Tag Archive | snow

Snow Music, by Lynne Rae Perkins

Snow Music by Lynne Rae Perkins

Snow Music is wildly drawn, with a strange, beautiful layout. Artist Lynne Rae Perkins captures a child’s excitement about new snow – but her book is also unusually creative. Both her pictures and her text offer lots of fun surprises. It’s as though Perkins is enjoying her freeform structure, like a child playing in the yard, while she offers moments of playfulness that float like a snowflake

There’s a warm pattern on the title page of Snow Music, representing the comforting wallpaper of a little boy’s bedroom. But then Perkins jumps immediately to cool colors with a remarkable pattern on the next page of blue, aqua, and purple. “Everyone whisper,” writes Perkins, before the story has even started. And then she offers a gorgeous illustration of globs of snow falling in the light of a distant streetlamp.

“Soft as our nests when day has gone, snow came singing a silent song.” As the rhyme snakes across a two-page spread, Perkins peeks into the warm dens of rabbits, birds, and mice. But the rhyme suddenly ends when there’s bright white snow blanketing the neighborhood in the next amazing illustration.

“Shhhhhhhhh,” Perkins writes.

“Oops,” she adds on the next page – as a little boy’s dog rushes out his front door.

She’s playing with the structure of her story, but she’s also playing with words. Random sentences appear, in an almost accidental rhythm. (“What is the sound of one bird hopping? Does the deer feel the cold of the snow in her hoofs?”) The right page shows a squirrel’s footprints curving in a trail, while the facing page precedes it with his thoughts. “I think – I think… I think I left it here.” And the plot has already started, though its characters remain vague and abstract.

“You say something like, Hi. I say something like, Hi. Have you seen my dog?” The sentences curl around a page, matching the pattern of the characters’ own footprints. And on the next page there’s a staff of musical notes – except the notes are replaced by four jingling dog tags. A car drives by, and its sound appear on the staff – parallel to the trail of its tires. The next page offers “Truck Song,” but then there’s a bunny in the yard and a bird on the fence. The plot only continues through the window in the background.

“Did you find him?”

“No.”

The speakers are never identified, but then the narrator’s poem returns, to wrap up the book. “All of us looking for something to eat. The sun came looking for something to heat. It found the snow, and the deer’s cold feet.”

“There he is! I see him!”

Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton

“Katy and the Big Snow” is a classic children’s story from 1943. It had been five years since Virginia Lee Burton wrote “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel.” Now she turned her attention to another piece of talking machinery — this time, a big red snow plow.

Katy is “a beautiful red crawler tractor” that belongs to the city of Geoppolis — and this book shows her in several detailed drawings. When the city is snowed in, there’s a two-page spread that’s almost completely white — representing snow — with Katy appearing in the upper-left corner beginning to clear out a path. Gradually more parts of the city start to appear on the pages, as though Katy has released them from enormous white snow drifts. That’s the book’s big surprise — watching the parts of the city appear from the big blanket of snow.

Burton draws the buildings small, so she’ll have room for the entire city, and the simple illustrations are busy and intricate. One page has 26 different vehicles drawn in the margins around the center picture’s frame — and the next page has 32 different drawings of the red snowplow in action! There’s one two-page spread that has no text at all, just a map of the city of Geoppolis. (It labels 30 different buildings, including the schools, farms, city services, and local businesses.) Because Burton drew the buildings small, she has room for the entire city, and she users only a limited number of colors in the pictures. Unfortunately, I think this robs the book of some of its magic…

I remember being frustrated by this book when I read it as a child. It seemed like there were too many pictures — and the text didn’t really tell a story. It just offered random facts about the city’s highway municipal department. (“When winter came they put snow plows on the big trucks and changed Katy’s bulldozer for her snow plow….”) Some of the dialogue actually comes from the Superintendent of the Water Department. Katy plows out the city — then goes home. The end.

Here’s an interesting thought about this book — it was written in the middle of World War II. America was rationing foods, fuels, rubbers, and even shoes. Franklin Roosevelt had expanded the size of the government, and now men were leaving their families to serve in a larger national effort. Great efforts were made to assure Americans that we were all in this thing together.

And when the city was covered by an enormous blanket of snow — Katy the big red snow plow came and plowed everybody out.