A Big Bed for Little Snow

Cover of A Big Bed for Little SnowOn the paper jacket for Grace Lin's A Big Bed for Little Snow, a companion to her 2019 Caldecott Honor book A Big Mooncake for Little Star, we see a grinning boy atop a blue-gray, cloudlike bed. The boy's grin exudes mischief, and feathers float in the air. Has he been jumping on the bed?

For the answer, remove the jacket, open the book wide, and look at the illustrations on the front and back cover boards. First, you’ll see the boy poised to jump on the bed. In the next illustration, he’s midair. Then you’ll see the boy about to land back on the bed. Finally he lands, and if you look closely, you’ll see that the impact releases some feathers from the bed. Flip the book back around to see the light blue endpapers with white birds in flight that tell readers that we are up in the sky. Turn to the title page to see a mother stuffing feathers into a bed, while the boy watches the birds.

So much is communicated here — about character, setting, and tone — even before the first page of text. 

The next page-turn (the first page of the story's text) reveals that this is Little Snow and Mommy, who reminds her son that this bed is for sleeping in, not jumping on. But throughout the book we see Little Snow waiting for Mommy to walk away, and then jump, jump, jumping on the bed. He flops back down whenever he hears Mommy approaching. The cycle repeats when Mommy walks away again. Little Snow just can’t resist jumping on his puffy, bouncy bed. And the more Little Snow jumps, the more feathers burst from the seams. This is a modern myth, explaining the origin of snow to young readers. One of Little Snow’s jumps is so high, and he lands so hard, that the bed rips and a lot of feathers fall out. The next spread reveals that the feathers fall down to earth as snow.

There is a great deal of white space in these illustrations, which effectively emphasizes the sky setting and helps readers focus on what's taking place. There’s also an intriguing use of lines or, more accurately, a lack thereof: Little Snow and his mother are wearing white pajamas with a blue-gray snowflake pattern, but their pajamas have no edges and blend right into the white background. This confirms for readers that Little Snow and his mother are physically part of the winter sky.

[Read the Horn Book Magazine review of A Big Bed for Little Snow.]

For those who enjoy their Caldecott history, Lin revealed in a publisher book chat several months ago that the book is an Asian American homage to the Caldecott Medal-winning The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, the classic picture book featuring Peter, an African American boy, exploring his neighborhood after a snowfall. A Big Bed for Little Snow seems to me, at its core, a similar visual interpretation of the magic of childhood. These illustrations, classically rendered gouache portraits, communicate pure joy. Several of the illustrations are of Little Snow in various jumping positions; there's much exuberance here. These are celebrations of small soft jumps, big high jumps, and everything in between. Also of special note is Little Snow’s face, always radiating joy. (A fitting tribute, indeed, to Peter.)

 

Tarie Sabido
Tarie Sabido
Tarie Sabido is the Chair of the Philippine Board on Books for Young People and co-founder of the Filipino ReaderCon. She blogs about Asian children's and young adult books at Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind (http://asiaintheheart.blogspot.com).
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Amy Beitzel

This book has nothing to do with the classic A Snowy Day - zero.

Posted : Jan 21, 2020 12:01


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