100 Best Books for Children ~ Whittier

Snow-bound is Number 73 on The Hundred Best Books for Children, written by John Greenleaf Whittier, a mostly self-taught Quaker poet.

Whittier was born in 1807 on a farm in Massachusetts. He was mostly self-educated as there was not money for education. His early life is told in the poem “The Barefoot Boy.”

After being given the poems of Robert Burns he began writing poetry.

His family, of course, knew of his efforts, but the shy boy might never have thought of publishing his poems had not his sister Mary sent one of them to The Free Press of Newburyport. The first knowledge that Whittier had that it had left the house was when he opened a copy of the paper and found it there in print. With this encouragement he sent others, and the editor, William Lloyd Garrison, was so much impressed by them that he paid the boy a visit.

“American Literature,” The Book of Knowledge

He began his work career as an editor but ill health prevented his continuing. In returning to his poetry he took up the anti-slavery cause. These poems make up the largest part of his work.

Along with his anti-slavery poems, John Greenleaf Whittier is probably best known for his lengthy poem Snow-bound: A Winter Idyl, which tells the story of his own family snowed in for several days and describes how they entertained themselves. The poem was meant to be a way of remembering the family and friends that were there during the event.

Snow-Bound alone is enough to keep his name alive, for in it he gives a vivid and unforgettable picture of winter life in old New England in the picturesque times that were passing even in his day.

“American Literature,” The Book of Knowledge
Free eBook

  • Take turns reading the work aloud. (Hint: Use the punctuation as your stopping points, not the end of lines.)
  • Ask your students to recall a favorite story. Who told it? Narrate.
  • Older students can write the scene (or story) as prose.
  • Copy favorite passages into a copybook.
  • The “Read online” version above includes a nice background write-up that may be helpful to older students to read.
  • What does Idyl (or Idyll) mean?
  • Study one of Whittier’s other poems (see below).
  • Compare this poem to a different poem about the snow: “The Snow-Storm” by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “It Snows” by Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, and/or “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost.
  • Whittier was known as one of the “fireside poets,” American poets that were popular in the late 1800s whose poems could be read by the entire family around the hearth. Other fireside poets include Longfellow, William Cullen Bryant, James Russell Lowell, and Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. Read at least one poem by each of these authors. Explain how how the themes are similar.
  • Older students can try their hand at descriptive writing.
  • Older students can try writing a few stanzas of poetry in the same style as Whittier using Snow-bound as an example.
  • Create an author page for John Greenleaf Whitter (along with the other authors in our series).

Additional Resources

Stanza by stanza breakdown at Course Hero that may be helpful.

“Poor Voter on Election Day” by Whittier
From our Online Poetry Anthology.

Author Notebooking Pages {Free Download}
Use this free set to create an author notebook for our 100 Best Books for Children series.

The Hundred Best Books for Children ~ Introduction
The Hundred Best Books for Children

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