cover image THE SNOW BEAR


Miriam Moss, , illus. by Maggie Kneen. . Dutton, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-525-46658-1

After a polar bear cub is separated from his mother, he seeks comfort with "a snow mother" that his cold-weather friends—a musk ox, snow goose, moose, fox, wolf and rabbit—help him build. Dawn breaks, and when the cub awakes, he discovers that the snow figure has been replaced by his warm, familiar-smelling mother. The book's "hook" is Kneen's illustrations; as with her The Lonely Scarecrow, they are embossed to evoke the textures of the arctic setting and its inhabitants. Children will readily discern the difference between the smooth feel of the fallen snow and the bumpier surfaces of the animals' coats and feathers. But there's little variation among the textures of the animals themselves and the conceit wears thin quickly. It's ultimately the quiet power of Moss's (The Snoops) writing that compels attention. With alliteration and sibilance, she evokes the hushed landscape of winter: "In the silent forest is a clearing where soft snowflakes fall. But listen! There's padding and pouncing and a snowdrift shivers." Her descriptions bring to life the different ways each animal helps the cub: the bison "heaves a heavy mound of snow with his strong shoulder," while the snow goose "pats down the snow with her wide, webbed feet." All ages. (Sept.)