The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Hader is a quiet book. It tells the story of the preparations of wild animals preparing for Winter (likely in New York State, where the Haders lived). The book talks about the birds that stay North and those that migrate, the animals that store food and those that continue to forage, the animals that hibernate and those that stay awake. The book culminates with the arrival of the Big Snow, and the subsequent hunt for food by those animals still around and awake.
This book definitely feels like it is from an earlier time. The illustrations are realistic, and only some are in color. The story is simple. The animals don’t talk or have human characteristics, they are, quite simply, animals. It’s lovely, in a very muted way.
Berta and Elmer Hader were a married, illustration team. They began their careers illustrating magazines, but switched to children’s books in the late-1920s. They wrote and illustrated dozens of books together, and illustrated books for other authors as well. They were nominated for the Caldecott Medal twice (in 1940 for Cock-a-Doodle-Doo and in 1944 for The Mighty Hunter), before winning in 1949 with this book.
Interestingly to me, the Haders beat out Robert McCloskey’s Blueberries for Sal in 1949, which is definitely a better known book today. I had never heard of the Haders before starting my Caldecott quest, but they were definitely well-known and prolific illustrators (and writers) in their day.
This is not a book for toddlers. Frances listened to a few pages, before losing interest and wandering off. I imagine it is a best fit for early Elementary School students – those who have begun learning about things like hibernation and migration. I could see a young nature-lover really poring over the illustrations.
One of my Life List goals is to read all of the Caldecott winners. This is the first of what I hope will be a series of post talking about each book.