27 January 2008

Bedtime Stories

Danny's First Snow (Gore, Leonid)
The Buffalo Storm (Appelgate, Katherine and Jan Ormerod, illus.)
Amanda Pig, Schoolgirl (Van Leeuwen, Jean and Ann Schweninger, illus.)

We had a bit of snow today, which no one seemed to be expecting, so a snow book seemed a cozy fit. But tonight's real treat was The Buffalo Storm. It told the story of a pioneer family headed west for Oregon (its not clear where they started from.) The story is told through the eyes of a young girl who isn't afraid of anything, except storms. And although her heart breaks at leaving her grandmother behind, she is a brave little participant in a long wagon train, lyrically described as "beads slowly stringing." (The poetic moment was slightly tarnished, though, when my daughter commented that the covers of the wagons looked like toilet paper rolls. Which they did!) When the girl witnesses a buffalo storm--a wild, enthusiastic, stampede of "crazed with life" buffalo--she is able to put behind her both her fear of storms and her "homesickness" for her grandmother. This was a beautiful book, both visually and emotionally. I've been a fan of Jan Ormerod for years; I loved the Miss Mouse books, and she has a wonderful back catalog of wordless picture books. But I've always dismissed Katherine Applegate--also known as K.A. Applegate--as a writer of series fiction. That's not a diss of series fiction in general, because I'm a fan. But her long running Animorph's series has never appealed to me and has always struck me as formulaic (plus it made the dreaded jump to TV.) To have written a debut picture book that is such a departure from her previous work is a real testament to her talent. Perhaps now with The Buffalo Storm, and the highly regarded Home of the Brave, Applegate will move out of the shadow of her success and show us what other stories she has inside her.

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