“It’s not fair,” my 4 year old said yesterday morning. “You three have all touched snow and I have never touched snow.” Here, in Perth, it is not the start of frozen winter, but its opposite. This season is Birak, first summer, the heat is building. It doesn’t stop us making paper snowflakes.
I haven’t come up with an alternative to embracing the weird mismatch of hot climate and frosty imagery so here are three sub zero books.
Snow by Walter de la Mare, illustrated by Carolina Rabei (Faber) may be the closest we get to touching snow. De la Mare’s poem describes the charisma of snow, its quiet, its textures, how it reflects light. Rabei’s illustrations, with their limited palette, rounds out the description into a family Christmas story with tree decorating, Father Christmas arriving, snowman building and sledging…
Brave Irene by William Stieg (Square Fish/Macmillan) is both chilling and heart-warming. It tells of young Irene Bobbin, who, when her seamstress mother falls ill, offers to deliver the beautiful gown she has just finished to a duchess. The weather is turning bad, but Irene insists, “…I love snow.”
The reality of her mission through driving snow and wind carrying an unwieldy box, is much less lovely. She struggles through pain, fear, disorientation and, finally, despair: “Why not freeze to death, she thought, and let all these troubles end.” Truly the bleak midwinter here. But, thankfully Irene saves herself: the thought of never seeing her mother again inspires an “explosion of fury” which propels her out of the snow. You will have never been so relieved by a happy ending.
The Mitten (Scholastic) by Alvin Tresselt illustrated by Yaroslava is a thing of wintry beauty. In this Ukrainian folk tale, a boy loses one of his mittens in the forest. The mitten attracts a series of ever bigger woodland animals who want to snuggle in. In a wonderful surreal twist, it is not the wolf, nor the boar, nor bear which bursts the mitten’s stitches; it is the tiny black cricket who squeezes in last of all.
Snow was a gift; Brave Irene borrowed from City of Joondalup Libraries;
The Mitten (Scholastic) from Paraquad Book Bazaar, Stirling