November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Cloudy with a Chance of Snowballs | SLJ Spotlight

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There’s something magical and transformative about a winter storm, whether you live in a city or in a more rural locale. Weeks of gray skies and nippy weather mean nothing to kids as long as they can hold out hope for at least one blissful humungo snowfall to enjoy with their friends.

ARNOLD, Marsha Diane. Waiting for Snow. illus. by Renata Liwska. 32p. HMH. Nov. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544416871.

pb-sp-arnold-waiting-for-snowPreS-Gr 1 –Five young woodland friends grow impatient in anticipation of a snowfall. Hedgehog, Badger, Rabbit, Vole, and Possum combine efforts to bring on the flakes. Neither banging pots and pans, tossing pebbles at the sky, wearing backward pajamas, nor taking part in an elegant snow dance does the trick. The friends even try to make their own snow, sifting powdered sugar off the roof, but tell themselves that things “always come in their time.” After distracting themselves with hopscotch, yo-yos, naps, and paper airplanes, they finally wake after a slumber party to find a field that’s perfect for making snowballs. The digitally colored drawings rely on a somewhat dark but textured palette of soft grays, browns, and blues to reflect the season, and Liwska’s critters are adorably rounded. Details such as an assortment of hats, including a shower cap for Vole, make merriment to alleviate the tension. VERDICT A super tonic for the winter blahs, suitable for one-on-one and small group sharing.–Gay Lynn Van Vleck, Henrico County Library, Glen Allen, VA

redstarJiang, Ji-li. Lotus and Feather. illus. by Julie Downing. 40p. Disney-Hyperion. Dec. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781423127543.

pb-sp-jiang-lotus-and-featherK-Gr 2 –Lotus lives near a lake with her grandfather, a basket maker. While the setting is unspecified, the students’ red scarves suggest China during the Cultural Revolution. The protagonist has been ignored by her classmates since a “winter illness” rendered her speechless. Her grandfather mourns another kind of solitude: the absence of animals in their wetlands habitat, which has been “ruined by greedy fishermen and hunters.” A single crane, and the offstage hunter who wounds it, transforms everything. The girl’s ability to communicate in other ways reveals her resourcefulness, as when she pounds on a pail to scare the gunman away. Downing’s watercolors are atmospheric: muted blue-grays, greens, and purples blend, creating a foggy, mystical backdrop. Varying page designs manipulate focus or indicate passing time. The color red (in the child’s clothing and the bird’s crown) visually connects the girl and the animal. Lotus carries the wounded crane home, where he is tenderly nursed back to health. Feather becomes a beloved companion, following her to school and dancing to her reed whistle in the falling snow—to the delight of the students. His crowing warns the sleeping family and then the villagers, saving everyone from rising floodwaters caused by a distant earthquake. Because a wild creature must heed the call of migration, there is an inevitable parting, but a stunning finale shows the crane’s return, his family and flock descending upon the water. According to the jacket flap, this book is based on actual events. VERDICT Elegant storytelling and arresting compositions combine for a deeply satisfying emotional and aesthetic experience. Best shared one-on-one or in a small group so that children can pore over the lively and engaging artwork.–Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library

Oral, Feridun. A Warm Winter. illus. by Feridun Oral. 32p. Minedition. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9789888341290.

pb-sp-oral-a-warm-winterPreS-Gr 3 –Living in a beautiful forest, Little Mouse awakens one winter morning and discovers that he needs to gather more firewood to warm his home for his family. Snow begins to fall as a blizzard quickly approaches. Little Mouse works hard and soon has a pile of twigs so large that he cannot possibly move it by himself. So he asks his friend Rabbit, but the two of them are too weak to make the stash budge. The friends ask Fox, who lends his sled, but all three realize that they are going to have to ask big, strong Bear for help. With the snow now falling harder, the friends start to move the large pile, but disaster strikes, and they have to make a quick decision to stay safe in the storm. While the story of animals working together to move a heavy object has been told before, there is an extra element of adversity that these characters face, and they must collaborate and persevere to overcome obstacles. Themes of teamwork, selflessness, and persistence run through the narrative and will reach readers of all ages. The setting is enchanting and the illustrations so realistically rendered that they look almost like photographs of the forest in winter. The title, A Warm Winter, has a dual meaning, and the book could serve as the basis for language arts or character-building lessons. VERDICT A heartwarming read-aloud that children will love to snuggle up with and listen to.–Amy Shepherd, St. Anne’s Episcopal School, Middleton, DE

Sloat, Teri. Pablo in the Snow. illus. by Rosalinde Bonnet. 40p. Holt. Jan. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781627794121.

pb-sp-sloat-pablo-in-the-snowPreS-K –A sweet little tale about discovery and finding joy in nature, friends, and family. Pablo, a small sheep, wakes up to the delightful surprise of snow falling. Eager to explore, he heads out into the wintry land, meeting friends and learning about all of the different things snow can be used for. After Pablo sleds with Rabbit, has a snowball fight with Squirrel and Shrew, and makes a snowman with Fox, his friends head home, but Pablo stubbornly decides to stay out. As time passes, he realizes that his tracks have disappeared and he doesn’t know the way home. Just as he starts to despair, he spots two snow mounds that are actually his mama and papa, who have been searching for their baby. They bring him back to the cozy barn, where Pablo decides that snow is fun but family is the best. Charming cartoon illustrations help set the mood. VERDICT A simple and heartwarming offering for any library, especially those seeking some new and refreshing seasonal stories.–Jasmine L. Precopio, Fox Chapel Area School District, Pittsburgh

Luann Toth About Luann Toth

Luann Toth (ltoth@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor of SLJ Reviews. A public librarian by training, she has been reviewing books for a quarter of a century and continues to be fascinated by the constantly evolving, ever-expanding world of publishing.

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