I first heard about snow snakes when I was a kid. I’d fall, and someone, maybe a parent, maybe a friend would say “watch out for snow snakes!” In my mind, snow snakes were mischievous, rather devious, and something to be avoided.
Snow Snakes Are Good
So, imagine my surprise when I first read the new picture book, Sonder the Snow Snake, by Annie B. Fox, and discovered that snowsnakes want nothing more than to help skiers and riders — not trip us up! Or, as Sonder’s Grandslither (that’s grandmother in snow snake speak) puts it, “It’s great fun for a snow snake to hold on to a child’s boot and help them turn. If you would like, I can teach you how, but to do it well takes lots of practice.”
Practice — and patience — are not Sonder’s strong suit. Earlier in the book, Sonder tries to catch snowflakes, make snow angels and tunnel under the snow. Like most of us, Sonder wants to be able to do this things well — and immediately. When he tries and fails, he gives up wishing that he “could be really good at something.”
Thinking that “practice” doesn’t sound like so much fun, Sonder jumps in full-bore and attaches himself to a little girl. Predictably, she crashes. She’s not hurt, but Sonder is. So off he “slimps” (that’s limping for a snake) to Grandslither. Humbly, he asks for her advice, which she gives him.
Grandslither has a Zen-like outlook, so her first advice is to Sonder is go off into the forest and clear his mind. When he comes back, he’s ready to learn more, and soon, with practice, and patience, he is really good helping skiers and snowboarders turn, preventing falls instead of causing them.
When I opened Sonder the Snow Snake I was struck by the beauty of the illustrations. A combination of watercolors and freehand digital illustration, the colors are luminescent and images are evocative of Japanese art. This nod to Japan is purposeful. Author Fox has fond memories of her father telling her of his travel’s in that country and she is a fan of Asian design. As you read through the book, you notice not only Mt. Fuji in the background, but a likeness of “the Great Wave Off Kanagawa” a famous woodblock print from the 1830s. Other nods to Japan include the character for “snow” found in many of the pictures and the underlying philosophy.
I asked author Annie B. Fox about this connection. “Sonder is a little guy trying to be mindful and aware, and trying to develop wisdom and understanding. All of which are Buddhist ideals.” Although Sonder is named after Sondre Norheim, the Norwegian-American father of skiing, Fox felt that the message and tone of the book pointed due East.
Patience Is Good
The first time I read Sonder the Snow Snake, I read it out loud to my family as we were going skiing. I wanted to get their reactions and impressions. Everyone liked the story, but because I was reading it from a PDF on my laptop they couldn’t see the illustrations. They wanted to know was what Sonder looked like. When I showed them the warm and fuzzy rendering of Sonder, they liked the book even more. I think most kids will feel the same way.
Next I asked my family about the philosophy of practice and patience found within the story. I am not a patient person and when I asked my kids what they thought of the two-part message — patience and practice — my younger son looked at me and said “You won’t get it. You’re not patient at all.” And that, in the end, was what I most like about this book. While it’s a lovely, enjoyable picture book for kids, the message is universal. We can all learn something from Sonder.
Annie B. Fox has graciously offered to giveaway five copies of Sonder the Snow Snake to five readers of the Brave Ski Mom. To enter, please leave a comment. A random drawing for each of the five books will be held on Tuesday, January 24.
More information on Sonder The Snow Snake can be found at SonderTheSnowSnake.com. Purchase the book direct from this site and Annie will autograph it. Annie is also donating 5% of all proceeds from the sale of Sonder the Snow Snake to SaveTheSnowSnakes.org, a nonprofit dedicated to educating kids about climate change and how they can make a difference.
I reviewed Sonder the Snow Snake at the request of the author. To facilitate the review, I received a PDF file of the book, in lieu of the actual book. As always, all opinions are my own and are exactly what I would share with family and friends.
This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Jenny, Megan, Holly, Judy and Mindy!
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