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Snow Lady
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K-Gr 3-- After school, Sam goes to elderly Mrs. Dean's until her family comes home. The two get along well, but Mrs. Dean is sometimes impatient with children, and Sam is glad to hear her mother's key in the lock. Sam's friend Barney, however, dislikes Mrs. Dean because ``she's always interfering and she hardly ever smiles.'' In fact, when he and Sam take advantage of a sudden snowfall and build a snow lady, Barney spells out ``Mrs. Mean'' on it because it reminds them both of the old woman. When Mrs. Dean returns unexpectedly, late on Christmas Eve, Sam worries that her feelings will be hurt by the sign on the snow lady, and her dreams that night are a jumble of anxieties wrapped in holiday paper and ribbon. Hughes draws children so that they have solidity, quirkiness, and individuality. She closely observes their outer life--the sweaters they wear, their shoes, their haircuts, showing 20th-century boys and girls--and she has an equally extraordinary talent for depicting their inner lives. The gently humorous drawing of Sam and Mrs. Dean side by side watching television captures an aspect of their relationship perfectly. Through many small gestures and poises, Hughes reveals the conscience-stricken Sam's uneasiness. Like Angel Mae (Lothrop, 1989), the story takes place at Christmas time but is not overwhelmed by the holiday. Whether as a yuletide adventure or a year-round story of compassion, this is a first-rate addition to picture book collections. --Anna Biagioni Hart, Sherwood Regional Lib . , Alexandria, VA

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