I could never imagine not liking winter… or any season for that matter When I was young, I spent winters outdoors, coming inside occasionally to warm up, eat, and drink some hot cocoa. Even as I got older, I always looked forward to wintertime, because I am a fan of all seasons.
I recently learned of a children’s book that will soon be on bookshelves, that touts all of the seasons, including winter, as ever-changing magical times of year, to be appreciated, and even revered. The author of said book is former Channel 2 meteorologist Jennifer Stanonis, who recently retired to spend time with her family.
When I asked Stanonis about her inspirations, she first told me that her father was a scientist. Growing up, he encouraged her to look at things differently, to question her surroundings, to make sense of the world. Stanonis herself was very science driven – she enjoyed math, and learned negative numbers by the time she was in the third grade. She eventually went to school for broadcasting. From there she landed her first job as a news and weather reporter in Wyoming (not county), which is when she seriously caught the weather bug. “I would see what was happening on the radar,” she explained. “Then I would see the aftermath of a tornado in real life. I began to understand it better, yet at the same time I was in awe of what weather could do.”
Eventually Stanonis began to set her sights on bigger markets, which is how she ended up on a plane heading to Buffalo in 2005. “I’m originally from Northern California,” she explained. “My friends told me that Buffalo was a tundra, but I figured coming from Wyoming, I would give it a chance, which is the best decision that I ever made in my entire life. The second I stepped off the plane, I knew I was home. The people were so friendly, I immediately took to this city – everyone has been so supportive. Buffalo has given me everything – it gave me a career, a husband, kids, and I love the four seasons. I have so much to be grateful for.”
As a way to give something back to Buffalo, Stanonis has now authored a children’s book that cleverly discusses all of the fascinating aspects of the climate. After 18 years as a meteorologist, she has embarked upon another adventure, which, she told me, was inspired by her children. “Today, I’m more of an anchor at home,” she said. “I found that my kids were always asking questions – kids in general are always inquiring about the weather, especially the snow. They want to know when it is going to snow, when can they play in the snow, when can they build a snowman and do snow angels? I have always considered the outdoors as my gym. When I run, I am always looking at the clouds, to see what sort of weather is coming. I think it’s important, from an early age, to learn about the weather – feel the air, use your senses, ask questions. I have always encouraged my kids to embrace nature and the outdoors. So when they asked questions, I would try to explain the answers in simpler terms, which I began to write down. That is how I started to write my book.”
Stanonis, also a fan of poetry, made the words flow as smooth as possible when she put them to paper. As we sat at Five Points Bakery, discussing her book – Willy & Lilly’s Adventures with Weather – she picked up one of the copies and began to read aloud, “After the first day of summer, daylight will get shorter soon. The longest day of the year is on the Summer Solstice in June!” Now, if you had told me earlier that day that someone would be reading a children’s book out loud to me, while seated drinking coffee at Five Points, I would have laughed. But here I was, with Stanonis reading page after page aloud, as if she was reading to one of her kids. I’m not sure what everyone else was thinking, seated around us, and truth be told, I didn’t really care, because her enthusiasm was delightful – I could see how any child would be enraptured with learning about the mysteries pertaining to cloud formations, wind chill, equinoxes, precipitation, cold snaps, and arctic blasts.
Stanonis’s book is chock full of lessons. For example, light travels faster than sound, which is why thunder is heard after lighting is seen. Or, upon planning travels, always be sure to check to see what the weather will be. That way, you can pack sunscreen if it’s going to be hot, or an umbrella if it’s going to rain. Why do days get longer and shorter… same with your shadow (concerning positioning of the earth around the sun).
“This book is an educational tool,” Stanonis told me. “I plan on going and speaking at local schools, as well as schools across the country. The book is designed for PreK up to second grade, but even two year olds love it. Willy and Lilly are the main characters, but there’s also a cat and a dog. I make a cameo in the book as a meteorologist, along with a pun where one of the kids hopes that the forecast is correct [laughing]. Hey, we all know that weather people are not always right. I also made sure to include a weather glossary (weather words) in the back, so that teachers could have a handy reference.”
Throughout our conversation, two things struck me. First, when Stanonis talked about her love for Buffalo, she actually got teary eyed. That was a telltale signal that she’s about as dedicated to this city as anyone I have ever met. Second, her passion for weather is only trumped by her love of children. To me, these are all of the integral ingredients to writing a book of this nature.
Willy & Lilly’s Adventure with Weather can be purchased at Abino Mills in Buffalo (also online), as well as bookstores throughout the US starting on March 19, 2020, which is the spring equinox.