The Biggest, Best Snowman Review

The Biggest, Best Snowman
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Little Nell wants to do big things like BIG Mama and her older sisters do. "No you can't" they tell her, "You're just too small". In this story The Biggest, Best Snowman, Little Nell learns that she can do big things, despite what her family says. This delightful tale teaches children that they, like Little Nell, are never too small to do big things when they really try. This message is conveyed through repetition and symbolism. The captivating illustrations and fairy-tale elements in this story keep a child interested, while reinforcing the message of the book. I recommend this book as a great read for children ages 2-8 and their parents, or anyone who wants a little boost of confidence and self worth.

REPETITION: At the beginning of this story, repetition is used to emphasize the seemingly huge difference between Little Nell and almost everything around her. "Little Nell lived with BIG Mama, BIG Sarah and BIG Lizzie in a BIG house in a BIG snowy woods". The word "BIG" in all caps appears over and over again throughout the book and is associated with almost everything but Little Nell. Finally, when Nell shows her family that she has built the "Biggest, best Snowman that ever was" ,they ask her to help make a "BIG yummy lunch" and give her "BIG" hugs and kisses. Although Little Nell is still small, this repetition of the word "BIG" involves her in the "BIG" things too by the end of the story.

While Nell and her friends build the snowman repetition is used to emphasize the hard work they put in to do a big thing. Little Nell "patted and matted and batted the snow into a ball", then "rolled and rolled it and rolled it" to Reindeer who "nudged it and nudged it and nudged it" to Hare. Each of the 4 friends (Little Nell, Reindeer, Hare and Bear Cub) perform a similar repeated motion for each of the three pieces of the snowman. The effort the friends put into the building of this big snowman becomes clearer with each repetition.

SYMBOLISM: The symbolism in The Biggest, Best Snowman is simple enough that a child can easily understand. A child reading this book can learn that not only could they build a snowman like Little Nell, but that they could do any other big thing, if they will just try. Nell is a symbol for every child who has ever been told they are "too small". Most children can relate to this feeling, which helps them see themselves symbolically represented in Little Nell. The Snowman itself will symbolize something different for every reader- perhaps learning to ride a bike, playing an instrument, or even learning to read. These are big things that big people do to a child. The Snowman is symbolic of a big thing the child wants to achieve through hard work and determination. Little Nell has animal friends who help her build the snowman. These friends represent a parent, a teacher or sibling that can help to do the big thing. It is through the symbols in The Biggest, Best Snowman that a child can relate and learn from the story.

ILLUSTRATIONS: Will Hillenbrand provides the beautiful and interesting illustrations in The Biggest, Best Snowman. These illustrations serve to entertain while drawing out certain elements of the story that reinforce the message that someone small can do big things. The illustrations powerfully emphasize the difference between little Nell and her surroundings. Young children who cannot read will still get the idea by looking at the pictures. In one illustration near the beginning of the book, we find Little Nell, shorter than the table, surrounded by BIG Mama, BIG Lizzie, and BIG Sarah. This enhances Little Nell's diminutive appearance. BIG Mama wears a bright pink polka dotted dress, and an apron. BIG Sarah is portrayed wearing a lot of jewelry (including a pair of Christmas ornament earrings) and elaborately styled hair. BIG Lizzie is portrayed with multiple colors in her hair, and multiple ponytails. Little Nell, by contrast, wears no jewelry or ornaments of any kind. She wears a simple red sweater, with her straight black hair pulled back into a single ponytail. In an illustration near the end of the book, however, Little Nell is lifted up in an embrace to the BIG level of BIG Mama and BIG Sarah. In the final illustration, we see a triumphant Little Nell high in the air, perched upon her creation- "the biggest best snowman that ever was". The difference in how Little Nell is portrayed at the beginning of the book and how she is portrayed at the end show that little Nell has proven that she can achieve something big, and gained confidence.

FAIRY-TALE ELEMENTS: The main function of the fairy-tale elements included in The Biggest Best Snowman is to entertain and interest the child. Little Nell has three anthropomorphic friends: Reindeer, Hare, and Bear Cub. Children know that animals can't talk, so this non-realistic element provides a "magic" or "fairy-tale" quality to the tale. Besides, what child hasn't wished that his or her pet could talk? These unrealistic characters let the child slip into a fantasy realm where their wish can come true. Reindeer, Hare, and Bear Cub encourage Little Nell to teach them how to build a snowman, and then help her do it. These characters are the only ones who believe in Little Nell, and, being animals who do not know how to make a snowman, let Little Nell take the lead in doing her big thing.

This delightful winter tale conveys a positive message to children, and is entertaining at the same time. The children who hear or read this story will learn through repetition, symbolism, illustrations, and personified characters to say with Little Nell: "Yes I can."

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