Waiting for Snow – Marsha Diane Arnold and Renata Liwska, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
Many of us have begun waiting for snow, at least in some parts of the world. Of course, the nuisance of driving and cleaning up is meaningless to children, and also, as it turns out, to badgers, rabbits, and voles. Marsha Diane Arnold’s text and Renata Liwska’s pictures capture the ways in which impatience leads us to make improbable gestures, like throwing pebbles at clouds or shaking sugar from a roof. Fortunately, these uninhibited and anxious friends have a hedgehog to assure them that “It will snow in snow’s time…All we have to do is wait.” He doesn’t condescend to his friends or lecture them about magical thinking. Hedgehog is full of wisdom and empathy, and children will learn from this book that silliness, even if it doesn’t make anything important happen, is its own reward.
The repetition of Hedgehog’s reassuring refrain, with slight variations, is accompanied by delicate and fanciful creatures engaged in everyday activities. In one two-page spread, Hedgehog is teaching a class (Math? Botany? Philosophy?). He draws plants and the sun on an old-fashioned blackboard, while his students watch with varying degrees of interest. Vole has fallen asleep, while Bear attempts to add some numbers on a small slate. Rabbit is the eager front row kid with his hand raised, while Badger turns in his chair and grips a pencil, although he has no writing surface. Discussing the predictability of natural events such as sunrise and the blooming of crocuses, Hedgehog intones, “Sometimes they come late and sometimes early, but they always come in their time.”
Badger figures out that he just has to wait, but the fact that this is true doesn’t reduce his frustration. He sits with his legs pulled up and his face burrowed in his arms, as all his friends register concern. Possum reaches gentle to touch Badger with his fingertips, and Hedgehog, as practical as he is knowledgeable, offers Badger a sandwich, which he stubbornly refuses. The next two pages show many ways to pass the time, and even Badger joins in, playing with tangled yo-yos, and even peeling potatoes. The other animals read, play dominos, skip rope, and sleep. Even Hedgehog, who knows how everything will turn out, knits a cap, conveniently storing the pastel colored balls of yarn on his prickles. Children don’t always need explanations as much as distractions; Arnold and Liwska let readers know that sometimes anticipation leads to…snow. The steady and measured pace of the story and the resonant images of childhood give this book tremendous appeal.
Apparently, putting on one’s pajamas backwards is a sure way to invite snow. I’m not sure what the source of this detail was for the author and illustrator, but I was told by my grandmother that putting on an article of clothing backwards or inside out, if you did it inadvertently, brought good luck. Kids may want to try this out.