November 16, 2016

The Snow Knows

by Jennifer McGrath
Illustrated by Josée Bisaillon
Nimbus Publishing
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
September 2016

I know Jennifer McGrath as the award-winning author Jennifer Kent McGrath of novels Chocolate River Rescue (Nimbus, 2007) and White Cave Escape (Nimbus, 2009) which transported middle-grade readers to perilous situations on the Petitcodiac River and gypsum mines of New Brunswick.  But she’s also delved into children’s picture books, first with Gadzooks the Christmas Goose (Nimbus, 2011) and now with The Snow Knows.  The plotting may be very different between her children’s novels and illustrated books, but the quality of voice and literary momentum are always there.

The text of The Snow Knows is fairly simple, almost repetitive, prose based on what the snow knows about the various animals, both wild and domestic, as they live with, seek food in and move throughout the winter wonderland of a snowy landscape.  There’s a rabbit, an owl, a pheasant, deer, porcupine, weasel, mice, squirrel, fox, partridge, otter, lynx and coyotes who pepper the whiteness outside.  Jennifer McGrath’s words propel the reader through this winter wilderness, as if witness to a quiet and secretive world outside, one in which all is not said, but much is known.

The snow knows..
Where the rabbit goes.
It knows the hush-shush of the owl’s wing.

Josée Bisaillon’s artwork, which I’ve so admired in Eat, Leo! Eat! (Caroline Adderson, Kids Can Press, 2015) and Winter’s Coming (Jane Thornhill, Owlkids, 2014), is a combination of drawings and digital art, collages of richly treed landscapes and snow-covered fields peppered with stylized but easily recognizable animals and the ever present falling snow.  Moreover, Josée Bisaillon cleverly links the animals’ stories by providing an early peek of the each upcoming animal.  For example, on the double-spread of the deer, a porcupine hides in the tree and a small weasel glances out from behind a log, while the lynx slinks away from the hiding partridge and the sliding otter pages. The story comes full circle from the winter outside a red-tiled house, to the forest and fields, and back to the home from which two creatures exit to share in the snow too.

From The Snow Knows 
by Jennifer McGrath,
 illus. by Josée Bisaillon
We may not have snow now but we will soon enough, and all these creatures will be finding a way to survive and perhaps enjoy its abundance.  Take a slow, lyrical walk through it with The Snow Knows’ Canadian menagerie to appreciate its complex interrelationships and to enjoy Jennifer McGrath and Josée Bisaillon’s delightful frolic through the snow.

From The Snow Know
 by Jennifer McGrath,
 illus. by Josée Bisaillon

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