cover image Avalanche


Michael J. Rosen. Candlewick Press (MA), $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-0589-6

Rosen rolls through the alphabet and a gargantuan snowball rolls over the earth in this wintry fantasy. Each spread highlights several letters of the alphabet within key words: ""Once there was an Avalanche/ that started out quite small./ It all began when Bobby tossed/ a harmless-looking ball."" The snowball grows to Goliath proportions as it engulfs a garbage truck, a jet, mountains and the entire world. Ultimately the icy sphere encompasses the Universe and, in a concluding sci-fi twist, reverses its course to deposit every planet, city and house back in its proper place. Rosen, whose book is more about a rolling ball than a downhill snow-slide, tailors his word choice to accommodate the alphabetical scheme. Consequently, the sentences feel stilted: when the orb returns from outer space, ""Zippy, Bobby's dog, he caught it!/ Gadzooks! What a throw!"" In his first picture-book effort, Butler applies hand-painted details to cut-up photos of snow, sky and knit cloth. His early images present a convincing cluster of flying flakes, studded with pine trees and fences. But when he tries to imply infinite time and space, all embedded in ice, the result is a pedestrian picture of clocks and question marks. This snowball gets too big for its makers to handle. Ages 5-8. (Nov.)