- Amazon.co.jp ・洋書 (32ページ)
- / ISBN・EAN: 9780545013215
In “The Snow Day,” a bunny child awakes to find the ground covered in white
A haggard, bristly, undercaffeinated squirrel waits, palm open, for winter’s first flake. What is snow? He isn’t sure. Like a child, he can’t wait to find out. Unlike a squirrel, he does wait. In “Waiting for Winter,” the brilliant pencil work of the author and artist Sebastian Meschenmoser brings to sketchy, scratchy life a charming, idiosyncratic character. Squirrel is as unkempt and uncombed as a parent on Sunday morning, but as innocently impulsive as a child bouncing on the bed.
Meschenmoser’s energy of line imparts a barely controlled frenzy when Squirrel tears up and around a tree, trying to stay awake for winter. Squirrel’s activity wakes Hedgehog, and their singing wakes Bear. If the sight of hulking, slouching old Bear doesn’t make you laugh out loud, then you have no heart. These creatures are not slickly cute but refreshingly sympathetic. They do not ask to be admired. They look as if they need a hairbrush — and a cup of hot chocolate.
Searching for whatever is “white and wet and cold”— because, according to Deer, that is what snow is — the three animals discover a toothbrush, a tin can and an old sock. One can imagine children following along and, upon seeing toothbrushes falling from the sky, shouting, “That’s not snow!” The animals possess childlike yearning for the first snowflake while remaining woodland creatures who don’t know what tin cans and socks are. Kids can identify with the animals’ desires while enjoying insider knowledge of the human, domestic world.
As the animals stare at the sock on the ground, the first snowflake lands on Bear’s nose. Just like that, the prickly, inhospitable forest is transformed by snowfall into a white playground. The vacant sky turns a deep nighttime blue. The animals make tracks, build a snowman and cuddle up in a cave to nap. Snow is change. And change is good.
The world is beset by a snowstorm in Komako Sakai’s “Snow Day,” in which school is canceled, Mom stays home and Dad’s return flight is delayed. Narrated by a bunny child, the story builds slowly but with a growing tension, reinforced by the rough, grainy illustrations.
The bunny family inhabits a small third-floor apartment (the characters are bunnies, but they live and behave entirely like people). The grays and browns are muted and layered; the characters move beneath heavy brushwork and oil pencil. The art in “The Snow Day” is unpretty and mesmerizing. This world is dark, heavy, unsentimental and thick with sameness.
The story begins with the bunny child waking in bed to her mother’s news of the snowstorm. The apartment may be cold and gray, but the child is excited. To touch the new snow, she sneaks out onto the balcony, where she makes a snow dumpling. Alone in the apartment, with the father trapped in another city, mother and child stand on the balcony. “No cars drove by. No one walked around. There was just the falling snow.” And then the bunny child says, “Mommy, we are all alone in the world.”
Wow. This is the bittersweet solitude of snow. It brings a new sensory experience, but also isolation and separation. The snow day alters the family’s routines, and the child is free, finally, at night, to build snow monsters with her mother. But they are also lonely. They build three mounds of snow. It is only the end of the snowstorm that will bring the father home.
After cranky creatures and existential storms, behold the uncomplicated gladness of the season. Here are the idealized colors of Christmas, in “The Christmas Magic,” by Lauren Thompson, with pictures by Jon J Muth, where the water color illustrations are glowing and pure and nostalgic. Tree boughs are light in cottony mittens of snow, and in the middle of a snowy field glows a humble yellow house with a red door and a smoking chimney: Santa’s house. The story, however, brings a twist to tradition.
This Santa differs from the usual rotund elf: he is thinner, more human, with a pointy mustache. With Christmas on the way, Santa, like a gentleman farmer, gets to work. He calls the reindeer, feeds them, struggles to push open a huge barn door and readies the sleigh in the barn, which, with a workbench and tools, looks like a garage. Santa oils boots, knits stockings and trims his mustache. He is a bachelor living alone in the woods — no Mrs. Claus, no elves, no factory. He is an at-home Claus, elf-employed and as content as Thoreau.
It’s a charming conceit, this stripped-down Santa. If he were to steer his sleigh into a nearby village, hop out and distribute toys, the conceit would be taken to a pleasant kind of logical end. The “magic,” however, grabs the reins and returns the story to a more familiar course. There is the impossibly large sack of toys for every child in the world, and the sleigh, pulled by flying reindeer, rising into the starry sky. The story ends with liftoff.
It’s a curious tale. The prose is as spartan as this new Santa, and the watercolor art is inviting, rich and warmly wintery, with the soft edges that artists love to impart to children’s sugarplum dreams. The transformation of Santa from chubby C.E.O. to single guy with a barn is welcome and endearing. But the ground-to-sky flight plan of sleigh and reindeer is a familiar transformation. Snow is good. Snow is complicated. And sometimes snow is just something pretty that melts too soon.
David Barringer is the author of “There’s Nothing Funny About Design.”