Carloyn A. Drake’s Cold, Cold North is replete with both the sense of wonder that inspired it and the common flaws of a first picture book. Fortunately, supported by mostly successful illustrations by Marcia A. Borrell, the wonderment prevails in a book that takes a look at arctic wildlife in its snowbound and windswept environment.
The production gets off to a good start with the wording – “In the cold, cold North where the wind does blow”— and first two illustrations, particularly a two-page spread envisioning the wind as an Eskimo’s face. But after this, the author loses track of her sentence, which reads as a fragment: “In the cold, cold North where the wind does blow and snow does fall.” As the book continues, more fragments appear that could so easily have been avoided. For example the author writes, “A hare, watchful of the hungry fox.” A verb would help here, as in: “A hare is watchful….” or “A hare watches for….”
Tense changes also mar the story with the sudden interjection of the past tense well into the book on a page that describes lemmings. By the time this occurs, it seems likely that the writer has so enjoyed envisioning each scene as a separate unit that she has lost the story’s flow from page to page.
Fortunately for Drake, her vision helps to carry the book despite these flaws. Cold, Cold North offers a frozen landscape populated with creatures, such as lemmings and caribou, that are not particularly common in picture books. Some careful copyediting and softening of a few stiff illustrations (such as the fox and hare in the fourth spread) would go far to making a second printing of this promising effort a more polished production.
Meanwhile, the “Questions for Thought and Discussion” at the close of the book include two that may truly inspire: “What does ‘cold’ look like? Can you draw ‘cold’?”