Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Book Review Club: November

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@Barrie Summy

Phew! Running around like a madwoman today, but now it’s time to take a deep breath and contemplate the simple joys. Don’t forget to click the icon at the top for more reviews!

 Red Sled
By Lita Judge
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
November 2011

When a writer (speaking strictly hypothetically) is up to her neck in the complexities of the teen years plus magic plus mayhem, it's a blessing when something comes along that alters the perspective. For me right now, that’s RED SLED, a brand new picture book by New Hampshire writer/illustrator Lita Judge.

This book has a simple plot and practically no words. It’s a book someone has thought about, hard, and pared down to essentials. It’s beautiful.

Here’s the plot: A child in a white snowsuit and red hat trudges home for the night, leaving a red sled outside his/her cozy cabin in a white wilderness. A bear borrows the sled, and before long is plummeting downhill with a collection of friends from a moose to a mouse. Some of the animals are giddy; others are terrified. They crash gleefully at the bottom of their hill, then return the sled. Next day, puzzled by all the paw-prints, the child waits for nightfall and peeps out to see what’s happening.

On the last page, a delirious pile of animals and red-hatted kid scuds downhill into the snowy night.

The text consists of “hmm?” (twice), “whoa” (twice), and “alley oop” (once), plus a marvelous, thoughtful collection of sounds: “gadung, gadung” when the sled hits some bumps, or “ssssffft” as it glides past on a straightaway. My favorite is “fluoomp…ft,” which is the noise a pile of animals makes when crashing into some snow.

A parent would enjoy reading this aloud with sound effects, but a child also could enjoy it alone. No wonder it got starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal.

I’m indebted to Melissa Stewart and the New England chapter of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) for letting me know about RED SLED. The author is recovering from an auto-immune disease (here’s her blog post on the subject), and is unable to help promote her book. So the word went out on the NESCBWI drums that others should step in. I’m happy to do so, and urge you to help spread the news any way you can. Judge’s web site is, if you want more information (or a peek at her other illustrations, which you definitely should see).

This is a book to treasure regardless of circumstances. But if you’re immersed in complexities, it’s a lifeline.


Melissa Stewart said...

What a lovely review. Thanks so much for letting eveyone know about this wonderful little gem of a book.

Ellen Booraem said...

Thanks for letting me know about it, Melissa. All my best to Lita Judge.

Barrie said...

I love the sound effects! And I can always use a little simplification (that is way too complicated a word for what I'm trying to say!) in my life. And I have an 11 y.o. who still enjoys picture books. So, thank you, thank you for such a delightful review!

Sarah Laurence said...

That does look delightful. I miss those picture book years with my kids, now teens.

Kathy Holmes said...

Oh, how cute! I may have to read it for myself! Uh, er, maybe read it to the cats... they love books!