Picture Book Review: Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell
A girl is lost in a snowstorm. A wolf cub is lost, too. How will they find their way home?
Paintings rich with feeling tell this satisfying story of friendship and trust. Here is a book set on a wintry night that will spark imaginations and warm hearts, from Matthew Cordell, author of Trouble Gum and Another Brother.
Matthew Cordell‘s work in children’s literature is, to me, a constant source of joy and discovery. He is a picture book author/illustrator whose work I love recommending to kids and adults; there’s something slightly bonkers, usually funny and always meaningful in his story and drawing style. From his work in Another Brother (a personal favourite) to illustrations in the Justin Case series to Lost. Found., his work is truly excellent and little out of the box. Now, with Wolf in the Snow, an almost wordless picture book, his work as author and illustrator truly takes on another level of sublime.
The story begins as young girl waves bye-bye to her barking dog, waves bye-bye to her classmates and proceeds to get lost in a sudden and dangerous snowstorm. Running parallel to the young girl’s story is that of a young wolf pup who gets separated from his wolf pack in the same snowstorm. As the bundled-up girl struggles, sweats and ‘huff’ ‘huff’s her way through the snow, her path converges with that of the now-whining and scared wolf pup. Without giving away the entirety of the story here, I will say that the young girl shows tremendous tenacity, care and bravery in the face of obstacles, fear and exhaustion. At the climax, an incredible moment of kindness and recognition passes between child and wolf and wolf and human family, leading to a wonderfully stirring story. In their starred review of Wolf in the Snow, Kirkus writes that Cordell is able to, successfully, ‘capture many feelings’ through the almost wordless text by virtue of his expressive illustrations, elevating the story above and beyond another picture book about kindness. I would absolutely agree with this statement: the picture book is filled with evocative illustrations by way of facial cues- of wide, or red-rimmed, or tired eyes, of wolf gazes and stares- of physical movements including collapse, bodily exhaustion, drips of sweat, cold puffs of breath and more…Cordell tells so much, so effectively and deeply with his particular and unique illustrative style.
I hope we see Wolf in the Snow talk come around during Caldecott considerations! I for one, sometimes feel as though Cordell’s work is perhaps…well, not under-read nor under-appreciated, but I feel like it might really be his time to shine even more. Overall, I absolutely LOVE, love Wolf in the Snow– within the pages of this picture book is something luminous, aching, sweet and memorable for readers (and picture book aficionados) of all ages. Gorgeous!
I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.