BOOK REVIEW: 'Willow' offers a gentle look at making friends with a sourpuss

Terri Schlichenmeyer

Terri Schlichenmeyer

What's the best way to make a friend?

However you do it, you know that pals are the best thing around. New buddies mean new fun and adventures -- and who knows? The friend you make today may be your BFF tomorrow.

But what if someone is a grouch? What if no other kid wants to befriend the grump? In the new book "Willow and the Snow Day Dance" by Denise Brennan-Nelson, illustrated by Cyd Moore, you'll see what happens when you make friends with a sourpuss.

Nobody in the neighborhood ever visited the gray house that the kids called "The Cave." That was where old Mr. Larch lived, and he didn't seem to like people much. In fact, he posted "Go Away" signs on his hill. He really wasn't very friendly.

Across the street from The Cave, Willow and her family were moving into the yellow house with turquoise shutters. Willow was excited to live there, and she couldn't wait to start spring gardening. But she and her mother didn't have enough plants, so she nicely asked her new neighbors for help.

When summer arrived, everyone admired the garden that Willow and her Mom planted. They all liked the flowers especially, so Willow shared them. When she did, she asked her neighbors for scraps to make garden art. Everyone was generous.

In the fall, Willow shared her harvest with the people in her neighborhood, even Mr. Larch. By then, Willow was in school and the annual mitten drive had started. Once again, she asked her neighbors to donate warm mittens and scarves.

But winter was coming, and that was Willow's favorite season of all. Every night, she hoped she'd wake up to snow but there was nothing in the forecast. She asked her neighbors for help, but what could anyone do? They couldn't make it snow.

Or could they?

One morning, Willow found a mysterious note that explained a backwards, inside out, silly dance that was guaranteed to bring lots of snow to the neighborhood. The more people who danced, the better.

And that included grouchy old grumps.

Some kids make friends as easily as they breathe. Others have to be primed and pushed to pal with someone. For either type of child, "Willow and the Snow Day Dance" is a delight.

With innocence and the kind of determination only a kid can possess, author Denise Brennan-Nelson's main character, Willow, shows young readers that winning someone over can be fun if you just use a little creativity.

Parents and teachers will also appreciate that this book imparts the subtle lesson of befriending someone who seems to have no friends. I liked that, and the gentleness of this story.

Overall, this book is a good bet for early gradeschoolers who may need a confidence boost in the buddy-making department, or for kids of that age who've recognized that a classmate needs a chum. For them particularly, and all kids who love a good story, "Willow and the Snow Day Dance" will put a smile on a growly little face.

"Willow and the Snow Day Dance" by Denise Brennan-Nelson, illustrated by Cyd Moore, copyright 2011 by Sleeping Bear Press, is 32 pages and sells for $16.95.

Contact book reviewer Terri Schlichenmeyer at www.bookwormsez.com.