cover image End of Winter

End of Winter

Sharon Chmielarz. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $14 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-517-58745-4

This atmospheric though ultimately disappointing first picture book, an endnote tells us, was inspired by medieval Germanic rituals for frightening away the long northern winters. The collaborators do indeed make use of these intriguing historical elements--villagers wearing animal masks to scare away the bitter north wind, or rolling flaming wagon wheels downhill to rout winter's chill--but their work amounts to little more than an unstructured collection of loosely related scenes. No narrative catches and sustains the readers; characters are scarcely identified or developed. Nor is there any satisfying resolution--after melting the snow around them, the villagers are simply content to wait for spring. In its intense coloration and intricate detailing, Cable's pleasing artwork offers vigorous depictions of cloaked and masked townspeople buffeted by the elements. She captures the bustle of European village life in a style suggestive of Brueghel. But ultimately, the pictures seem to emphasize the text's rather choppy, laundry-list quality. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)