Once Upon a Winter Day by Liza Woodruff

Once Upon a Winter Day by Liza Woodruff
Publisher: Margaret Ferguson Books
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A boy learns that nature is full of stories to tell when he finds and follows a mouse’s tracks in a wintery wood.

Milo wants a story, but his mom is too busy to entertain him. Instead, she encourages him to go out and play in the snow. At first, Milo is disappointed – he doesn’t want to play outside, he wants a story.

But when he starts to follow a trail of mouse-prints, he discovers signs of activity all around, prompting him to ask, “What happened here?” Before long, he’s using his imagination — depicted in lush wordless spreads that capture the vividness of Milo’s fantasies — to fill in the gaps. By the time Milo comes home, he’s the one with stories to tell.

There can’t possibly be anything interesting happening in the woods in the middle of winter, right?

I adored how this story handled Milo’s disinterest in going outside in the first scene. Not everyone immediately enjoys spending time in nature, especially on a cold and snowy day when it didn’t seem like there was much to do out there at all. Seeing him slowly come up with ways to amuse himself out there was delightful and felt realistic to me. There are countless ways to pass time on a snowy day, and his solution to his problem fit his personality and interests beautifully.

The subplots were just as exciting as the main one. They involved the various animals who had passed through the area shortly before Milo was sent outdoors, and it was a great deal of fun to follow all of them to their natural conclusions. While I can’t go into detail about most of them without giving away spoilers, I will say that the mysterious quest the mice were on appealed to me the most. It was nicely communicated to the audience and the ending for it made me smile.

One of my favorite portions of this tale was related to how much freedom Milo had to explore the land near his family’s home. It seemed to be an incredibly safe place for a child to wander around in, so he had plenty of opportunities to investigate anything outside that caught his attention. This isn’t something I see happen very often in modern books written for this age group, but I thought it was nicely shown here. There is definitely something to be said for giving kids the space to figure things out on their own when they’re bored or don’t know what to do next.

Once Upon a Winter Day was a perfect winter picture book.

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