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Thursday, December 05, 2019

In the Bleak Midwinter: Wintercake by Lynne Rae Perkins

Thomas Bear is befuddled. He can't find his basket of dried fruit. He hunts for it throughout the house and then goes outside, where Lucy Bird helps him search, fruitlessly.

"I WON'T BE ABLE TO MAKE THE WINTERCAKE," THOMAS LAMENTS.

"A WINTER'S EVE WITHOUT WINTERCAKE.

I ASK YOU, WHAT KIND OF HOLIDAY IS THAT?"

Lucy suggests that there's more to the holiday than cake and takes her leave, flying off into the falling snow. Soon it is snowing too thickly to fly, and she finds herself grounded and about to be buried in the wet snowfall. She pulls herself together and walks toward the lights ahead. Something smells good.
"TEA!" SHE SAYS ALOUD. "COCOA. AND PASTRIES."

Inside the tea room, there's a bustling business. All the customers are talking about the wintry weather. Porcupine says he feels like hibernating. Squirrel says the weather is nuts. A weasel is telling Beaver about the basket of dried fruits he's found. Aha! thinks Lucy, who follows the suspicious character with the basket outside into the snow.

But he stomps through the deep snow straight to Thomas' door and hands over the basket of dried fruits, which he found by the pond, to Thomas.
"I THINK THESE MAY BE YOURS," HE SAYS.

A HOLIDAY WITHOUT WINTERCAKE IS A POOR ONE, INDEED!"

Weasel takes his leave, leaving Thomas feeling a little guilty for being so forgetful, and soon he and Lucy decide that the right thing to do is to share their celebration with their new friend.
"LET'S MAKE HIM A WINTERCAKE!" SAYS THOMAS.

By the time the cake is baked, Weasel is long gone. Following his footprints in the snow, they set off bravely through the winter weather. But it's a terrible trip, through a tangle of vines and across a pond, where Thomas ferries the cake by doing the backstroke with the cake balanced on his belly. It's getting dark and Thomas and Lucy stumble over a cliff and into the deep snow below. They land well, and the Wintercake is no worse for wear. But now it's really dark. And cold. Then Lucy spots a light far ahead, and inside a hollow in the hill there is Weasel, all alone on Winter's Eve, with only a candle.

But now there is Wintercake!

In the bleak midwinter, when frosty wind makes moan, it's good to come together with a warm fire and some festive food, and Newbery author Lynne Ray Perkins' lovely winter's tale, Wintercake (Greenwillow Books, 2019), warms and lightens the heart with her theme of goodwill and sharing. Author-illustrator Perkin's narration contrasts her fusty Thomas Bear and buoyant Lucy Bird as she contrasts beautiful but chilly scenes of snowy storms set against dark blue sky and snug interior scenes lit by yellow candlelight and cheery firesides. There is a primeval urge to gather and make merry during the winter solstice, and young readers will subliminally understand that feeling as they enjoy Perkins' cozy and lovable critter celebrants. This is a fine story, enlivened by Perkin's jubilant palette of warm yellows and cool blues and browns, a well-told tale for the whatever wintry holiday we choose.

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