The Well Read Review: Arctic White

Arctic White
Danna Smith (Author), Lee White (Illustrator)
Henry Hold and Company, LLC

The day I purchased this book at the bookstore, I sat and read thirty or forty recently published picture books. I only bought one: Arctic White by Danna Smith (and three or four chapter books, and a couple of novels, and a board game, and...#bookstoreproblems).

Arctic White tells the tale of a little girl who hopes and waits for something more than white in all of the white of the Arctic, until the day her grandfather takes her on a journey to view the Northern Lights.

Like several of the books I've recently reviewed, the text is spare. In this story however, the spare text helps to emphasize the seeming lack of depth in the Arctic tundra in winter, where "everything is a shade of white" and "winter days are dark as night." Yet even with so few words, Danna Smith manages to imbue the text with subtle glances into deeper subjects, and reminds us that nature is never really lacking.

She neatly juxtaposes the warmth the little girl feels for her grandfather with the cold that "always finds a way to sneak inside your warmest parka." She reminds us of the hope the little girl feels, on the longest journey where "even footprints are white in the Arctic" through her grandfather's glowing lantern. Smith ties the wondrous beauty of nature and the Northern Lights back to the little girl's love of her grandfather, as the Northern Lights not only remind her to welcome the dark but also help her see "the twinkle in his eye." And since the little girl has an artist's eye for color (the blue-white versus the yellow-white versus the silver-white), of course she remembers the beauty through art.

Several reviews of this book mention that there isn't enough (or any) space given to setting or culture. While this is true, I don't feel that the story really needs it. There is always pressure to put more into our stories, to make them more useful for school readings and to teach children about the world. But there is so much more to teaching children than teaching history and place. There is hope, patience, trust, family, wonder, nature, art...and these are the lessons that Danna Smith teaches beautifully. 

What did you think about Arctic White? Would you recommend it?

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