Prather’s Pick: ‘Wolf in the Snow’ a distinguished picture book
Each year, the American Library Association presents the Caldecott Medal to the most distinguished picture book in America, while runners-up receive Caldecott Honor awards. Named for Randolph Caldecott, a British illustrator, the Caldecott Medal is given to a book illustrator, in honor of the artwork used in telling the story. It is a prestigious award, indeed.
In this week’s Caldecott Award picture book, the story is told almost entirely in pictures. Very few words are found in “Wolf in the Snow.” Matthew Cordell is both the author and illustrator of this 2017 book.
The story begins on the pages preceding the credit page. It’s there the reader finds a little girl and her parents in a cabin in the mountains. Mother and Father are drinking their morning coffee. The little girl is bundled up in a red parka. She’s sitting on the floor, talking to her dog.
Then, she’s outdoors, walking up a little hill. There’s a little snow on the ground — not much.
“Bark! Bark! Bark!” The family dog watches as the little girl waves goodbye.
On a separate page, the reader finds four wolves and a baby wolf. One of the wolves, the pups’ mom, is a darker gray than the others.
As the story begins, the reader learns the little girl had gone to school. School is out now, she has started home, and she waves to the other children. It is beginning to snow.
On the next two pages, the reader finds the wolves again. The realistic drawings of the wolves’ facial expressions lets the reader know the wolves are walking into a blizzard. By now, the blizzard has hit the little girl, too. Pretty soon, she’s lost, and she’s not the only one. The wolves don’t notice the pup has fallen behind. Now, he’s lost, too.
The little girl keeps walking, and it isn’t long before she meets up with the pup.
“Whine, whine!” The pup is scared.
The little girl puts her hands out to the pup, but he turns and falls into the snow.
“Sink! Whine, whine.”
The little girl picks the pup up. Where to find his mother? She stands, looking into the distance. There is howling, so she starts in that direction. It’s a perilous trip. The little girl has to cross a stream, fight off a ferocious-looking small mammal, and listen to an owl screech.
The howling is closer. Pretty soon, the little girl and the mother wolf are face-to-face. The little girl is holding the pup under her arm, and he wants down. (The artwork is so realistic the reader can almost feel the pup wiggling to get free.)
The mother wolf growls. The baby is on the ground, and sinks into the snow. Mother wolf licks her baby, picks him up in her mouth, and heads back in the direction of the other wolves.
Now, the attention turns to the little girl, who is exhausted. She hears barking in the distance and sees lights, but she’s so tired she can’t go on. She drops down on the snow in an opening surrounded by trees.
What happens next is tender, heartwarming, and wonderful. This book is a keeper for anybody’s library. Talk about a “feel good” book!
“Wolf in the Snow” is published by Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan. The hardcover costs $17.99. You can also find it among the new books in the children’s room at the Craig branch of Moffat County Libraries.