CM . . . . Volume XX Number 8 . . . . October 25, 2013
Rosa recalls being happy when first given as a birthday gift to Brandon. But as her boy grew up, his interests changed, leaving his pet rabbit unhappy, not excited, often hungry, lonely, feeling unloved. One Christmas eve, Brandon's old feelings stir him to take Rosa outside to see the snow, but he really hasn't changed, and he forgets her in a moment of distraction. What at first seems a hostile, wild environment becomes a refuge as she is visited by animals offering her warmth (chickadees "fluffed up their down to make a soft busy blanket against the biting wind" and a squirrel brings "the wonderful warmth of wool" -- one of Brandon's lost mitts), food (a raccoon steals the carrot nose from a snowman), guidance (a hawk leads her home). There's also a hungry mouse with which Rosa empathizes as she shares the last bite of carrot. It takes all of her courage – and urging from the mouse and raccoon -- to leave the mitt's warmth to hop home through the deep, cold snow. Brandon is remorseful, Rosa forgiving. After all, it's Christmas, when all wild creatures trade their differences for peace and love for one another.
On a Snowy Night is a captivating tale simply told in Jean Little's recognizable style, with a generous helping of themes for young minds to ponder: friendship, generosity, compassion, courage, the magical spirit of Christmas, forgiveness, coming of age, family love. Any child who loves a pet will empathize with Rosa Rabbit. Little deftly sketches each animal with minimal detail. Their actions flesh out their characters; some are practical, some serious, some amusing. Deines' oil on linen illustrations wrap the reader in the familiar texture and depth of snow, feathers and fur, set against a dark wintry sky. Indoors, at the beginning and end, there's a golden glow of warmth. One overall impression from cover to last page is that of the comfort found among one's circle of friends. It would make a great bedtime read aloud.
Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer living in BC.
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