Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Ride To Remember

Having lived my entire life in Michigan, waiting for the snows of winter is the sweetest kind of anticipation; the thrill of shrieking and zipping down Dead Man's Hill has never been matched to this day.  Hoards of children from around the neighboring streets would gather for days filled with exhilarating activity, individual feats of daring and races to be won.  When I held Red Sled written and illustrated by Lita Judge for the first time looking at the cover, that same sense of expectancy washed over me and... a great big grin.

As the tale unfolds a small brown house, roof heavy with snow a tall solitary evergreen next to it, is the destination of a child carrying a red sled on a crispy cold day.  Evening descends lights glowing inside as the cherished icon of snowy delight rests against the house outside. Along comes a curious bear with a look of questioning possibilities on his face. 

Scrunch scrinch scrunch scrinch scrunch scrinch

appears on the page in reversed order and type size replicating the sounds made as the child returned home earlier; only this time the bear is carrying the sled as a rabbit head, ears alert, watches from the bottom of the page.  Readers next see the two cascading down a hill smiles plastered on their faces as joyous exclamations burst forth.  When they go for a second run bear on his back, rabbit riding his outstretched feet, a moose is taking it all in from the side of the page. 

Oh, you guessed it, the next illustration has the trio on a rip-roaring ride, full moon as their backdrop, moose on the bottom with bear riding on his antlers and rabbit not quite so sure about this. As they speed toward the hill's bottom a duo of raccoons peer from a hole as a hanging opossum looks at them as if to ask, "What do you think guys?  Should we join them?"  And so it goes as they, then a porcupine and mouse, are subsequently added to the mix. 

Going over a mound of snow, the group flies skyward moon glowing in the distance, only to land in a tangled happy heap.  In the morning the child wonderingly notices footprints going to and from his red sled.  As snow drifts down that night a watchful, yes, even hopeful, face gazes out.

The final single page display, the only one other than the title page, says it all...friends stacked together on the red sled rushing downward on a frosty full moon winter's night.  Ahhhh...delirious delight.

Lita Judge using watercolor and pencil illustrations emulates the chill of winter day and night, shades of blues against a stark snowy landscape moon resting in the sky.  Natural warm golden browns color her animals as animated eyes and mouths convey each and every feeling.  Judge's landscapes are spare allowing readers to focus on the frolicking, fun-filled antics of her characters.

The narrative is nearly wordless; cleverly Lita Judge accentuates the activities with one or two word phrases focusing entirely on sound.  So readers get ready for a rollicking journey on the Red Sled....Yipeee!  Simply divine from beginning to end.

Please be sure to view and browse through Lita Judge's enchanting web pages filled with additional images from her books and activities to use stretching the reading experience.

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