|Image from BarnesandNoble.com|
It’s snowing again and Mary Ann and Louie are so sick of the cold and the snow. But Grandpa says he hasn’t even noticed the cold and begins to tell them the story of how cold it was in the winter of 1908 when Grandpa and his little brother, Wainey, were young. It was so cold Wainey’s sneezes froze. So snowy that the streets were covered and the trees and even the houses, right up to the chimneys! The brothers went sledding and got lost on their way home. After a series of outrageous snowy adventures, Grandpa and Wainey found their house, but it was completely covered with ice! So Grandpa whispered something to Wainey and Wainey cried so loudly that the ice cracked. And what did Grandpa whisper to his brother? “Well, I hated to do it, but I whispered, ‘I guess you’ll never have ice cream again!’” Luckily at that moment Uncle Wainey walks in the door with ice cream for everyone!
This tall tale is as brisk as a winter day. The comedic timing is stellar, especially little Wainey’s frequent crying spells, “WAH!” The story is laid out in panels, much like a comic strip, and Stevenson’s loose, cartoonish style fits the humorous tone and layout. The illustrations are a combination of pen and ink and watercolor washes. The story is composed of dialogue and sound effects, such as the “Plink! Plunk! Plonk!” of Wainey’s head hitting the icicles on the barn. Most of the dialogue is handwritten and presented in speech bubbles with the exceptions of some of Grandpa’s narration during the flashback sequences. It seems that the flashbacks are taken place in Mary Ann and Louie’s mind, rather than Grandpa’s, because young Grandpa and Wainey have tiny black mustaches that mimic the bushy white ones they have as old men.
Read this story as part of a winter themed storytime. It’s also great for passing the time on a snow day. I like to make Wainey's "WAAAAAH" very loud. Encourage kids to join you after the first few instances. Try pairing it with other icy titles, such as Extra Yarn, Tacky the Penguin, The First Day of Winter or the non-fiction title, Animals in Winter.
Follow up by making snow ice cream. If you’re reading this at a snow-less time of year or are worried about germs, you can use an ice shaver to make “snow.” If some of your kids have a dairy allergy, try the recipe with just vanilla and sugar, as my brother and I did when we were young.
If there’s snow outside, get out there and make some snowmen! If you can’t go outside or there’s no snow, try these snow-less crafts. Make a paper plate snowman or a garbage bag snowman (scroll to the bottom of the page).
Conversely, you could read this on a hot summer’s day as a “cool down” book and finish up with ice cream or another frozen treat (try frozen grapes or berries for a healthier option).
If you can’t get enough of Grandpa’s tall tales, check out the other books that feature Grandpa, Mary Ann, and Louie.