Fuse #8

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Review of the Day: First Day of Winter

A fellow librarian in my place of work raved to me about this title. Her ravings tend to be wholly and utterly convincing, so I am not in the thrall of this book. Hence the following review:

If there were a librarian lobby out there, I would seriously suspect that Denise Fleming was held under their sway. How else to explain the fact that every book she creates fits your average children's librarian's needs to a tee? Whether she's using her one-of-a-kind humor and artistic technique to teach kids about colors as in "Lunch", providing a particularly original animal readaloud as found in "Barnyard Banter", or writing the number one BEST toddler storytime picture book, "In A Small Small Pond", the woman practically caters to your average librarian's every desire. "The First Day of Winter" is no exception to the rule. Utilizing a technique that incorporates everything from colored cotton fiber and hand-cut stencils to squeeze bottles, "Winter" provides the perfect wintertime readaloud book, especially for those with a hearty singing voice.

Written to the tune of "Twelve Days of Christmas", "The First Day of Winter" is a joyful tale of the building of a snowman. So the book begins with, "On the first day of winter my best friend gave to me ... a red cap with a gold snap". With each consecutive day the snowman is slowly built up and up. It gets two bright blue mittens, 3 striped scarfs, 4 prickly pinecones, etc. Some of these additions are alliterative and some just fun to say like, "5 birdseed pockets". With each addition of food or sustenance, winter animals cluster closer and closer to the snowman. When the last verse (it doesn't go as far as twelve) results in 10 salty peanuts it is clear that the snow"man" is actually a rather nice snow"woman". Our last images in the book are of her walking off to have a chat with another snowfellow at the top of a nearby hill.

There's such a sense of satisfaction when you read this book aloud. Even if you don't sing the words you still get a smack of enjoyment from pronouncing the words, "red cap with a gold snap". Adults can decide whether or not they want to sing "5 birdseed pockets" as you would "5 gold rings" or just keep the verse the same as the others. As always, Fleming is far more inclined to be colorful rather than dull. From the ribald blue of a blue jay to the cheery conglomeration of a bunch of different scarfs, this is as visually arresting a book as any Fleming has come up with yet. Now I cannot tell you how many times I've been approached by a library patron who wants a good snowy winter book for their kids, but without any specific holidays mixed in. Until now I've relied heavily on Ezra Jack Keats's, "The Snowy Day", and Lois Ehlert's, "Snowballs". With the publication of this book, I can now also heartily thrust "The First Day of Winter" into these parents' waiting arms with a kind of haphazard glee. A fabulous addition to any cold weather collection and a fun readaloud to boot.


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