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Arctic White Hardcover – January 5, 2016
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From School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2—A girl trudges across the cold and seemingly colorless Arctic tundra with her grandfather, observing that in winter, everything is a shade of white: the blue-white of the tundra, the yellow-white of the polar bear, and the silver-white of the arctic fox. She wonders where all the color went… "Did the wind blow it away?" Ultimately, after much patience and a mysterious walk with others in their community, her secretive grandfather leads them to the swirling colors of the northern lights, which joyously "dance across the sky." While White's intricate watercolor and ink illustrations are impressive and Smith's poetic imagery thought-provoking (e.g., "Grandfather says hope is golden. You can only see it when you look into a snowy owl's eyes."), readers are never informed where the story takes place, nor the culture of the main characters. A younger audience may also find it confusing comprehending what it means to be a shade of white, particularly the reference to the faint and remote picture of the yellow-white polar bear. The last few pages of the swirling, glowing, swooping northern lights are impressive enough to inspire readers to see this natural phenomenon for themselves (if not through travel, then via a YouTube video). Still, a better read on the topic is Mindy Dwyer's Aurora: A Tale of the Northern Lights (Alaska Northwest, 1997), which includes some background information on this rare and fascinating subject. VERDICT A picturesque book that would be better appreciated with more clarity about its setting and culture.—Etta Anton, Yeshiva of Central Queens, NY
“An engaging read-aloud for storytime and one-on-one sharing.” ―School Library Journal on Two at the Zoo
“Smith's picture book debut is a whirlwind trip to the zoo. . . . A great read-aloud.” ―Kirkus Reviews on Two at the Zoo
“This title inspires creative play, and is likely to be a treasure for years to come.” ―School Library Journal on Pirate Nap
“Beautiful, fun, and informative-a complete success.” ―School Library Journal on Balloon Trees
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As the grandfather shows the little girl, there is color in the white Arctic, the subtle yellow-white of the polar bear and the silver-white of the Arctic fox. Grandfather takes her on a journey through the blue-white tundra down a river, past sleeping seals to a spot on a very special hill where they wait with other villagers.
Soon, the Northern Lights appear like magic: “Purple swirling, green glowing, blue swooping, red pulsing—like your heartbeat.” Later in her igloo home, the girl draws the colors—page after page—and decorates the walls with them. The satisfying text and stunning art are a perfect match for an unusual story in an remarkable setting. Children will marvel at the beauty of the Arctic.
This is a satisfying, enjoyable story set in an environment new to most readers and young listeners. This picture book author just keeps on getting better and better! Well done.
Connie Goldsmith, children's book reviewer for California Kids and The New York Journal of Books