K-Gr 2-Young Ben, wanting to know why Winter is dragging on for so long, is led by a white fox to where the pregnant Mother Earth lies in a deep, spellbound sleep. The fox recites a rhyming riddle that the boy must decipher in order to release her from Winter's clutches, and her child, Spring, is born. The plot of this literary fairy tale is weak, providing little suspense or action, and no real sense of climax or resolution. Readers are expected to make the enormous leap from the stark austerity of Ben's family farm, where people and cows are slowly starving, to the magical elements of the forest. The child is said to enter the woods ``on a path he had not seen before,'' but nothing about the place looks unusual. When he sits down to rest, the fox appears and leads him to ``a house built of sticks lashed together with vines''-nothing mystical there, either. The language is prosaic throughout. And Diamond's illustrations, while beautiful, do not vary in color, texture, or value. Thus, the transition from reality to fantasy is not reflected in either words or pictures.-Constance A. Mellon, Department of Library & Information Studies, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC
A lyrical fantasy in picture book format, this tells of a boy who goes looking for spring and finds a quest. Led by a mysterious white fox to a woodland cave near his farm, Ben discovers a pregnant woman, clothed in flowers--Mother Earth. The fox informs Ben that she will waken and Spring (her child) will come only "If someone, can find the rhyme / and bring the sweet drink, / Can hold the feather that is neither green nor yellow, / But is both green and yellow, / And can capture the song of the air that is not a bird's . . ." Ben's quest, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance, seems a bit weighty for this vehicle, but the unerring gravity and softly shaded realism of Diamond's artwork suit the story well. Although the text is rather long for a picture book, teachers might consider this as a seasonal read-aloud choice for good listeners.