In the midst of a snowy rural landscape stands a single house with door open and lights aglow. An old scarecrow enters, invited by the (as yet) unknown narrator. Scarecrow in turn brings – tucked in his sleeve – a mouse. Next comes a butterfly seeking a place to hibernate and after that a robin, a squirrel, a rabbit, a cat, a dog, a lamb and fawn, a donkey, a heron, a fox and finally,
‘The owl swooped down silent and slow,
Shaking off flakes of frozen snow.’
All eventually snuggle and doze in blissful comfort in front of a blazing log fire listening to the storm raging outside, before that is, taking a final peep through the window at the snow-covered world. And, it is only then that we discover that the storyteller’s voice belongs to a little boy.
The cumulative nature of Patten’s verse cries out for audience participation and is a joy to read aloud. There is poetry too in Nicola Bayley’s crayon pictures in which she portrays the various visitors with breath-taking accuracy and touching tenderness. The fine and delicate detail in each of the spreads, both inside and outdoors, holds the eye and makes one want to linger to explore, revisit and enjoy them in their own right.