Waiting is a tricky part of life and especially childhood. There are so many exciting things that occur but almost all of them come with a waiting period: birthdays, Christmas, first day of school, a trip somewhere, and even a snowstorm! I’ve been longing to write about this book ever since it crossed my path during the Cybils evaluations and today seems like the perfect day. The forecast called for snow today, but most of us here in the South tend to just roll our eyes and not dare hold our breath. We did get a spit of snow, but it melted faster than it came. But, that waiting to see if the forecast would hold true, that is the essence of this book. Here is Big Snow by Jonathan Bean, 2013.
I wrote about Bean’s other book, Building Our House, from last year that has remained a favorite from 2013 for me. He has such a special treatment to stories. They feel very livable, if that even makes sense. The tone of the book, the activity of the pictures, the plot – all are formed in such a way to feel very familiar and cozy.
Big Snow really begins on its title page with an amazingly expressive image of our boy of the story, David, standing with a sled in hand and looking quite expectantly and also quite worriedly. The page turn then reveals the first of several full spreads in the book revealing David’s neighborhood and a bit of the surrounding area, quite obviously not covered in snow.
While I love this story as a whole, these five neighborhood spreads are what I believe captured my love for this book. Each one is the same view but with changes of the time and the weather. The details are lovely… a man walking his dog, a car coming home, even a mailman delivering on foot! The activities are all normal, but as they each progress, we feel the expectation in the air along with David. (In small ways, it reminds me of another snowy winter favorite, Snow by Uri Shulevitz.)
So the text actually begins with David questioning his mom about when it is going to snow. Let me just say right off the bat, that every mother or caretaker will admire this mother. She has patience and incredibly clever genius when dealing with her anxious son. Her first response is to suggest David help her make cookies while he waits for the snow to start. A lovely idea, but during the process, the fine white flour reminds David of snow and he rushes to check the weather again.
Note the start of the snow; but also the beautiful, almost poetic mimicking of the text as “the flour, white and fine” is mirrored in the small flakes falling “white and fine.” I love this writing!
The book progresses smoothly with David’s questioning and his mother creatively keeping him occupied, but something in each task reminds David of the weather and the mirroring continues.
Finally, as the snow covers everything, “white and cool,” David questions if it will be big snow. His mother suggests it might and prods him to rest while waiting to find out. David curls up and has a greatly imaginative dream about the big snow taking over not only the neighborhood, but inside the house as well!
This is where, I have to admit I was greatly concerned about where this book was going. I was bound to be deeply disappointed if the big snow turned out to only be in his crazy dream. What fun is that? Thankfully, all spoilers aside, Bean doesn’t leave us there and the boy gets his wish and a fun adventure to close the day for the family.
The story is heartwarming and sweetly written. As I’ve stated before, I love Jonathan Bean’s style of illustration. The characters are simple with only dots for eyes and quick strokes for a nose and mouth, but the placement combined with composition and the character’s body language extend the expressions and the movement of the book beautifully. Bean’s color palette is again earthy, or perhaps I should call it homey in this story. His non-spread images have nice, un-bordered edges to them which allows them to breathe on the page and contain charming odds-and-ends that don’t overwhelm the purpose of each page.
The last thing I will note is that I love the smallness of David. He is all child in looks and expressions, through the illustrations and the text. His questioning nature is familiar for anyone who spends time with children and his hopefulness is endearing. I’m so glad he gets his much-desired big snow!