Picture Book of the Day: the wondrous Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell

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Wolf in the Snow, illustrated and written by Matthew Cordell, Feiwel & Friends,  978-1250076366.  First of all let me say I love wolves.  So any book that gives me a great wolf story rises to the top of my “favorites” pile.  This poignant, near wordless tale depicts the bond that quickly develops between a brave young girl wearing a Little Red Riding Hood style jacket and a scared wolf cub separated from its pack on a cold, snowy day.  Cordell’s work is always a joy, but here he does something brand new with his pen and ink with watercolor art, and the result is a book that gives the reader goosebumps.  Cordell serves up two linked storylines that merge as we cut back and forth between the huffing, shivering girl walking home from school and the little wolf who falls increasingly behind its elders.  When the two characters meet on an unforgettable series of spreads, we see a bond form.  And yet, we don’t get a cutesy revelation that the wolf wants to hang with humans.  The reader knows, and the girl knows that she must reunite the frightened animal with its pack, and a real sense of urgency develops.  Cordell gives the work the feel of a timeless fable as the kid saves the creature from a variety of dangers, and is then rewarded later by the wolves who come to her aid.  His masterful use of double page spreads deepens the tension of the unfolding events.  And I love how he puts the girl (holding the cub) and an adult wolf parent in circular frames as they face each other–her eyes wide with terror as the baby wolf howls–they share a connection but nature separates them.  This keeps the book from becoming too saccharine; there’s a sense of danger here.  The humans in the story look stylized in their oversized coats, but Cordell renders the wolves more realistically, and the effect adds punch.  The book’s final third is emotionally satisfying as we see an appreciative lick from the saved wolf cub and howls from its elders that save her life.  Matthew Cordell’s Wolf in the Snow is simply one fantastic book, and will certainly make my list of the very best of 2017.        

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