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A Winter’s Tale

by Ian Wallace

Some books are like a ramble through the woods. There is a beginning, a middle, and a conclusion, but the plot is secondary to the atmosphere, and the means are more important than the end. A Winter’s Tale is such a book.

Author/illustrator Ian Wallace has been active in the children’s book industry for more than 20 years but his work seems to be getting fresher. The messages are subtler, his artwork is ever-expanding in style, and he is finally getting the recognition he deserves. Wallace has become the master of those small moments of beauty that are at the heart of A Winter’s Tale.

The main character, Abigail, is a sweet and determined little girl, who, at the age of nine, is finally old enough to join her brother and father on their annual winter expedition. Leaving the city behind, the threesome venture deep into the woods on snowshoes to begin the work and play of setting up camp. Happy, hungry, and triumphant, Abigail stands upon an ancient rock and sees “the beauty of the bush…a pristine landscape rolling with hills as silent as sleeping polar bears.”

Absent from this book is the heavy symbolism that dominated Wallace’s earlier work, most notably the previous book he illustrated, Sarah and the People of Sand River. Fans of Sarah will be disappointed if they go looking for hidden meaning in A Winter’s Tale. The detail is still here but it is in the trees and the shadows they cast, the warm stew, cold air, and clear skies. Even the snow banks have depth and texture.

The book’s strength does not rest with its plot. There is a fawn, a tangled fishing line, a rescue, and a magnificent escape, but what makes this story is the time Wallace takes with it. For both the reader and Abigail herself, what happens is less important than the fact of being there.


Reviewer: Hadley Dyer

Publisher: Groundwood


Price: $15.95

Page Count: 32 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 0-88899-286-6

Released: Oct.

Issue Date: 1997-12

Categories: Picture Books

Age Range: ages 4–7