Margery Cuyler's The Biggest, Best Snowman
Children's book review by Suzanne Holland
How many times have you heard yourself saying to a child “You’re too small (or too little, or too young...) to help”?
If these words ever escaped your lips, or if you remember them being said to you, then this story will certainly resonate!
The main character of this book is Little Nell, the youngest of a family that includes Big Mama, Big Lizzie and Big Sarah. The personalities of these characters are as oversized as their names. They wear odd outfits, speak in Big voices and have really Big parties. They also have bizarrely big hairdos, and Mama looks like the old time Bozo the Clown!
At this holiday season Little Nell asks if she can help. You can guess the response!! Little Nell is feisty, but it is no use. Discouraged, she trudges out to the Big woods to find sympathy from her friends Hare, Bear and Reindeer.
These loyal companions ask her to make a snowman. Poor Little Nell forlornly replies that she is just too little.
These are the friendliest forest animals you will ever meet! They just emanate confidence and encouragement. With their urging, Nell starts with a small snowball. The language is so rhythmic:
“She patted and matted and batted the snow into a tiny ball.”
The animals help it along: Reindeer nudged it to Hare who kicked it to Bear who rolled it to a stop.
Will Hillenbrand’s forest illustrations are lovely and delicate. The details of the animals are realistic, and Nell is a focal point in her bright red.
The snowman gets Bigger and Bigger! (Every child should be able to read and spell the word big after this!) The details are added and the BIGGEST (and best) snowman you ever saw is finished!
Naturally, the Big sisters cannot believe this accomplishment of Nell so they trudge through the woods to see. Seriously, the fashion sense of this family is just too weird!!
I have found that up to this point the characters hover on being like the ugly stepmother and stepsisters (not so much in words but in attitude), but Mama redeems herself here. She proudly embraces Nell and henceforth, Nell is just big enough!!
One sister, Big Lizzie, is resistant and the children sometimes ask why she’s so mean. Why is any older sibling mean? This is one of those chances to talk about relationships in families.
I have used The Biggest, Best Snowman in my class many times. It always elicits great discussions about size and ability, about needing to believe in yourself, and about the value of good friends.
Children of this age group are sensitive to comments about their age and they are so eager to prove themselves capable.
The Biggest, Best Snowman by Margery Cuyler is a happy reminder that even the smallest among us are capable of doing big things!!
More books about winter.
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