Three anthropomorphic squirrel siblings explore the diminishingly snowy landscape of their forest home in this picture book.
First published in Japan in 1985, author/illustrator Iwamura’s quiet story has a timeless and ethereal feel. While the story is cutely ingenuous, the main appeal is the masterful watercolor illustrations, which are all full-bleed, double-page spreads rendered in a soft gray-green palette for the woods, while the squirrel protagonists, dressed in old-fashioned clothing (think Beatrix Potter), are rendered in complementary soft oranges and browns. The landscapes are gently layered; the pale branches of trees overlap and become darker as the perspective moves closer to viewers; the overall effect is one of deep, magical atmosphere. Three young squirrel siblings, Mack, Molly, and Mick, go out exploring in the melting snow and are curious about where the snow goes. They see a floating log and hop on, drifting (now anxiously) to a large pond, where they are rescued by some mallards, who tell them that the melted snow “goes to a river and then to the sea…it’s a time of rebirth.” The rhyming text, translated from the Japanese into German by Rose Pflock and then into English by Wilson, has a few awkward moments when it reaches for the rhyme as well as some disjointed areas. Still, it mostly succeeds at creating a lilting tone while getting across the deeper theme of the rebirth of spring, which is presented without fanfare or sanctimony.
Sincere and serene, with masterful, atmospheric illustrations. (Picture book. 3-7)