I saw Matthew Cordell's picture book, Wolf in the Snow, at work. There are very few words in this ink-and-watercolor illustrated book. But, oh, the heart in it!
Cordell tells and illustrates the story of a little girl on the plains somewhere. While the little girl isn't realistically drawn, she is so wrapped up in winter clothes that you can't see her features anyways. But, her red parka shows up beautifully against the fields, and then the snow. She leaves school in a snowstorm, and those are stunning, cold pictures of her as she crosses the fields. Coming from the opposite direction is a pack of wolves, beautifully alive. The pup of the pack falls behind in the snow, and Cordell shows the little girl in a round snowball illustration heading one way, and the little pup in a round snowball coming toward her. We hear her huffing, and him whining. She rescues him, fights off other animals, and has the courage to head across a solid white field in the direction of a wolf's howl. In one illustration, we see the wide-eyed face as she holds the little wolf. In the other, we see the wide-eyed mother wolf. After the little girl turns the pup over to the mother, she continues trying to reach home, but stumbles and falls in the snow. She treks on, toward the barking of her own dog, but stumbles again, falls and curls in to a ball. The wolves have followed her, and the pup licks the freezing child as the other wolves gather around and howl. Led by the howling, the little girl's mother and dog show up to rescue her. The final picture resembles the opening illustration. The little girl and her family is home in a cabin, with a fire, and a carving of a howling wolf on the mantelpiece.
There are no words in this book, other than huffing, howling, and barking. But, the snow, the blizzard, the layout, and the story have so much heart. Cordell tells an entire story of courage and caring with those few words and gorgeous illustrations. I buy very few children's books. But, this one moves me every time I read it.
So, I've read a picture book three times, marveling at the artwork and story. What are you reading? I'd love to know.