite country life, is the perfect illustrator for this story. His acrylic paintings capture the simplicity and beauty of the Old Order community and the land they live on.

This exquisitely written and illustrated book is a feast for the senses!

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Winter 2012. Volume 35 No. 1.

Winterberries and Apple Blossoms: Reflections and Flavors of a Mennonite Year

Join Naomi, a young girl who leads a simple country life, as she offers a glimpse into the life of a Mennonite family. Naomi shows us the similarities and differences between her lifestyle and that of those who live outside her community. The poems and recipes are beautifully complemented by Peter Etril Snyder’s paintings.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. Fall, 2012.

Other titles by Nan Forler