Hanna’s Cold Winter

Hanna’s Cold Winter by Trish Marx has the most perfectly written cadence for reading aloud! I read this lovely 32-page picture book as part of Morning Basket with my fifteen, thirteen, and eleven-year-olds. I wasn’t worried at all about whether or not they would find it “too young” because I knew the story was stimulating and the illustration by Barbara Knutson was winsome. A well-told story like this is both timeless and ageless. I was right. During the fifteen minutes that it took for me to read it aloud, everyone was captivated. The Purple House Press 2008 reprint also has a delightful two-page letter from the author at the back of the book which added to our appreciation of the story. 

“There was one place that was a favorite for all of us, but we never asked Papa to take us there because it cost money. We knew that when there were extra forints after buying Mama’s sugar and butter, and the cloth for buying new pants, and new shoes for whichever one of us had grown too much, Papa would stand in the kitchen, and put his hand in his pocket, and jingle his coins, and smile a big smile. Then we knew it was a zoo Sunday.”

This short story told with warm and cozy illustrations recalls the story of a Budapest family who loved the hippos in their world-famous zoo, the charismatic Hanna in particular. The illustration has a nostalgic feel and invites the reader into a fuller understanding of the story. 

When, during WWII, the people of the two cities of Buda and Pest were scared of soldiers in their midst and starving from the infamous freezing cold winter, they thought of a way to feed the animals despite the food shortage. It is hard not to love the scenes with them feeding hungry Hanna and the hippos. 

“The war in our town ended that spring. Now I am grown up, and the cold winter and the soldiers are only a memory. But the hippos in Budapest are still living in their palace and wallowing in the warm springs.”

This happy story deals with a serious topic that resolves well. The Purple House Press reprint is gorgeous, as expected. And, as always, you can find out more about Hanna’s Cold Winter at Biblioguides. Also, this is a Five-In-A-Row suggested book.