This book has a special place in my heart for two reasons: First, it was photographed entirely in Northern Michigan, where I grew up.  Second, it was one of the first picture books we owned – given to Em as a baby gift less than two weeks after she was born.  We’ve been reading it regularly ever since!

Written and photographed by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoik
Sams, Carl R. II, Photography, January 2000, Fiction
Suitable for:  Ages 2-8
Themes/Topics:  Animals in winter, mystery, snowmen.
Opening and brief synopsis:  This wonderfully heartwarming winter story about forest animals’ curiosity and confusion over a snowman that has magically appeared in their woods, has become a festive favorite year after year.
Activities:  Laura and Rob Sams, cousins of Carl Sams and creators of Stranger in the Woods: The Movie (which I ADORE!!), host this website which contains a wealth of curriculum activities based on the book.  They also do school visits.  From my point of view as a parent and a child of Michigan, however, I suggest building a snowman with your kids.  Put some birdseed on his hat, give him a carrot nose and spread some carrots on the ground and see if any deer or other animals come to visit your “stranger.” 🙂
Why I Like This Book: Besides the stunning photography, the fact that these wildlife photographers (husband and wife) were able to write such a captivating story to go with their photographs is miraculous.  When you read the book, it’s difficult that the whole thing wasn’t staged – it’s that good.  Also inspirational for writers: this is a self-published book that went on to become a #1 New York Times bestseller and won many awards along the way.  Additional books in the series, also self-published and also NYT bestsellers, are Lost in the Woods and First Snow in the Woods.

For more books with resources please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog and find the tab for Perfect Picture Books!

Categories: Writing · Tags: , , , , ,



  1. What a cool book! I never heard of it. I like how they use real pictures. Cool idea to put birdseed on your snowman 🙂

  2. This book sounds wonderful! Thank you for sharing it! The cover photo is captivating.

  3. Oh, I LOVE this book! What a great choice! One of the things that is so fun about Perfect Picture Book Fridays is going from blog to blog and seeing what people have chosen. Sometimes I am introduced to a wonderful book I’d never heard of before, and sometimes, as in this case, I have an immediate reaction of recognition and familiarity, pleasure that someone else has chosen a book I know and love 🙂 I highly recommend this book too!

    • I know. It’s such a great series Susanna! It’s not just the books but which people choose what books that makes it even more compelling.

  4. We read this book a few months ago. So cute. Kids love it. Didn’t know it was self-pubbed.

  5. Oh, I like this book. Have never read the book. I love the idea of putting food items for our furry creatures and birds on snowmen/women. Such a beautiful choice for PPB week.

  6. Oh, I didn’t know about this one. I will have to check it out at the library. I will have to look for the movie too. I grew up in Michigan too. North of Muskegon. Lots of family and friends still there. Thank you!

  7. It’s exciting when a self-published book climbs to the top of the bestseller list . . . because that’s where it belongs. 😀

  8. Our library has the first book-Lost in the Woods. My students check it out all the time. I’ll have to order this one! I am impressed that it was self-published and was such a success! Love to hear stories like this. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  9. sounds wonderful, can’t wait to check this out! i hope my library has it.

  10. It looks like we’ve all picked cute ones this week, that too is adorable! Very impressive that they used real deer. I’ll look out for it right now, i’m typing from the library 😉

  11. Thank you for sharing this one! I no longer have little ones in the house all the time, but I still have a picture book collection. Between your loving description of the story and the amazing ability of these authors to find visuals and tell a story about it, I’m captivated. I will definitely check this one out!

  12. What a fun story and a lovely personal connection. As a writer, it’s always interesting to hear it was self-published. I’ll see if my library has it.

  13. The title is familiar, but I can’t remember if I’ve read it. The movie looks like a winner, too. Thanks, Julie, for reminding us of this sweet story set in your home State…no wonder you like it so well! Perfect for this time of year…

  14. I haven’t read this book, but I love unstaged photography! My kids love playing in the snow and I think this year I need to try putting birdseed on the snowman’s hat! What a great dinner table conversation starter- what would an animal think upon finding a snowman in the woods? My kids loved The Mitten and this seems like a good followup. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Gorgeous! My first thought when I saw this post and that cover. After reading your review I am reminded of my time staying with friends in Austria and the fun I had making a snowman, complete with carrot, hat and scarf, for the kids in the local square in the small town. Have a picture somewhere of the kids and me with the lovely fella! Thanks for the memory Julie!

  16. This book sounds lovely, and it’s nice to hear such a great success story of a self-published book. It’s also nice to hear about a picture book illustrated with photographs. There are some out there, but not too many!

  17. Julie, I’m going to see if I can find it up here in the far north…looks like a lovely book to share with grandchildren.

  18. I am going to check into that one for Monkey. Looks like something she would love reading. Or more likely, have read to her. 🙂

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