Review: Best Friends in the Snow

Angela Shelf Medearis and new-to-me illustrator Ken Wilson-Max team up for an early reader about playing in the snow.

Best Friends in the Snow by Angela Shelf Medearis, illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max.
Cartwheel books imprint, Scholastic, New York, 1999 (my edition is a 2003 reprint).
Seasonal realistic fiction, 22 pages + literacy activities.
Lexile: 60L
AR Level: 1.1 (worth 0.5 points)
NOTE: Although I’m not reviewing it on Fiction Friday, this is a fiction book.

Two best friends, a white boy and a black girl, engage in fun wintertime activities in this simple early reader text.

Best Friends in the Snow by Angela Shelf Medearis, illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max.

Angela Shelf Medearis is the author – you probably don’t even need me to review it to know that it’s great.  Both the author and illustrator are #ownvoices.

This book is just made to delight preschoolers.  The words are simple, with no more than two sentences per page and often less.  The first page has the longest text of the entire book.  Ken Wilson-Max was new to me, although his style felt familiar.

While researching him for this review, I realized that he is also the illustrator of two board books by Karen Baicker that have long been on my wish list.  Wilson-Max is from Zimbabwe but now lives and works out of the UK.  He has two other books (Halala Means Welcome: A Book of Zulu Words and Furaha Means Happy: A Book of Swahili Words) which I’ve already added to my long wish list, and a plethora of books for the toddler to second graders in your life.

Wilson-Max’s bold, colorful painted illustrations are so appealing to young children.  Although they use different mediums, his artwork reminds me of Mo Willems in the confident, simple yet very expressive lines and the use of palette to show emotions.  The layering of the paint gives an almost collage feel, and the different brushstrokes used give depth to the expressions even though the faces are drawn very simply.

Best Friends in the Snow opening pages.

Although the artwork appears simple, a great deal of thought was put into each page, which is evident if you turn the pages and watch the color of the sky subtly change.  Every brushstroke is intentional and contributes to the whole.  I also liked that the cover, while depicting a scene from the book, was not simply a page from the book with the title instead of text.  Wilson-Max is clearly an early children’s book illustrator to watch.

I cannot recall the source now, but some time ago I read a blog post about the subtle discrimination of seasonal books.  Dark-skinned protagonists are often relegated to books about the heat of summer, and there is a real need for more seasonal books about black children playing in the fall leaves, enjoying a snowfall, and playing in the rain.  I’m happy to have found quite a few winter books so far and am always on the lookout for more.

There is a sore need for appropriate diverse early readers at the earliest levels, and these two are certainly doing their part.  Recommended for kindergarten and first grade students and classrooms.

Author: colorfulbookreviews

I work in a library by day and parent the rest of the time. I am passionate about good books representing the full spectrum of human diversity for every age group and reading level. This blog is my attempt to help parents, educators, and librarians find the best children's books authored by or featuring characters of color.

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