In this beautifully illustrated picturebook, the loving bond between a young boy and his grandma illuminates a natural history of exploration near her forest home.
‘When it was summer, I stayed at Granny Sylvie’s house. She knows lots of things. Like the names of flowers and how to spot a deer’s hoof print…’
Sylvie and her grandson have a special summer place – a secret glade where they watch a dormouse scampering up a hazel tree. But as the long, warm evenings give way to the bare white snow of winter and Sylvie’s grandson visits again, the dormouse is nowhere to be seen. Sylvie explains that she’s hibernating. The boy wants to know whether other animals are hiding, too, so Sylvie tells him about bats in hollow trees, earwigs beneath the ground and other living things that sleep all winter long.
As Granny Sylvie and the boy make their way through Chinyee Chiu’s evocative frozen landscapes, a series of cutaways and unusual perspectives allow us to see things that Sylvie and the boy cannot (a buried bee, the view from a bat roost, fish swimming beneath the ice…)
Readers will enjoy eavesdropping on their conversation and there is much to learn, but this book’s value goes beyond its ability to inform. Sylvie is portrayed convincingly as a confident and active older woman, and the warmth and closeness of their cross-generational bond is clear.
Written by a duo well-used to communicating with children, Winter Sleep has an appealing text and is well-pitched for its intended audience. The shift to a more conventional non-fiction format occurs quite naturally once the boy has gone to sleep, and its inclusion will equip readers with skills they can apply elsewhere.
Winter Sleep is a rewarding book that will interest children who don’t usually choose non-fiction – as well as those who do – and deserves to be widely shared.