May 2, 2012
By Lita Judge
1-4 Preschool Primary Atheneum 40 pp.
978-1442420076 Hardcover $16.99
Lita Judge's Red Sled is both simple and unexpected - simple because of the nearly wordless story (a bear "borrows" the red sled of the title from the child in the red hat) and unexpected because the few words that do appear, (Gadung, Gadung, Gadung and fluoomp...ft are my favorites), are marvelous and onomatopoetic and crazy in their accuracy. Anyone who has sledded down a bumpy, snowy hill knows exactly what Gadung, Gadung Gadung feels like. Even better, Gadung, Gadung, Gadung gives those who haven't had the pleasure of sledding down a bumpy hill a terrifically accurate sense of what it feels like to do so. Nowhere in this book does Judge fall back on old standards like "bonk" or "whoosh". She makes up words that capture, with uncanny accuracy, the very real sound of feet crunching through snow, (scrinch, scrunch), not to mention the made-up sound of a bear, a rabbit, a moose, a mouse, two raccoons, a porcupine and an opossum landing at at the bottom of the hill after their sled ride. For those unfamiliar with this sound, it's the fluoomp..ft, I mentioned above.
Judge's illustrations match, tone for tone, the old-fashioned magic of her minimalist text. The child in the red hat is cherubic and pudgy in her big winter coat as she scrinch, scrunches back to the tiny cabin toting her red sled. This is a visual world in which bears would surely borrow that sled and take it for a spin with his woodland friends. Even better, it's a world in which the red-hatted child would wonder at the animals prints leading to her sled, and then join the bear and friends the next night. Red Sled is a simply lovely book - a real example of the magic a few well chosen words and thoughtfully rendered pictures can work.