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Khalsa, Dayal Kaur
Montreal, Tundra Books, 1992. 24pp, cloth, $16.95, ISBN 0-88776-293-X. CIP

Kindergarten to Grade 3/Ages 5 to 8

Reviewed by Norma Charles

Volume 21 Number 1
1993 January

A rare combination of a deeply touching story told in exquisite, poetic language and clear, unadorned illustrations makes the tremendously gifted Khalsa's last work a farewell treasure to be read again and again.

In Khalsa's seventh book, the second to be published after her death in 1989, the main character, Elsie, lives alone at the edge of a great forest. She is so lonely that she prays for a large, unhungry cat to keep her feet warm at night. Much to her delight God answers her prayer by sending her a very large snow cat. They frolic away the day spending "a better day than a birthday, a day when you share with a friend all that you love." But all too soon, the "evening came like an uninvited guest draping its purple cloak too soon on bare black trees rimming the hill."

When Elsie returns to her cozy cottage, she invites her new friend in, where they fall asleep together in front of the warm stove. Alas, when she awakens the next morning, she find that her new friend has melted away. As she follows the trail of melted snow, she discovers the cat has formed into a large cat-shaped pond. Over the months and years, Elsie learns to love her snow cat in his new form, by skating upon his ice in winter, canoeing on his waters in summer, and watching the birds and flowers that surround him.

This story evokes a great sadness that the great beauty of our lives, the beauties of nature and of friendship, are so fragile and transient. But it also reminds us that the world is filled with wonder. It touches the chord that reminds us to appreciate deeply and fully what we have. It is a magnificent farewell from a tremendously gifted writer and illustrator. Our world is truly a better place for her having travelled through it.

Highly recommended for readers aged five and up.

Norma Charles is a teacher-librarian at the Henderson Annex School in Vancouver, British Columbia
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