CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 5 . . . . October 6, 2017
Céline Claire is a writer from France with a number of works for children of different ages to her credit. Shelter was originally published in French as L'Abri in 2016.
The leaves have turned, the wind is blowing, and the little animals are readying their homes for winter. The Rabbit, Squirrel, Mole and Fox families check their stores of food and fuel. A Bird family, orioles I think, who seem to have unwisely not migrated, are caught up in the activity too. Once cozily ensconced, all seem prepared to wait out the cold season. Then:
Going from one den to the next, the strangers – a large caramel bear and a smaller one – ask for help but are turned away. They finally receive one favour from Little Fox in the form of a lantern, which helps them to find the hollow where they use the snow which has started to fall to build a hut.
Then the tables turn.
And where do the Foxes find shelter? With the bears who welcome them into their snow house.
Lovely watercolour illustrations in greys and russets are contributed by Qin Leng, a Chinese artist now living in Toronto. Her animals walk upright, wear softly-draped jackets and scarves and comport themselves in a very human way. Two especially expressive images are that of the Rabbit children bouncing on their parents' bed at the beginning; and that of the two bears and the Fox family in the closing spread enjoying tea by lantern light in the snow den, as bare grey trees bend in the wind and snow falls outside.
Highly recommended for public and primary school library collections. Shelter would be good one for storytime programmes or for individual reading. It would also be useful as part of a conversation on generosity, particularly in light of current news about welcoming newcomers to Canada.
Ellen Heaney is a retired children's librarian living in Coquitlam, BC.