Do snowmen have feelings? What do fish think about below a frozen lake? Author Perris Deppa of Deephaven plays off such ponders (and more!) in Winter, You Wonder (Wise Ink, 2021), a children’s book that explores nature’s wintry playground through the natural curiosity of a child.
“Inspired by the enchanting questions of little ones, Winter, You Wonder explores the often-overlooked charms of a chilly winter landscape,” Deppa says. “The story follows precocious Pipa [based on Deppa’s daughter Parker] on a heartwarming adventure, from the thrill of the first snowfall to her last skate on fresh ice, as she ponders how do stars stay warm? [and more] … Her inquisitive adventures illustrate that anyone can discover the unseen wonder of the season, turning our coldest months into a joyful celebration.”
“I have three children, ages 5, 4 and 2, and their curiosity of the world is what led to my writing of this book,” says Deppa, a native Californian. “Raising each of them in this landscape has allowed me to truly re-experience childhood through a new lens, and it has been one of my biggest joys as a parent.”
The book was published in February, and the timeliness of that, given the pandemic, was not lost on Deppa. “… I could not help but think how many more people needed to hear my message than may have just one year prior. There is beauty in everything, even a long cold winter with nowhere to go,” she says.
It includes images of a tomte (a familiar creature in Scandinavian folklore), a winter spirit and Pipa’s mischievous companion. “… I wanted to be sure to incorporate elements that my own children adore in many of their favorite books,” Deppa says. “They love nothing more than when a book has a hidden character woven throughout.”
Illustrations by Raquel Martín are inspired by local scenes, including an ice fishing village (based on the village that pops up each winter on Carson’s Bay), skating images (the rink at Deephaven City Hall) and school scenes (her children’s experiences at the St. Therese Early Learning Center).
Defrosting the Narrative
Deppa’s perspective on winter also plays an important role in the book. “Winter in Minnesota is cold and long, and it is practically tradition to complain about it,” she says. “But my children’s beautiful perspective and exuberance for the season got me thinking … What if we change the adult narrative about winter? We can drive, bike, ski, snowmobile [and] dog sled on the very same lake we boat and swim in each summer. Lake Minnetonka is the most amazing example of nature’s playground, and we have the most unique opportunity to witness a stunning shift of seasons here—from humid sunny skies to ice crystals forming on our eyebrows ... There is beauty in the change of our seasons if we’re willing to pause and embrace it.”
Complaining about “the weather” is practically a sport in the Bold North, and winter seems to amp up the negative chatter. Deppa values the importance of turning that down (or off!). “As parents, one of the most important ways we can teach our children is through our own actions,” she says. “Adopting a positive mindset about winter allows our children to continue to embrace the season for the wonderful gift it is ... Rather than focusing on the ways in which winter restricts us, I strive to look more closely at the opportunities winter provides.”
To help illustrate her point, Deppa turns to Nicolette Sowder, a proponent of nature-connected parenting. “[She] states, ‘Encouraging a child to go outside in all-weather builds resilience, but more importantly, it saves them from spending their life merely tolerating the ‘bad’ days in favor of a handful of ‘good’ ones—a life of endless expectations and conditions where happiness hinges on sunshine.’ I hope my book helps to encourage children to hinge their happiness on their attitudes instead of the weather report.”
Deppa stresses the importance of perspective, of changing the way we think about things. “At the end of the day, life is all about perspective. If there is something you don’t like, you have the power to change the way you think about it.”
Goal setting can aid in changing perspectives and habits. To help launch her book, Deppa partnered with Ginny Yurich of @1000hoursoutside on Instagram. “We have adopted her simple yet impactful family goal of spending 1,000 hours outside in the year,” she says. “The benefits of nature-filled days are immense not only for our children, but for ourselves.”
Good intentions aside, 1,000 hours is a lot of time—equating to about three hours a day. Deppa offers inspiration. “I believe having special spots to visit is a huge part of getting outside during the winter months,” she says. “If you’re too close to home, it’s too easy to come right back inside. I like to venture somewhere that has an ‘attraction.’ This could simply be a cool climbing tree, an abundance of wildlife or maybe a sledding hill.” Locally, she points to Gale Woods Farm in Minnetrista and Victoria’s Lowry Nature Center in Carver Park Reserve. The family also keeps a winter bucket list to inspire adventures (dog sledding with Silent Run Adventures in Delano; ice fishing on Lake Minnetonka; making ice globes; building an igloo).
“More than anything I think it’s important to go somewhere that makes you happy as a parent. Children feed off of our energy, and if we’re loving life, they likely will, too," she says.
“My hope is for this book to contribute to the existing movement to embrace our winters and cold northern climate (à la Askov Finlayson’s #keepthenorthcold movement). But I also hope for it to fall into people’s home libraries and round out a wide array of stories that inspire their children to live a more curious life. There are so many wonderful books that encourage our children to explore, learn and keep an open mind, and I hope mine is a small piece of that puzzle.”
Winter, You Wonder is available at perrisdeppa.com, amazon.com, Excelsior Bay Books and pip & pal in Excelsior; Cottagewood Store in Deephaven (seasonal hours); and Pacifier in Wayzata.