One Frozen Lake by Deborah Jo Larson, illustrated by Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher. 9780873518666. 2013. PS-2.
I like winter. It’s true. And yes, I live in Minnesota, where we really do have winter—snow, ice, blizzards, wind chill. Our daily high temperatures are sometimes below zero. I actually love it all.
My older son, Alex, didn’t inherit my winter genes. In fact, he moved south to Kansas City, Missouri, last fall just to get away from the winter snow storms. Well, here is a picture of his car after their first huge snow storm last weekend. And here is the headline from the online Kansas City Star on February 26 : WINTER’S CRUSHING BLOW LEVELS SNOW-WEARY KC AREA (caps and bolding are mine). As I am writing this, he is driving home to Minneapolis for a week, where we have clear roads and no snow in the forecast. (For now.)
But despite the fact that I like winter, there are some cold-weather activities that I’ve never wanted to do. One of them is ice fishing. Honestly, sitting in a tiny hut on the ice waiting for a fish to bite is not my idea of winter-time fun. And I have a phobia about the ice cracking open underneath me. Don’t tell me the ice is thick—every year people, cars, and snowmobiles crash through the ice—and I’m not going to be one of them!
But a new picture book by Deborah Jo Larson makes me understand why some people like to go ice fishing.
One Frozen Lake counts up to ten while telling the story of a little boy who likes to spend time with his grandpa out on the ice. One lake, two fishermen, three bundles of fishing gear, four inches of ice. But just as not every fishing expedition is successful, so at first we don’t count any farther than “Five hours pass. Not one fish. Where are the fish?” The next day the count goes higher. “Seven hours pass. Not one fish. Has anyone seen a fish?”
On the last day, the two fishing buddies, a little discouraged, play Go Fish to pass the time. Finally, at nine o’clock, they finally snag a ten-inch fish—a keeper! But after all that work, the soft-hearted little boy begs his grandpa, “Please…” and “Splash!” They go home again with no fish. But there’s always another day and another lake.
This imaginative story is lots of fun. And like any good picture book, the wonderful story and the terrific art go hand in hand. At a children’s literature conference a few weeks ago, the author said that before she saw the illustrations, she wondered how much color could be in a book about ice and snow. She needn’t have worried. From the bright flannel jackets and colorful hats and mittens to the beautiful blue of January skies in Minnesota to the deep green of the water under the ice, bold colors abound. The wallcoverings of the ice house are maps of lakes and pages from fishing books and ads for fishing gear. Despite the boy’s bad luck with fishing, the lake under the ice is populated with many fish, some realistic, some in plaid flannel.
I skyped with a class of first graders in Iowa a couple weeks ago and read this book to them. (Thanks, Shannon!) It was a hit! I’d love to see the reaction of kids in the southern states to this crazy sport of ours.