Julie Halpern, , illus. by Matthew Cordell. . Houghton, $15 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-618-42004-9

Toby's best friend has moved away, leaving him in a funk as bleak as the winter day. But when Toby idly says "Hello" to a snowflake, the snowflake answers back—and as Cordell (The Gorillas of Gill Park ) subtly shifts the winter light from grey to warm lavenders and blues, the boy finds himself literally surrounded by tiny, amiable snowflake companions. They make interesting conversation ("Some tell jokes. Other talk about movies they have seen"), compliment his snow angel-making and collaborate with him on an impressive snowman. Cordell makes intelligent use of white space as he demonstrates the simple pleasures to be found in winter pastimes. The sun brings about the departure of Toby's crystallized comrades but just as the hero's mood threatens to turn south again, a new boy appears in the front yard, ready to make friends. Halpern, making her debut, conveys a genial directness. But her text feels undisciplined; the story seems to stretch in order to tie Toby's loneliness and new friendships to a bigger statement about the rhythms of nature. Still, the emotional understatement of Cordell's austere ink-and-watercolor pictures, combined with his keen sense of composition, gives Toby's struggle texture and pacing. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)