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Stella, Queen of the Snow

by Marie-Louise Gay

Prolific, award-winning Montreal author/illustrator Marie-Louise Gay has delightful access to the world seen through a child’s eyes. Stella, Queen of the Snow is a wonderful picture book – child-oriented, fancifully illustrated, joyful, funny, and sweet. The loose watercolour drawings beautifully capture the thin fresh light of winter and Stella’s and Sam’s big emotions.

As in the Ruth Schwartz Award-winning picture book Stella, Queen of the Sea, the intrepid orange-haired Stella introduces her little brother Sam to a new experience: “Sam had never seen snow,” begins the story. He has many questions: Can you eat a snowflake? Do dogs get cold? Do snow angels sing? His consternation about ice, snow, and going downhill fast are universally understandable doubts. Stella is enthusiastic, reassuring him at every turn, her self-confidence translating into generosity and tact. Her answers to Sam’s uneasy questions mingle poetic imagination with hard facts. “Is snow cold?” Sam asks nervously at the beginning, still shy inside the house. “Is it hard and icy?” Stella replies with her usual flair: “Snow is as cold as vanilla ice cream, and as soft as baby rabbit fur.” Stella explains about the frogs sleeping beneath the ice, and how birds wear tiny snowboots much like Sam’s own. When Sam finally relaxes in this strange new landscape and makes snow angels with his big sister, the last illustration in Marie-Louise Gay’s playful artwork is a charming finale. This is a book that will be opened again and again, for both story and pictures.