As we stood at the front window a few Sundays back, watching the world turn white, my daughter looked up at me and asked, “…do you think it will snow taller than the grass?’” quoting the little boy David, from Jonathan Bean’s Big Snow, (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2013), exactly.
“‘I think so,’” I said, stealing David’s Mom’s response for my own.
And then just like David, we went outside to “check the weather.”
There are probably as many pictures books about snow as there are picture books about gardens, but Big Snow is this season’s best.
On the opening spread is a picture of David’s post-Thanksgiving, bare-tree-brown neighborhood. The focal point is David’s backyard, where David is pulling a sled across the yellowed grass, presumably wishing for snow.
On the next page he walks into his house, and the first line of book reads: “‘Mom,’ said David, ‘when will it snow?’ ‘I think soon,’ said Mom. ‘Why don’t you help me make cookies while you wait?’”
David helps by taking out the ingredients and measuring them…
“But then the flour, white and fine, made David think of snow.”
Pictured with these ominous words is David, standing on top of the table, delighting in his own little snow/flour shower.
At this point my daughter stops me and asks us all what I asked her the first time we read the book.
“Does the Mom look happy?”
She and my son both answer: “Nooooooooooo!”
David’s Mom’s eyebrows are raised and her mouth is a little line of a frown as she sweeps the snow/flour shower up into a dustpan.
So David, wisely…
“…decided to check the weather.”
David also decides to “check the weather” after he “helps” his Mom clean the bathroom and the soap suds he is spraying everywhere remind of him of snow.
And after the white sheets he “helping” his mom put on the beds for the soon-to-arrive guests remind him of snow.
Every time David goes out to check the weather, there is more snow. From the first flakes, “white and fine” to the flakes that are “flying, white and fluffy” to when the “…snow was covering everything, white and cool.”
Big Snow gets five stars for capturing the anticipation and arrival of the white stuff.
But there’s more.
Jonathan Bean must be a MOM.
How else could he have so perfectly captured what it feels like to get the house ready for company over the holidays?
“Why don’t you help me make cookies while you wait?” David’s Mom asked.
David appears to be about three or four. My kids are two and three. When they “help” me make cookies there is a David-like snow/flour shower, my son eats gobs of butter, my daughter’s arm gets so tired from mixing she wines continuously “IT’S GOING TO FALL OFF!” and they both consume enough raw egg to be immediately taken sick with salmonella.
“Why don’t you help me clean the bathroom while you wait to find out?” David’s Mom asks.
Although I’ve yet to seek help in the bathroom, I do get assistance dusting, which looks like this: my daughter squirting half the bottle of cleaning solution onto the coffee table while my son empties a box Kleenex with the intention of using every one as a Swiffer.
And “help” changing sheets? Helpers bounce, they burrow they bang each other with pillows, until somehow, there the new linens are aligned.
With every effort of mine to get the house in shape, my helpers, like David, make a bigger mess. And add the pressure of company coming and it ….
…leads us to everybody’s (mine, my daughter’s, my son’s) favorite page in the book.
While David takes a nap curled up in a chair under the window, his dreams of BIG SNOW collide with his Mother’s nightmare of trying to get the house ready for company.
In the dream, snow swirls into the house, drifting up over furniture and filling the living room.
In his dream, David yells, “Mom!…Is THIS big snow?” “YES!” yelled Mom. ‘Help me clean up this huge mess!’”
On the next page David’s mom is trying to vacuum up the snow. VACCUM! Vacuuming in our living room is synonymous with (the kids) stripping down to t-shirts and underwear and sprinting laps around the fireplace dogging my every “vroom,” and so this moment of creative genius by Bean—combining a VACCUM with SNOW is fully appreciated in this Picture Book House.
My kids stare, and stare at the snow…at the vacuum…until I read…
“Suddenly, loud thumping shook the house!”
I wait…and wait…letting this unexpected bit of scariness soak in…
“David woke up. There was stomping at the door. It was Dad, home from work early.”
And then David’s mom, like me, like all moms, I’m sure, presumably thinks FORGET YOU MESSSY HOUSE, bundles up and goes out with David and Dad to check on the Big Snow.
“I could look at this page forever,” my daughter says of the last spread—the same view of David’s neighborhood from the first page, only this time is dusk, the world is covered in white, and the snow continues to fall under the warm glow of the streetlamps that light the way as David, his Mom and Dad trudge through the snowy street.
I could look at the page, forever, too.
The dishes can wait.