cover image The Biggest, Best Snowman

The Biggest, Best Snowman

Margery Cuyler. Scholastic, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-590-13922-9

A little girl accomplishes big things in this winning picture book. ""Big Mama, Big Sarah, and Big Lizzie"" tell Little Nell she's too small to be of help, so Little Nell spends her days in the snow playing with her forest friends. When Reindeer, Hare and Bear Cub urge her to make a snowman, she thinks she's too small. But prodded by their encouraging words and offer of help, Little Nell constructs a splendiferous snowman that makes her family realize she's not so small or helpless after all. As crisp and delicately patterned as a snowflake, Cuyler's (That's Good, That's Bad!) tale brims with rhyming words (""She carefully patted and matted and batted the snow into a tiny ball"") and recurring phrases (""She rolled it and rolled it and rolled it to Reindeer"") with which children will gleefully chime in. She explores larger themes such as a child's yearning to feel significant and the value of cooperation within the cozy context of family and friendship. Hillenbrand (Traveling to Tondo) matches the jaunty prose with puckish style. Readers will relish the transformation of Little Nell's mother and siblings--who first appear as fairy-tale wicked stepmother and stepsister types with their wildly sprouting hair--into compassionate gentlefolk (except Big Lizzie, who still says ""Hmmmph!""). The artist makes the most of the snowy setting: eye-popping colors, from the cardinal perched upon the snowman's twiggy arm to Big Mama's bright fuschia overcoat, show up with perfect clarity against the tranquil, wintry backdrop. Frustrated youngsters will find a champion in Little Nell. Ages 4-7. (Nov.)