In a town that may look like yours, David wants snow. As he helps his mom with chores, the fineness of flour, the fluffiness of suds, and the crispness of sheets call snow to mind compelling him to check outside where there is ever-increasing snow-activity.
Napping, David dreams that a storm fills the house with snow. Armed with a vacuum and shovel, he and his mom try to clean up, but the snow is too big. When a thud shakes the house, David wakes up. It’s his dad, returned home early from work. The family bundles up and trudges down the empty street, leaving tracks behind them.
There is a deeply cozy “everyman” quality to Jonathan Bean’s books. The stories are small and quiet, and they remind that you are just one in “the wide world all around” – as the girl in Bean’s At Night thinks atop her apartment roof.
One of the beauties of Big Snow is what is conveyed in the illustrations organically, without fanfare: when David naps in an armchair next to a decorative Christmas tree, we see that the chores are Christmas preparations; there is a menorah in David’s neighbors’ window; David’s family – like 37% of the United States population – is a family of color. Visiting David’s home reminds me of how few picture books feature families that are not white and how absurd and wrong that is. In 2013, only 10% of children’s books published contained multicultural content – a gap that remained steady for the 18 years prior. It does feel like it is changing though– recently the disparity has come into the wider public eye; the organization We Need Diverse Books was established; and, anecdotally, as an avid picture book reader, it seems to me recent books have more diversity.
Published by Farrar Straus Giroux, 2013
Also by Jonathan Bean: At Night (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2007), in which a girl who can’t sleep is lured by the breeze to her apartment rooftop and Building Our House (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2013), in which a family moves to the country where they build their own home while living in a trailer – this is the author’s own life experience.