Snow School book cover image

Snow School

  • 1695

By: Sandra Markle / Illustrated by: Alan Marks

A rare look at the endangered snow leopard.

The author/illustrator team of Sandra Markle and Alan Marks has had a profound impact on the world of children’s nonfiction with their collaborative efforts on books about different animals around the world. From wolves in Yellowstone to penguins in Antarctica, readers and critics have raved about the way in which Markle and Marks share their stories and information about animals in the wild.

In their newest project, readers are introduced to twin snow leopard cubs and their mother from the Hindu Kush mountains of Pakistan. Lyrical, informative text and stunning watercolor illustrations lead readers through the struggles these snow leopards face—from finding food to bearing harsh weather conditions—and the lessons the young cubs learn as they prepare for a life on their own, out from underneath the watchful, caring eye of their mother.

Back matter includes further resources and facts as well as an author’s note about the research process and information about how we can help this endangered species.

Read an excerpt!

Look Inside the Book:

Author & Illustrator Bios:

Sandra Markle, author

Sandra Markle is the author of more than 200 nonfiction books on science topics for children and her books have won over 30 awards, including the NSTA and CBC's list of Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children, the International Reading Association's Young Adults Choice Award, the Society of School Librarians International Book Award for Language Arts K-6, the Parent's Guide to Children's Media Nonfiction Award, The Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books of the Year Award, and Nick Jr. magazine's Best Books of the Year Award. Markle has been named Georgia Author of the Year five times and was honored as one of 1999's Women of the Year by Women in Technology International for her contributions to science and technology.

Read more about Sandra.

Alan Marks, illustrator

Alan Marks began his career illustrating for magazines and newspapers in England. His first children's book Storm, written by Kevin Crossley Holland, won the Carnegie Medal. Alan now illustrates a wide variety of subjects, from nursery rhymes to war poetry.

Read more about Alan.

Awards & Honors:

  • An NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12
  • Reading is Fundamental STEAM Multicultural Booklist

    Editorial Reviews:

    Kirkus Reviews

    Over the course of the year, a pair of snow leopard cubs learn all they can from their mother, becoming ready for independence.

    Starting right after birth, these feline siblings learn about the world from their attentive mother, especially about hunting. From the first, the kittens learn the rules their mother teaches them: It's a dangerous world, leave a scent, be quiet and quick while hunting, guard your food, find shelter in a storm and stay clear of humans. The blood of the hunt is neither sensationalized nor minimized. Facts about snow leopards are interwoven through the story, and the illustrations help explain more esoteric animal words like markhor, ibex and pika. Pakistan's Hindu Kush Mountains are depicted in all their drama, bathed in watercolors of blue and white, from a number of points of view. The animals are rarely shown at rest--always moving to build up their muscles and learn the skills they need to live on their own. It is a temptation to anthropomorphize these felines, but Markle tells their story for the younger reader in a way that allows them to identify with their mutual paths to independence without overdoing that connection.

    Little human cubs will want to roll and cavort like these snow leopards--and learn more about them.


    Two snow leopards' lessons begin shortly after their springtime birth in the mountains of Pakistan. After the larger male cub ventures outside of the den, he learns the world is dangerous when an eagle swoops down. Thankfully, his mother protects him. Other lessons soon follow: "Always leave your scent to claim your favorite hunting places," "Be quiet when you go hunting," "Always guard your food until you're finished eating," and so on. Though cataloged as nonfiction and filled with true-to-life information, this moves and feels like fiction, with its protagonist animals, narrative structure, and atmospheric watercolor paintings of the young snow leopards within their rugged mountain home. Markle's prose is vivid and honest about the struggles and violence that occur in the animal kingdom. A strong, lyrical read-aloud for making science and language arts connections.

    School Library Journal

    Two snow leopard cubs, born in a den high in Pakistan's Hindu Kush Mountains, are taught many lessons by their mother. Markle's simple, descriptive account moves along smoothly in an active voice. "In their smoky gray, black-spotted coats, the three snow leopards look like shadows slipping over rocks." Some readers may notice a bit of disconnect here as Marks's large, handsome watercolors of the cats depict them as beige with muted spots of brown and varied tones of gray to black. The soft hues of the animals and their white, gray, and blue environment are compelling. Marks adeptly conveys the muscular energy of the leopards in their rough-and-tumble play and their failed and successful encounters with other creatures. Shifting light through storms, drifted snow, and night lends variety to the terrain. The heart of the book is the killing of other animals in order to eat and survive, depicted in art and text as a matter-of-fact part of life. The tale ends with the male cub completing his lessons and making his first kill, enabling him to move on to life as a solitary hunter. Back matter includes a bit of explanation of physical features enabling the snow leopard's activity in the extreme environment and an author's note. There have been several attractive children's books on snow leopards in recent years, including Sy Montgomery's informative Saving the Ghost of the Mountain (Houghton Harcourt, 2009). This well-crafted introduction invites browsing and read-aloud enjoyment.


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    ISBN: 978-1-58089-410-4

    E-book PDF
    ISBN: 978-1-60734-593-0
    For information about purchasing E-books, click here.

    Ages: 4-8
    Page count: 32
    8 1/2 x 11

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