Growing Bookworms Newsletter: August 17
Scapegoat: Dean Hale and Michael Slack

The Big Snuggle-Up: Brian Patten and Nicola Bayley

Book: The Big Snuggle-Up
Author: Brian Patten
Illustrator: Nicola Bayley
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3 to 8

61YPVPWtnGL._SL500_AA300_Honestly, who could resist a picture book called The Big Snuggle-Up? Not me. The Big Snuggle-Up was published in England by Anderson Press and brought to the US by Kane Miller. It's a simple story set in a small stone house in the country. As a winter storm approaches, the narrator invites a scarecrow in out of the snow. The scarecrow is followed by animal after animal, a cumulative list building on each page spread. Eventually, everyone settles down for a quiet, cozy evening.

Brian Patten is a well-known British poet. His soothing text works well for read aloud, from the very first page:

"I asked a scarecrow in out of the snow,
Please by a guest in my house.
The scarecrow said, "Can I bring a friend,
For in my sleeve lives a mouse.""

Patten uses just the right verbs for each animal, as when a "robin peeped out from its freezing nest" or when a cat "allowed itself to be let in". I think my favorite part is:

"A donkey looked in and said,
"I'm unable
To find my way back to the stable.""

Each page spread ends with:

"Into the house and out of the snow
Came ..." (a list of animals)

The growing list of animals invites children to participate in the reading, as they remember dog, cat, fawn, etc. Children will certainly remember the refrain at the end of each list "and an old scarecrow."

I like that Patten doesn't always choose conventional rhymes, matching, for example "fur" and "chair". I think this keeps the text from being too sing-songy. I think that "Into the house and out of the snow" is going to become part of the vocabulary of my home (even though we don't have snow here).

Much as I liked the text, what made me love this book were Nicola Bayley's detailed colored pencil illustrations. Light glows from the windows of the little stone house - anyone can see why the animals would find it inviting. The scarecrow is cheerful and friendly, with a pine branch sticking out of his hat and a jaunty, ever-so-slightly floppy posture. The animals practically step from the page, with bright eyes, and every hair or feather lovingly depicted. Readers will want to try to stroke the squirrel's tail, and feel the butterfly's wings. The donkey is particularly adorable.

Even as the animals are detailed and realistic, Bayley adds whimsical details, like the scarecrow turning on the water faucets for the heron in the bath, and a cozy armchair missing part of a leg, propped up on a pile of books. Kids will enjoy searching for such details. The butterfly can be found, through careful searching, just about every page, adding additional visual interest.

Bayley is best known for her detailed illustrations of cats, and her affection for cats comes through in this book, too. When a cat joins the party, he casts a baleful eye on a butterfly that lands on his tail. He then proceeds to be scene-stealer in several subsequent pages. 

In short, The Big Snuggle-Up is aptly named, and the perfect read for a cold winter night. It's a wonderful combination of rhythmic text and soothing yet visually intriguing illustrations. Highly recommended!

Publisher: Kane Miller
Publication Date: June 2011 (US edition)
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.