If Winter Comes, Tell It I’m Not Here

A little boy floats happily in an outdoor swimming pool, emerging only for the promise of ice-cream. His big sister looks on, waiting for her moment. Soon winter will be here, she tells him, and all your favourite things will be gone. This is a story about jealous sisters, but it is also a story about change. Central to the anxiety provoked is fear of the unknown. What will happen when the things we enjoy most aren’t available to us? We find new things, of course. When winter arrives, sister’s predictions of cold weather, bare trees and increased time indoors come to pass but our little protagonist adapts well and sees that winter too has its own delights.

Ciraolo tells this story with humour and skill, using clever repetition and juxtaposition to convey the gap between our anxious expectations and our lived experience. Illustrations are watercolour and pencil (and likely some digital wizardry). They communicate a great depth of character – despite her cruelty we love big sister; she is a fully human character. Towards the end, after a spill on the ice we begin to understand what might have provoked her. There is a complexity and nuance brought to the story through the illustration. Atmospheric images of cosy winter and carefree summer abound. There is cinematic use of perspective. My only regret is that the review copy is a PDF, as I’m sure it is even more beautiful in the bookish flesh. Fans of Beatrice Alemagna will find a new favourite here. Perfect for ages 3–6.