The Big Snow

I love the title of this classic children’s book. Whenever a snowstorm leaves gigantic piles and drifts–a beauty to watch while indoors but horrible to cycle through–I have long called it “(the time of) the big snow”. I do not recall where I picked up this expression. I believed it must have come from a chapter title in one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, as I read all nine of them when I was a child and remember her pioneer stories of surviving harsh winters. However a check through the Wilder library shows that none of her books had a chapter by that name, not even in The Long Winter. So I am at a loss where I first encountered, and by my frequency of use, practically lay a claim over, the expression “the big snow”. Could I have read this book as a child? I do not remember it. Authored and illustrated by Berta and Elmer Hader in 1948, The Big Snow tells the story of forest animals and birds preparing for winter. Some of them store food, some hibernate and some fly south. After the first big snow, they all come out of hiding to scrounge for food and discover an elderly couple scattering seeds, nuts, crumbs and corn across their property. The story ends with the animals and birds enjoying a feast.

The Big Snow won the Caldecott Medal for illustration in 1949. The pictures, in black-and-white as well as colour, are lifelike in their minuscule detail.

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