What's that you say...Winter is the WARMEST season?! NOOO--how can that be?!
Ms. Lauren Stringer answers skeptics and pre-schoolers alike with this lavishly illustrated and imaginatively written book. It's going to make my list of top 20 books read in 2007, because Stinger's case for winter is both compelling and beautiful. The premise would engagte any toddler or early grade schooler, but Stringer runs confidently with it, writing as captivating and luscious a book as I've read in quite some time.
If you've read the other reviews and product description, you'll know that both the practical (warm clothing) and the emotional (warm feelings) effectively contradict what the thermometer tells us. However, it's the way that Ms. Stringer tells the story that makes all the difference. It's a very active book, both in the active (as opposed to passive) voice, and the way she animates the objects that warm us. The young narrator doesn't merely say he put on a warm hat and coat; instead, he tells us, "my hat grows earflaps," and "my jacket puffs warm with feathers." Later, the boy's pajamas "will grow big warm feet." Winter doesn't rest here, it's alive and full of possibilities. (Actually, one skillful illustration shows assorted animals hibernating underground, while above, the "the snowman I build dance on top, wearing warm wraparound scarves.")
Transformations continue: "My iced summer's milk turns to hot chocolate. Cold jelly sandwiches turn into grilled cheeses." Throughout her book, Ms. Springer's imagery and language are spectacular:
"When winter comes,
summer's cool fans hide
in dark basements...
while sleeping rasiators awake
to their dragon selves, banging
and hissing and pouring heat
all through my house."
This is pure poetry, and belies any thought that writing really good books for kids can be done by just anyone. I mentioned the emotional warmth that the book conveys, and we feel this in cats who sit on laps, and in festive, candle-lit parties with music ansd dancing and warm, festive clothing, snuggling and reading in bed with your parents and your cat, and later with your teddy bear. A surprise tops it off, in winter the boy might just dream of summer..."just to cool me off!"
The acrylic on watercolor paper illustrations are just as rich and inviting as the prose, with action and bold patterns and a varied palette (although warm colors abound.) A tour de force, in any season.