It is December 10 and we haven’t seen even one snowflake in western Augusta County, Virginia. The weather this week is mild for this time of year — the forecast calls for upper 60s — and we are hearing that El Nino is affecting the East Coast.
Meanwhile, I’m longing for snow … which made me think of a children’s book that was a Christmas gift to nine-year-old daughter Katy for our first Christmas in the Shenandoah Valley in 1996. “When Will it Snow?” is beautifully written and illustrated by Bruce Hiscock, circa 1995, who dedicated the book, “To my good friends, and to everyone whose spirits soar when the first snowflakes fall. Special thanks go my nephew Will as Robin.”
I somewhat longingly leafed through the pages today remembering the years reading that book to my children as we waited for the first snow. Some years it came in October … other years it was more elusive. We knew what Robin felt like as he wondered when white flakes would finally fall from the sky:
Robin is ready for snow. Every morning he rushes to the window hoping to see the old meadow covered in white, but winter is late this year. His mom patiently tries to help him wait, as together they prepare for the long North Country season.
In the fields and woods around Robin’s house, the animals are getting ready, too. The deer mouse is storing seeds. The snowshoe hare has grown a white coat, and the fox with three legs is trying to hunt again.
Luminous watercolor illustrations show busy winter preparations in town and in the woods, while Robin and the animals wait for that one hour when the world is magically changed by the first snowfall.
The bio on the back flap of the hardcover book tells about author and illustrator Bruce Hiscock. All these years later, I find it ironic that he grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where my Texas niece now attends the University of Michigan, something that was not even on the horizon during the years we were reading the story out loud:
Bruce Hiscock grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he spent many winter days in buckle boots sledding down the snow-covered hills. When he was eleven, his family moved to Shemya, Alaska, where the snowdrifts sometimes covered the door and windows of their house.
Later, curious about how things work, Bruce went on to study science and chemistry in college, but he always kept a sketchbook and made time for drawing. He found that learning both science and art provides a good balance for exploring nature and the world.
In this book, all of the animals are based on the real inhabitants of the woods around the author’s house. He first saw the three-legged gray fox on a cold winter night, searching under the bird feeder for seeds. “I knew right away I must feed her, Bruce said, “and so I put out a little dog food on the snow each evening to keep her from starving.”
Bruce lives in Porter Corners, New York, on the edge of the Adirondack Mountains. Every year he and his friends eagerly await the first snowfall, and the cross-country skiing that follows.
I flipped to the first page with the opening words of the book … “The north country was waiting for winter to begin. … so far, not a single snowflake had fallen. Even high on the hills the ground was still bare. Winter was late….”
So I will continue to look at the long-range weather forecast for the Shenandoah Valley and wonder, “When will it snow?”
Read more about “When Will It Snow?” from Bruce Hiscock on his website as he shares how the book came to be and the inspiration he drew from his surroundings.