Thursday, October 9, 2014

1948 - White Snow Bright Snow

The eleventh book to be awarded the Caldecott Medal was White Snow, Bright Snow, written by Alvin Tresselt and illustrated by Roger Duviosin, published in 1947 by Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, now a part of HarperCollins.

White Snow, Bright Snow is a poem full of nostalgia.  In the back of the book, Alvin Tresselt is quoted as explaining how this book came to be: "White Snow, Bright Snow had its beginning as I walked down the street in New York City in a snowy winter night.  The poem came first, and the verses all but wrote themselves in my head as I walked along."

I will be honest, the book feels dated, but in a sweet nostalgic way.  The illustrations are not my favorite, I don't particularly care for how people are portrayed, but I do like the brightly colored houses and cars and I think the snowman is the best one I've ever seen.

Who was Roger Duvoisin?

Roger Duvoisin was born on August 28, 1900 in Geneva, Switzerland into a family of art lovers.  At a young age he took an interest in music, but it was his father, an architect, who steered him towards art and design.  He worked on designing and painting murals, posters, and theater scenery.  Duvoisin moved to Paris where he studied art at a public university before finding a job with American silk goods manufacturer, HR Mallinson & Co.  

In 1925, Duvoisin and his wife, Louise Fatio, moved from France to America.  When the Depression hit, HR Mallinson & Co. went bankrupt and Duvoisin turned to children's books and illustrations.

His first book, A Little Boy Drawing, was published in 1932, but failed to catch on.  His second book, Donkey-Donkey, proved to be very popular.

Duvoisin moved his family to Gladstone, New Jersey where he could be close to New York City and still have room to be surrounded by the animals he loved in a more country setting.  He authored and illustrated several books including the very popular Petunia and Veronica series.

In 1947, Duvoisin teamed up with author Alvin Tresselt for the first time to work on White Snow, Bright Snow.  They would go on to collaborate on thirteen other children's books, including: Hide and Seek Fog (Mulberry Books)  (a 1966 Caldecott Honor Book), Autumn Harvest, and The Beaver Pond.

Duvoisin also illustrated the The Happy Lion (Read to a Child!: Level 2) series, written by his wife, Louise Fatio.

Duvoisin passed away in June of 1980.

The Illustrations

This is my favorite illustration in the entire book.

White Snow, Bright Snow follows a postman, a farmer, a policeman, and the policeman's wife as a big snow storm rolls in.

The postman said it looked like snow; the farmer said it smelled like snow; the policeman said it felt like snow; the policeman's wife said her big toe hurt.

According to Tresselt: "I recalled my mother saying that her big toe always hurt whenever it was going to snow.  This brought to mind the ways other people could tell it was going to snow, and I applied these to my cast of characters: the farmer, the postman, the policeman, and of course his practical-minded wife."

I really liked Duvoisin's use of color, but I am not really a fan of how the people looked.  This is personal preferance, but their bright red faces struck me as odd, not rosy-cheeked.

I really like the colors in the quilt.
I love the bright primary colors of the homes against the white of the blanket of snow.

And I felt the line "Automobiles looked like big fat raisins buried in the snowdrifts" painted a perfect picture of a car in the snow.

Of course, there were images of children at play in brightly colored coats.

As Tresselt said: "What would snow be without children to enjoy it!"

White Snow, Bright Snow is a sweet, nostalgic story with colorful illustrations.  Does it stand the test of time? Meh.  I think I'm old enough to find it sweet, but would I go out and buy for a kid today?  Probably not.  

But I would love a poster sized image of the completed snowman.

1948 Caldecott Honor Books

Stone Soup (Aladdin Picture Books) by Marcia Brown 
McElligot's Pool (Classic Seuss) by Dr. Seuss
Bambino the Clown by Georges Schreiber
Roger and the Fox illustrated by Hildegard Woodward, written by Lavinia R. Davis
The Song of Robin Hood illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton, written by Anne Malcolmson

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