“Hello there, Tortoise!” chirped Robin. “Would you like to join our singing class?” “No,” grumbled Tortoise. “I was trying to sleep. Tortoises don’t like winter.” “Why not?” chirped Robin. “They just don’t,” said Tortoise. And he packed up and left in search of a quieter home. (A Loud Winter’s Nap, Katy Hudson, Curious Fox, 2017)
As the sun is beginning to shine and the lighter evenings are here again, this will be our last winter-read for the time-being, but we couldn’t miss out on mentioning Katy Hudson’s beautifully illustrated picture book, A Loud Winter’s Nap before we move onto our spring collection of books.
In the follow-up to her bestselling picture book, Too many Carrots, we return to a few familiar characters, including Tortoise and Rabbit, where Tortoise is trying to do what comes natural to him – hibernate for the winter. His winter-friendly friends, however, have other ideas and try to tempt him to join the season’s activities that they themselves find so much enjoyment in – singing with the birds, digging in the snow, building things out of wood – all fairly loud and unappealing experiences to a Tortoise.
It is eventually the result of a fortunate accident that Tortoise comes to appreciate what his friends were trying to engage him in, and by the end of the tale Tortoise is the ring-leader of all things winter-fun.
Much of Hudson’s work focuses on team-work and socialisation for those children on the cusp of leaving the comfort of supervised home activities for the first time to start their independent school life. This is an important message for readers of A Loud Winter’s Nap, as Tortoise tries his best to remain where he is most comfortable, and ignore those that try to get him to join in the larger circle, where activities are taking place that he is unfamiliar with. As the first big transition in a child’s life, having books that show characters taking a leap of faith, joining in, even if they are at first afraid, and trusting in new people, is a useful tool in helping parents explain to their children that they will soon be part of a larger group of friends who will teach them new things.
This is a learning curve, but one that Tortoise does not have to undergo alone, as he realises the joys of winter are best experienced with others. From this he learns to be more social, more emotionally free, and confident. He also begins to see that you should always ask before you make a judgement on the things that others enjoy. He asks himself ‘why would anyone like winter?’ but he neglects to ask this of any of the local creatures – why do they enjoy it? The answer is discovered accidently, but he could have sought it out had he been more inquisitive or sensitive to the likes and dislikes of others, rather than just his own interests.
For the adult readers, this story is more of a reminder of how to appreciate the little things in life, and even in the darkest months there is always something to be enjoyed that can help change your wider perspective on things. The onomatopoeic words on each page representing the ‘noises’ of winter is also something that adult readers will enjoy reading out loud to children; there is something rather freeing and joyful in the sounds that makes you want to wake Tortoise from his reverie so that he can join in.
Of course as a picture book, the fun is in the extra little details that Hudson drops into her illustrations, such as the sign on the tree for Robin’s ‘winter singing class’, and Rabbit’s carrot-patch greenhouse labelled ‘Made by Rabbit.’ Hudson is often quoted as saying that her own daughter is the inspiration behind her creations and when you have young children who are not of reading age, it is often the random illustrations on a page that have nothing to do with the story that can be the most valued – the things that small hands can point to and laugh at.
It is worth investing in Too Many Carrots and The Golden Acorn books, so that children can see the differences and connections between the group of friends and how as a group they can achieve greater things and get a better understanding of the world.
Recommended for a reading age of four upward.
A Loud Winter’s Nap by Katy Hudson, published by Curious Fox, 2017.