Reviewed by Margaret T. Walden
By Céline Claire, illustrated by Qin Leng. Kids Can Press, 2017. 42 pages. $17.99/hardcover; $9.99/eBook. Recommended for ages 2–7.Buy from QuakerBooks
Shelter is a very small tale about a very important idea. In the forest as a big storm approaches, the animal families work together to gather extra food and firewood. Finally ready and snug in warm homes, they close their doors against the wind. Little Fox asks, “What if others are still outside?” Indeed, two strangers emerge from the foggy cold and come knocking.
“Who are these strangers and why are they here?” the animal families wonder.
“In exchange for some tea, could we warm ourselves by your fire?” But they are turned away by each family in turn, each using untrue excuses.
As the strangers trudge on into the darkening storm, Little Fox runs after them, offering a small lantern. Later, snow falls so heavily that the fox family’s roof gives way. Escaping out into the cold, they follow a tiny light and find strangers, who are bears, snug in the snow cave they had built.
Fortunately, Little Fox has brought his cookie jar to share, and all ends in a welcoming fashion.
Céline Claire’s sparse words, beautifully repetitive, complement Qin Leng’s imaginative watercolors showing the animal families in their various dens. (Yes, the animals wear clothes.) The gentle watercolors and the pen and ink evoke a world of warmth that belies the cold weather and chilly reactions to strangers.
In a year during which we have experienced fires, floods, hurricanes, war, and other violence, we have much to think about on the subject of strangers. Who are our neighbors? Shelter is a snuggling storybook with a clear message about compassion and generosity that are dear to the hearts of Quaker parents. It will charm young listeners. Be prepared to read it again and again.