On our last snowy day I wrote that I must have been a snowman in a previous life. Well, in the life before that I must have been a Heliotrope–bring on the sun!
Can you blame me? This winter we’ve caught every virus alive in southeastern Wisconsin. One and two year olds don’t last long playing outside in a blizzard, and when it’s not snowing it’s raining. We’re going cooped-up crazy. If it weren’t for good books, we would have easily lost it mid-January.
But, I’ll take today’s inclement clouds to write about one more book that has been a snow staple this winter at Picture Book House. I bought it for 5 cents at a garage sale on an 85 degree day last June.
Oh! with illustrations by Laura Dronzek (Greenwillow Books, 1999) is not my favorite Kevin Henkes book. That would be a tie between Chrysanthemum (Greenwillow, 1991) and Kitten’s First Full Moon (Greenwillow, 2004), but my daughter really, really loves Oh!
When I read a picture book out loud it is a dramatic event, and my first read through of Oh! would be no different, although with daughter and husband cozied up next to me on the couch, I had a slightly larger audience than usual.
Everything was fine on the first page: “The snow falls and falls all night.”
And was going smoothly to start the second: “In the morning everything is white. And everyone wants to play.”
And then there it was.
A word that had only one way to be read. One word that was meant to capture the majesty of the sloping hill of white snow behind it…
I don’t embarrass easily. As a teacher my students were often embarrassed for me, but I typically wasn’t the one blushing.
I delivered that “Oh!” perfectly and made Picture Book House history. I blushed. Reading this book was embarrassing!
Quickly, back to the story…Everyone wants to come out and play in the snow: squirrel, rabbit, cat, dog. This all makes sense (well, not the cat exactly, but that’s ok), and then we get to “fat bouncy children.” My husband and I look at each other (his cheeks are red, too!), trying not to let our immaturity ruin the book for our daughter. But did I really just read that? “Fat bouncy children?”
The birds come out after the fat bouncy children and then there is a page with a blue, ALL CAPS “OH!” printed in what must be at least 200-point font.
I nail it, once more capturing the beauty of the snowy scene while wishing I could stick my head under the cushion.
Winter rolls on and we read the book again, and again, and again. My opinion changes, as it always does. The “Oh!” is no longer cheesy. No longer embarrassing.
And we have found what might be my daughter’s most favorite single page in a book (well, this or the page in Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy when the puppy gets its poop scooped).
The page next to the best page reads: “The sky grows dark. The snow turns blue.”
And then on top of the BEST PAGE: “Playtime is over…”
and there are six small frames picturing each of the characters who had been out playing earlier in the book. Beneath each of them are the words “for you” “and you” “and you” “and you” “and you” “and you.”
It is important to read pages, not just books, over and over and over again. And that is what we do with this one. Sometimes up to ten times in one sitting. I have no choice in the matter.
The rhythm of this page is spectacular, and so much fun to read it makes up for all those Ohs!
And finally, I love that this book about snow does not ever incorporate the sun coming out and melting it. When I read books about snow I am my snowman self, not my Heliotrope self, and I am pet peeved by snow books that end with sun, slush or spring.
So many of them do:
White Snow Bright Snow, Alvin Tresselt
The Snowy Day, Jack Ezra Keats (at least in this one it is just a dream)
Let it Snow by Maryann Cocca-Leffler
Snow by Roy McKie and P.D. Eastman
What are your favorite snow books, and why?
Oh! is one of ours, with a PBH rating of: Read it Again, Mommy! Oh!
(More Kevin Henkes and Fancy Nancy…we love her…reviews coming soon.)