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Snow Day

by Werner Zimmermann

Waking to a heavy snowfall, with its pale, washed light and strange silence, touches even the most jaded Canadian adult. Everything ordinary is muffed and scarfed in plump white billows. If you happen to be in primary school, the excitement is all the more intense because school authorities may declare a snow day.

Werner Zimmermann’s picture book captures the memorable quality of just such a winter day. Two little boys, the nameless narrator and his toddler brother, greet the new day with a moment of hushed wonder, kneeling by the window, framed by their shaggy sheepdog, Mupps, and their cat, Mouse.

The tension mounts – a tension hilariously expressed through the body language of both children and animals until, just before school time, the announcement comes: No school! Children and animals fling themselves into the waiting snow with an explosion of joy.

Zimmermann’s watercolours are tenderly evocative, especially when he pulls back for a long aerial view of swirling snowflakes and warm light spilling from the windows.

The narrative, however, is unsentimentally brisk and forthright. It notes the physical realities of a day playing hockey and making forts: the stinging cheeks, the soaking pants, the icy hands and happy exhaustion. The text, though appropriately boyish, leaves little room for the fanciful – but Zimmermann more than compensates with his paintings, which lovingly depict the beauty of a thick snowfall on a small town. The frisky and affectionately portrayed animals also add a visual subtext of family fun, safety, and warmth.

Snow Day should have strong appeal for beginning readers who will relish this kid’s-eye view of the joys and freedom of outdoor play.