CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 13 . . . . March 2, 2001
There are certain days that are the very best days - days that are even better than birthdays. These are the days on which you make a new friend - and discover the world together.In this unusual story, Elsie lives alone in a little house at the edge of the woods and longs for company. One lonely winter's night, she prays to God for a cat, and her prayers are answered when an immense cat of snow shows up outside her window. She feeds him delicious food sculpted out of snow, and they play together all day long. Elsie and the cat enjoy each other's company so much that Elsie disobeys God's injunction to keep the cat outside. Sure enough, the snow cat melts, forming a pond outside the house. Elsie has to learn to relate to the cat in a different way, skating on the pond in winter and swimming in summer, and gradually she comes to accept her new friend.
The illustrations in this book are simple but powerful, and the prose conveys an ageless quality, giving the story the feel of a cultural legend or a tale passed down through generations. The wintry landscape is vividly portrayed through such phrases as: "creamy fields of snow pour over the countryside, dolloping the horizon with little hills" or "in the glistening day, you listen to the fairy tinkle of your snowshoes as you make long loops through the fields."
This story is simple enough to share with a preschooler, but the underlying message is complex, both in emotional and moral tone. Stern but not unkind, it does not leave the reader with a pat answer, a simple moral, or a comfortable feeling that justice has been properly served. Certainly, the book is unforgettable.
Mother of two, Karen Clay is Head, William R. Newman Library, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Manitoba.
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