Arctic White

illus. by Lee White. 32p. Holt. Jan. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781627791045.
PreS-Gr 2—A girl trudges across the cold and seemingly colorless Arctic tundra with her grandfather, observing that in winter, everything is a shade of white: the blue-white of the tundra, the yellow-white of the polar bear, and the silver-white of the arctic fox. She wonders where all the color went… "Did the wind blow it away?" Ultimately, after much patience and a mysterious walk with others in their community, her secretive grandfather leads them to the swirling colors of the northern lights, which joyously "dance across the sky." While White's intricate watercolor and ink illustrations are impressive and Smith's poetic imagery thought-provoking (e.g., "Grandfather says hope is golden. You can only see it when you look into a snowy owl's eyes."), readers are never informed where the story takes place, nor the culture of the main characters. A younger audience may also find it confusing comprehending what it means to be a shade of white, particularly the reference to the faint and remote picture of the yellow-white polar bear. The last few pages of the swirling, glowing, swooping northern lights are impressive enough to inspire readers to see this natural phenomenon for themselves (if not through travel, then via a YouTube video). Still, a better read on the topic is Mindy Dwyer's Aurora: A Tale of the Northern Lights (Alaska Northwest, 1997), which includes some background information on this rare and fascinating subject.
VERDICT A picturesque book that would be better appreciated with more clarity about its setting and culture.

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