Review of Ten Ways to Hear Snow

Ten Ways to Hear Snow
by Cathy Camper; illus. by Kenard Pak
Preschool, Primary    Kokila/Penguin    32 pp.    g
10/20    978-0-399-18633-2    $23.99
e-book ed.  978-0-593-11123-9    $11.99

When she wakes to discover that it blizzarded the night before, Lina isn’t deterred from her plans to walk to see her grandmother (in Arabic, sitti). Outside, the bright sun’s reflection makes it difficult to see, so Lina focuses on her sense of hearing. She makes mental notes of how certain sounds can be ways to “hear snow”: boots “crunching snow into tiny waffles” (“Snyak, snyek, snyuk”) or the scraping noises of shovels digging out sidewalks (“Scraaape, scrip, scraaape, scrip”). Lina arrives at her grandmother’s building, and they begin to fill and roll grape leaves together; although Sitti is losing her eyesight, she remains an adept teacher. While Lina wonders if she had even known about the blizzard, Sitti tells her that sometimes “no noise is the sound that means it’s snowing.” From the snowflake composed of grape leaves on the title page to the cookbook-like diagram of how to roll a grape leaf, digitally rendered illustrations emphasize not just the beauty of pristine snow from multiple visual perspectives but also the significance of Lina’s ethnic Arab heritage. While grandmothers and grape leaves are common tropes in Arab American literature, the emphasis on sensory exploration forges new ways to think about intergenerational, intercultural connections.

From the November/December 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Julie Hakim Azzam
Julie Hakim Azzam

Julie Hakim Azzam is the assistant director of the MFA program in the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University and has a PhD in literary and cultural studies, with a specialization in contemporary postcolonial literature from Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.

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