Willow and the Snow Day Dance, written by Denise Brennan-Nelson and illustrated by Cyd Moore, is the story of a little girl who, through genuine goodwill, helps to make a neighborhood. When Willow moves to "a canary yellow house with turquoise shutters and a cherry red door" in a new neighborhood, she writes friendly little notes to her neighbors. She seeks their help with everything from cuttings for her garden in the spring to hats and mittens for the poor in the fall. In return, she shares effusive thanks, as well as flowers, vegetables, and yard art. But will her winning ways be enough to thaw the Grinch-like heart of Mr. Larch, owner of the best sledding hill on the street? Willow and the Snow Day Dance culminates with the first snowstorm of the winter, where all is revealed.
Willow and the Snow Day Dance is undeniably sappy. It's the Hallmark Holiday Movie of picture books (though not specifically about Christmas). But it's still a book possessing warmth and charm. Willow's notes to her neighbors brim forth with enthusiasm. Like this (except that you have to picture it in youthful printing, with colored pencil illustrations, and a little heart to dot the i in Willow):
Thank you for all the mittens, hats and scarves! The charity drive at my school was a big success! Lots of head and hands will be warm!
Your friend and neighbor, Willow"
Although there's a strong intrinsic message to the book, about reaching out and being neighborly and so on, the message is conveyed entirely through Willow's actions (and the responses of her neighbors). This keeps Willow and the Snow Day Dance from feeling didactic.
Cyd Moore's illustrations are bright and cheerful, and suit the tone of the book. Willow's notes and signs dot the book, conveying a fair bit of the detail, and giving Willow and the Snow Day Dance a bit of a kid-assembled feel. WIllow's hair crackles with life, reflecting the energy that she brings to her activities. And the page in which a host of kids (and one adult) each undertake "the snow day dance" in their bedrooms is a riot, nightcap-wearing moon and all.
Willow and the Snow Day Dance is not a book for cynics. (And yes, there are picture books that are excellent for cynics.) But if you're looking for a cozy, uplifting sort of book to warm a winter's night, Willow and the Snow Day Dance could be just the ticket.
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: November 21, 2010
Source of Book: Library copy
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: Lois Hume
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