Quote of the Month

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

Monday, October 28, 2019

Once A Year It Appears

Of some things in life, we can be certain of their veracity.  First, in the northern hemisphere winter will arrive toward the end of the calendar year.  Last year it snowed on November 10th and stayed for six months.  This year children trick or treating might be traipsing through it this week.  Second, no matter how many times gals and guys are told not to jump on their beds, they still do.  The thrill of bouncing and traveling through the air, even briefly, is too hard to resist.

Third, when author illustrator Grace Lin steps into the realm of folklore, penning an explanatory tale, we need to pause and take note.  Her picture book released in 2018, A BIG Mooncake for Little Star (Little, Brown And Company, August 28, 2018) was the recipient of a 2019 Caldecott Honor Medal.  This year a companion title, A BIG BED for Little Snow (Little, Brown And Company, October 15, 2019) is an eloquent gift to readers filled with the knowing compassion of a mother for her son and a story of snowfall.

WHEN WINTER BEGAN, Little Snow's mommy made a big new bed just for him.

The blue bed stuffed full of feathers, puffed large and fluffy.  Little Snow's mommy reminded him the bed was not for jumping but for sleeping.  The boy nodded in agreement, but he was smiling.

After his mother tucked him in tight and walked away, Little Snow's eyes popped open.  He got up and looked at his bed.  The urge to jump on it was so strong, Little Snow could not help himself.  With a big smile on his face, he jumped and jumped and jumped some more.  A few feathers fluttered down from a gap in the seam.

Little Snow stopped and listened.  It was Mommy!  When she asked him what he was doing, he gave the classic rely.


The next day Little Snow listened and then started jumping again until his mommy came.  Each time he jumped more feathers fluttered down, down, down.  This continued all during winter. In the quiet without Mommy, Little Snow jumped; sometimes he jumped a little bit and other times his jumps were gigantic.  At the end of winter, Mommy had a question for Little Snow, and he had the best kind of answer.

In the first sentence written by Grace Lin we are mindful of the affection between this little boy and his mother because of a single word, mommy.  (Lately I have heard this said with great tenderness by little ones to their mothers.  It speaks to the loving bond between a parent and their child.)  His grin tells readers something else.  This boy cannot wait to do the opposite of what his mother asked of him.

A subtle storytelling rhythm is supplied to readers through the repetition of specific words.  The sounds of Mommy walking away,


and the


of Little Snow are certain to have readers and listeners smiling.  Another key phrase is used when Little Snow thinks he hears Mommy coming to his bed.  Here is a passage.

In the morning, when Little Snow woke up, he listened for his mommy's
footsteps.  It was quiet.  Little Snow grinned and . . .

The crisp clean white canvas on the open dust jacket is akin to the coating of pristine snow covering the landscape after every snowfall.  The blue hues of Little Snow's bed, the snowflakes on his pajamas and the title text allude to the cooler weather in winter.  To the left, on the back, Little Snow is happily dancing with his stuffed toy dachshund.  There, as on the front, feathers float in the air.  There is no doubt about the happiness in Little Snow's heart.  He's always grinning.

On the book case, the lovely white canvas is used.  In four separate images, two on the left and two on the right, Little Snow is shown jumping on his bed.  The jumps are all types and different.  In each image the stuffed toy dachshund is present, bouncing along with the boy except for one illustration.  In this one, Little Snow is holding his friend.

Across the pale, cool blue on the opening and closing endpapers, flocks of geese fly from left to right.  The publication information appears on the right side of the closing endpapers, vertically.  You need to shift your hold on the book to read it.  On the dedication and title pages is a double-page picture of Mommy stuffing feathers into the bed as Little Snow watches faint geese flying away.  His toy companion lays at his feet.

The images rendered

in Turner Design Gouache on Arches 100% Rag Watercolor Paper 140-pound Hot Press Bright White

are double-page pictures, full-page pictures, pictures breaking the gutter, or a series of images gathered on two pages to indicate action and the passage of time.  The stuffed toy dachshund is always with Little Snow.  The facial expressions on Mommy and Little Snow are indicative of their personalities and how the story will unfold.

Grace Lin is careful and intentional with her perspectives.  She focuses on Little Snow and shows only Mommy's feet or another portion of her body when she checks on him.  When Little Snow is jumping a portion of the image might go off the page.  This accentuates his movements.

One of my many, many favorite pictures spans two pages.  It is a close-up of Little Snow lying in bed and listening for Mommy's footsteps.  His head, resting on his folded arm and on his toy dog, is tilted with his eyes looking to the side and back.  He is ready to get up or shut his eyes quickly, depending on where Mommy is.  The remainder of this body, just to his hips, stretches to the left edge.  We can see a small portion of the bed beneath him.  This image is charming with a capital C.

To pair with the companion title or as a stand-alone during a story time, as an example of an outstanding origin story, to use with a unit on seasons or cultural folktales, A BIG BED for Little Snow written and illustrated by Grace Lin is an excellent choice.  What readers and listeners alike will note is the love and playfulness radiating from the words and artwork of Grace Lin.  This book is highly recommended for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Grace Lin and her other work, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  Grace Lin has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  On Grace Lin's blog she has multiple resources for storytime activities using this book.  Here is a link to an eight-page printable pdf with lots of ideas.  Grace Lin talks about this book at SAMPANAs I read through this book I started to wonder at the significance of certain elements in the images I was noticing.  You are going to love this video where Grace Lin speaks about the homage to a book and its author illustrator shown in A BIG BED for Little Snow.

Book Chat with the Illustrator: Grace Lin for A Big Bed for Little Snow from LB School on Vimeo.

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