Wednesday, February 08, 2012

'S No Valentine: Snowy Valentine by David Petersen

On a snowy Valentine's Day, Jasper Bunny still could not think of a gift good enough for Lilly. Jasper loved his wife very much, so he couldn't give her just any old gift.

Ah, a common dilemma. The greater the devotion, the harder the choice.

Jasper decides to seek the wisdom of the group and sets forth down the steep hillside in the snow to see what kind of Valentine gifts his neighbors are giving their near and dear.

The Porcupines are settled around a cozy fire, with all seven porcupine pups knitting away on a scarf for their mama. They are all too happy to teach Jasper their art, but Jasper is all thumbs, and after extricating himself from the tangled yarn, concludes that knitting is not for him.

Marion the Frog's window glows with yellow light and she eagerly shows off her special gift for her beloved--a heart-shaped box stuffed with hand-dipped chocolate-covered flies.

"Definitely not something my Lilly would enjoy!" Jasper muses.

Jasper plods on through the snow and meets up with Everett Raccoon's colorful gypsy caravan, his bouquets in full display, hoping for a last-minute Valentine's Day sale. But, alas, the flowers have wilted in the chill, and frost-bitten posies don't exactly make the statement he's after. Jasper trudges on through the snow until he comes to the cottage of Teagan the Fox, his mullioned windows glowing with firelight inside. Teagan welcomes him warmly and quickly ushers him inside. But then, things take an unfortunate turn:

"I do understand," says Teagan with an ingratiating smile. "I myself have been hunting all day for a Valentine's gift to impress my vixen, Faith--

And I think rabbit stew would be just the ticket!"

Egad! Things have come to a pretty pass, Jasper muses, as he finds himself literally in the soup! Either Faith Fox or Lilly Rabbit is going to be seriously disappointed on this Valentine's Day!

But love will find a way, and there will be a Valentine surprise in store for Lilly and for readers in David Petersen's Snowy Valentine (Harper, 2011)--a huge heart-shaped Valentine in the snow, created by Jasper's faithful tracks, and Lilly's happiness will be complete.

David Petersen, whose graphic style is familiar from his popular Mouse Guard series, is at his best in his first color picture book. Although his plotline breaks no new trails through the well-trodden February story snowscape, his illustrations, black-line drawings, bright with delicate and luminous watercolor, have great charm, evoking hobbit-y homes or the seven dwarves' cozy cottage: Miriam Frog's little random-stone house features rounded glowing windows, their mullioned panes forming spiderweb shapes, and Petersen's interiors recall the snug dwellings of Frog and Toad, Winnie the Pooh, and other classic characters. Publishers Weekly also puts Petersen in very good artistic company, writing "Petersen’s storytelling and artwork offer hints of Beatrix Potter and Kenneth Grahame. It’s a world that readers will be happy to lose themselves in."

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