Wednesday, May 5, 2004

One Winter's Night

Herman, John. 2003. ONE WINTER’S NIGHT. Ill. by Leo and Diane Dillon. New York: Penguin Putnam. ISBN 0399234187 [Suggested Ages 4-7]

This simple and poignant story centers around two parallel wintry journeys. Martha, a lost and lonely cow and an expectant Mary, with Joseph are about to give birth and simultaneously seek shelter in a deserted barn. “Martha was lost. It was bitter cold, snow was beginning to fall. It was too late in the year for a young cow to be out alone, especially when she was pregnant. Martha pushed with her nose against the door of the shed. She smelled the familiar odor of warmth and hay. A light burned. A donkey stirred…Martha smelled the odor of humans…they would help her and her baby.” On that star-studded night, and as the donkey and three magnificent deer witness the happy events, both Martha and the couple experience the birth of their firstborns and the joy of sharing the experience together.

Beautifully told and illustrated, the full-page spreads in pastels of shadowy lilac, pink, and blue green watercolors with sepia toned vignettes in the upper left hand corner of the adjacent page illuminate the creativity of Leo and Diane Dillon. The choice of pastels creates a soothing and calming effect. This oversized book would be a great bedtime choice during the fall and winter months.


Children could discuss experiences of their own when siblings were born. They could talk about how it feels to be a big brother or sister. They could discuss where their siblings were born and how different being born in a barn or a car or a subway would be. The scenarios are endless.

Children can be invited to make the sounds the donkey, deer, cow, and calf might make. They can draw a picture of a scene or create their own version of the story. They might
rewrite the story from one of the animal’s perspective.

Other books that present a cozy, warm, and peaceful effect on children:
Carle, Eric. DREAM SNOW. ISBN 0399235795
Foreman, Michael. CAT IN THE MANGER. ISBN 0805066772
Tafuri, Nancy. THE DONKEY’S CHRISTMAS SONG. ISBN 0439273137
Yolen, Jane. OWL MOON. ISBN 0399214577

By Rita Pickett

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