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Children’s Book of the Week: Yesterday’s Snowman

Yesterday’s Snowman by Gail Mack, illustrated by Erik Blegvad

This book gives me hope at the end of winter, of a time when you might build a snowman and then it would melt away to nothing by the next morning, and you would see brown grass on the ground instead of snow. But this book gives me hope for other reasons, too. It gives me hope that children are smart and clever and sophisticated. Not little adults, but poetic writerly children who understand the beauty of a well-turned phrase. Not that it was written by a child, but it was written from a child’s perspective, and the boys love it, and so I love that they accept that this lovely little story might come from a child.

We have another book that it reminds me of, The White Marble by Charlotte Zolotow, that is written in the same style. It’s a kind of story poem that could totally backfire, that could be the world’s biggest snorefest, but instead it’s like it’s a story written directly from their brains. And I most certainly appreciate a book that doesn’t talk down to kids, but understands that they understand complex thought processes and abstract concepts and stories that don’t necessarily have a clear plot or a conflict but are really just something interesting that happened, once.

Yesterday’s Snowman just tells of a snowman that a boy and a girl make with their mom. The snow is so snowman-perfect that the mother stops making dinner to go out and make the snowman with them (note to Julie: maybe sometimes you should not be such a rigid stick-in-the-mud and you should do something fun and memorable like this with your children). They carve pants and shoes and a moustache into their snowman, and give him a hat and scarf, a bucket and a broom. Then they go inside for dinner and it starts to rain, and they watch their snowman melt away. There are nice messages about mutability and enjoying the pleasure of something fleeting, and of seizing the moment and living life, but thankfully the book never says any of those things and just tells the story and leaves you to figure out that bigger stuff for yourself. The watercolors are wonderful, the story is simple and not very long, and you will all be riveted. Plus you will also remember that at some point the snow will melt away after a big rain and suddenly it will be spring.

And I’m sorry for recommending a book that’s out of print. Next week’s book is out of print too. These are just books we’re loving right now. I’m sure soon we’ll love something that’s more currently available. I see The White Marble is out of print too. I worry this means that children don’t want books that speak intellectually to them, but only want High School Musical sticker books. Let’s hope not.

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3 Responses to “Children’s Book of the Week: Yesterday’s Snowman”

  1. 1
    sutswana:

    Sturm und Drang, baby!
    This is one of the most beautiful and melancholy book reviews ever written. Makes me want to drop the lesson plans and stare out the window at this spontaneous snowstorm right now, clutching a mug of tea…

  2. 2
    Julie:

    You should go get this book from the library, S. We just returned it. I thought we were in the clear but apparently returning it to the library caused our 60-degree-weekend to turn into a snowy cold Monday.

  3. 3
    Melvin Fulks:

    A favorite of mine ,bought it for my son when it was new.Beautifully written,I have a couple of tears now recalling it.It was a good advocate for art too ,with it’s inconsistently detailed watercolors.Children need to learn the value of simple spontaneous moments .Good pick,good review .Thanks

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