Samson in the Snow by Philip C, Stead is a nominee for the Buckeye Children’s & Teen Book Award in the K-2 category. The official website erroneously has this title written as “Sampson” in the Snow.
From the Cover
As a sunny day turns cold Samson must go looking for his friend. Little does he know he’s about to meet two in this tender tale of kindness and unexpected friendship from the creator of Ideas Are All Around.
Samson is a woolly mammoth, or perhaps a very hairy elephant, that tends a dandelion patch with only his flowers for company. One day a red bird appears and asks Samson for one of his yellow flowers for a friend who is having a bad day and loves the color yellow. Samson gives the bird three of his best flowers and the bird flies off while Samson falls asleep wondering what it would be like to have a friend.
A snowstorm blows in and turns the landscape white and Samson worries about the bird so he goes out in search of her trudging through hill and valley. He stumbles upon a mouse that is having a bad day and offers him a ride. The mouse is also looking for someone. The snow gets deeper and they rest near an “unlikely” patch of dandelions. Samson asks the mouse if he has a favorite color and the mouse replies that it is yellow. Samson says his favorite color is yellow too. He plucks the dandelions from the snow only to find the little red bird. The bird is too cold so Samson takes his little companions to a cave where they warm up and tell stories about their adventures in the snow. The storm passes.
I am struggling to find something good to say about this book. I think some of the art is nice enough.
I have no idea why Samson has a dandelion patch and the blossoms never seed and blow away to the wind. It seems like this is a children’s literature equivalent of having a character with a gun that never shoots it.
The characters all seem very flat to me. Samson wants a friend and likes the color yellow, the mouse has a bad day and likes the color yellow, the bird asks for a flower for his friend and then never talks again. The dialogue is sparse – but the action is too, so it doesn’t seem like much happens at all.
There are several pages where the bird is dwarfed by a page of snow and ice and appears to be dead. The frail body really looks like a bloodstain on the snow. The characters in general look pretty messy and murky.
I expect picture books to have a tight, cohesive story and art that contributes to the story. I feel like Samson has neither. I do not see this circulating well or being used in any story time. I will be very surprised if this wins the K-2 category.