CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 15 . . . . March 16, 2007
As they slide along the ice wearing leaves for skates, one little scarf-muffled mouse after another is sent hurrying back to his home at the appearance of nine fearsome predators including an owl, squirrel, bat, rabbit, skunk, mole, fox, deer and cat. Finally, the last little grey mouse manages to scurry safely past all the dangerous creatures and reach his home, bringing the story around to its beginning:
One Winter Night is intended to introduce and reinforce skills of numeration to preschoolers. The illustrations give the book an unmistakably Canadian flavour. Lynn Ray's depiction of an icy northern environment is chillingly real. Her portrayals of several creatures wearing skating, hockey or curling equipment are clever touches although perhaps over the heads of small listeners. On each text page, there are drawings of ants engaged in pursuits that appear to be gathering, or dragging, objects not easily identifiable to an adult reader. Exactly what the connection is between the ants and the mice is not clear.
The artist's use of dark bluey-grey colours to depict the mice as well as the ice at night makes picking out the little rodents somewhat difficult. Beginner counting books for children generally feature large bold-coloured illustrations arranged on a white or light-coloured background for ease of visual discrimination.
The text, though simple and clear, unfortunately does not lend itself to reading aloud. Rhymes are forced and lack originality, while a bumpy metre results in verses tending not to scan. Although the use of repetition will help an adult reader to engage the young listener, a lack of discernable rhythm will hamper enjoyment of the story. If the appeal of the little grey mice - after all, mice are perennial protagonist favourites with children - and the Canadian flavour of its illustrations are sufficient to persuade a parent or librarian to pay twenty dollars for One Winter Night, then so be it. Otherwise one could be forgiven for giving it a miss.
Recommended with reservations.
A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.