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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Samson in the Snow, written and illustrated by Philip C. Stead. A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2016. $20.50 ages 3 and up

"Samson trudged through valleys and over rolling hills. The wind blew the snow into fantastic shapes - but Samson did not stop to look. "The little red bird is not made for this kind of weather," he thought. Samson swung his tail and stomped his feet ... "

Samson is the friend we all want to have, and he has no idea. In fact, he doesn't have a friend. Only after he meets a tiny red bird does he wonder what it might be like. You see, Samson loves his dandelion patch, caring for it tenderly. When the red bird asks if she might have a few of the flowers to share with a friend who's having a bad day, Samson immediately agrees. The bird flies off, and Samson is left to wonder what it might be like to have one himself.

After a peaceful sleep, Samson awakens to a storm, and bitter cold. He now wonders if the bird is all right, and worries for her safety. He is philosophical about the state he finds himself in: "It is better to walk than to worry."  Off he trudges.

Finding a tiny mouse, almost indistinguishable in the snowscape and in need of protection, Samson offers warmth and comfort. Both are looking for someone, and worried. Both admit that their favorite color is yellow, as they find rest near a patch of the bright flowers. Guess who is hidden beneath that bright spot of color? Both were searching for the same tiny red bird! Samson finds nearby shelter for the three of them, and they wait out the storm sharing tales of adventure.

We should all have a woolly mammoth named Samson for a friend, don't you think? This tale of friendship and being kind is a familiar theme for Philip Stead. He has written some of my all-time favorite books, and created some memorable characters - Bear, Ruby, Amos McGee, Bird, and Sadie and her Aunt Josephine. Kindness is at the heart of what they do, and we would do well to emulate each of them and to introduce our kids to them. Be sure to check his bibliography to see what you have been missing!

In the best picture books shared with our kids, they see that it takes both words and pictures to tell a marvelous story. Here, the wordless spreads showing Samson's dreams and the danger that faces the tiny bird speak volumes. You need it for your collection, I think.

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