I am not a decisive person, it seems. I have difficulty coming up with a list of Caldecott contenders IN LATE AUGUST, when traditionally Robin Smith, Lolly Robinson, and I kick off the Calling Caldecott season with our predictions (or, at least, our choices of books that we think should/could be in the running). But now, already! in only March! veteran blogger and fearless predictor Betsy Bird is out (as she is every year) with her first round of Caldecott predictions. And lo and behold, her choice for 2018 Caldecott frontrunner is Matthew Cordell’s Wolf in the Snow.
I agree: this book stands out. As a departure for illustrator Cordell; as a stretch of the picture-book form (mixing two styles — the girl is a cartoon and the wolves are realistically portrayed — which WORKS); as an almost-wordless book (save for a setting-cementing plethora of animal sounds and the visceral huff huff of the winded girl’s breath and the occasional comic-book-style direction); as a riff on the whole Little Red Riding Hood story (okay, that last bit might be a stretch. But … her hooded coat is red; and there are wolves). The narrative arc — the girl comes upon a lost wolf pup; embarks on a trek, alone, to save the pup; succeeds, but finds herself in peril; is aided in turn by the wolves; and through their help returns home — is STRONG. It’s an archetypal (if unusual) home-adventure-home hero tale, and for satisfying storytelling, that’s hard to beat.
I know we’ll be examining this book’s art in more detail in the fall when Calling Caldecott heats up. And you may have already seen Wolf in the Snow yourselves, since it was published in January. If not, keep it on your radar. Meanwhile, here’s the starred review in the November/December 2016 Horn Book Magazine.