The Big Snow
By Berta and Elmer Hader
By all accounts, this past winter we dodged “The Big Snow” of this 1949 Caldecott Award winning title.
But, it’s a classic picture book read that is as fresh as newly fallen snow, either in 1949 or 2021. And for that reason, it’s worth sharing with your young readers, snuggled up in a cozy nook, just as the avians and animals are in this winter picture book classic.
Urbanization can sometimes lead us further from a view of nature and the life lessons it imparts, as the seasons cycle through their sequences.
But, thank goodness, young readers have Berta and Elmer Hader’s book, written and illustrated to allow young readers a front row seat, urban or rural, at the prep done by animals for the advent of winter, and with it…the first big snow.
Guided by instinct and intuition, geese fly south, thickened coats grace white-tail deer and Mrs. Cottontail and her rabbit brood, along with raccoons and chipmunks are laying in supplies for the “long winter nap.” Even the skunk family takes refuge in its den before the flakes fall thick and fast, covering their habitats, that mere months ago were green with leaves. The “fat groundhog” too, has grown his new furry covering that he wears in his burrow, napping till spring that avoids the inconvenience of foraging for food. Smart!
What about the birds like the red breasted and brown male and female cardinals? Do they go south? You’d have to listen in and learn whether they do.
For it’s the chatty back and forth companionable conversations that fly among the woodland folk, that seems so natural to a reader’s ear, as the blue jay queries a cardinal couple as to their winter plans to become “Snowbirds,” as it were?
“No, indeed,” replied the cardinals.
We can find plenty to eat here. We
Song sparrows and robins are like-minded with the former feasting on meadow grass seed as well as birches and ash trees.
Robins, too, plan to stick it out.
Lots of woodsy types, like the ring-necked pheasants, crows, not to mention squirrels gathering acorns on the fly, begin to naturally hunker down as winter waits in the wings.
Leave it to the wise old owl to be the harbinger of The Big Snow.
…Then the night after Christmas
there was a rainbow around the
moon…The wise owls knew what
that meant. A rainbow around the
moon meant more snow. MUCH
Soon the countryside is blanketed with thick, white flakes falling fast.
Kids will love the “little old man” shoveling a path out of his stone house.
He was followed by a little
old woman dressed all in
green. She scattered seeds,
and nuts, and breadcrumbs,
to right and to left.
The cry of the blue jays echoed
over the hillside. “Food, food,
food,” they cried again and
Not over quite yet, as a 1949 version of Punxsutawney Phil declares The Big Snow is not quite at an end, he sees his shadow on February 2nd, and opines:
“Oh-Oh, I know what that
means,” he said. There will
be six more weeks of winter.”
And he hurries back to his den
sleep until spring.”
Spring does come at last, but the ‘little old man and the little old woman put out food for them until the warm spring came.”
What a wonderful classic picture book to introduce that genre to young readers.
The alternating gray pencil sketches of animals in their winter habitats, alternating with other denizens fairly popping out of the Haders’ occasional color suffused pages, are a treat.
Match this with the plus of informational facts interwoven with a wonderful narrative, and young readers receive an animal shared sense of getting through the daily hardships of a prolonged winter season. No wonder it won the Caldecott in 1949!
And it’s as fresh today as it was then.
The Big Snow is a great classic picture book, beautifully done with both realistic animal wintry scenes, coupled with a gentle modeling to young readers that both man and mammal are in this world – together.
Don’t save this one for a snowy day!
It’s a great read in fair weather or fowl…er foul!
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