Friday, January 6, 2012

Red Sled by Lita Judge (2011)

Red Sled. by Lita Judge. November 1, 2011. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing. 40 pages. ISBN: 9781442420076 

Red Sled is a mostly-wordless picture book about the animals who make use of a red sled left outside overnight. The only words in the story are onomatopoetic expressions of sledding sounds. The bear who stumbles upon the sled makes "scrunch scrinch" noises in the snow with his paws. When he and a rabbit upend the sled, they make an "alley-oop" noise. Finally, later, when a moose, a mouse, a possum, a hedgehog and two raccoons have also climbed aboard, we hear "whoa" just before they all go down a steep hill. In the morning, all that remains of the woodland creatures' sled adventure are their tracks in the snow, which are found by the child who owns the sled. That night, the child knows to watch for the animals so she, too, can join in the fun.

What I like so much about this book is how the silence reflects what nature sounds like at night. Even when the animals are noisily riding the sled, there is an air of calm surrounding every page, which is emphasized by the contrast between the deep blue of the sky and silvery white of the snow-covered hills. The animals are very expressive, showing their curiosity, fear, and excitement about the sled, and though the scenery doesn't change much from page to page, the action within that scenery does a wonderful job of keeping the flow of the story moving, even without the benefit of text. Illustrator Lita Judge uses interesting perspectives to focus our attention to the most important aspect of each page, and keeps the reader laughing all the way through to the end of the story.

I don't use wordless picture books in story time very often because my audiences tend to include younger children who are not yet verbal enough to discuss the pictures with me. I'm considering trying to incorporate them more into my story times for older children, however, and this would be a really fun one to start with. One of my favorite picture books of 2011!

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