Houndsley and Catina and the quiet time by James Howe, illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay
Candlewick, 2008

Houndsley and Catina are practicing for their band concert that evening when Houndsley looks out the window and declares that they are snowed in. Catina begins to panic, thinking of all the preparations she was going to do for the concert, but Houndsley is relaxed and convinces Catina to stay and spend the day together and enjoy the quiet that the snow brings.

As far as I'm concerned, this book depicts the ideal snow day: poems, board games, music, playing in the snow, a roaring fire, and good friends. James Howe certainly captures all that is good with snow days, and the counterpoint of Catina fretting about all the plans that need to be cancelled is a point well taken, especially as she wants to spend more time with Houndsley on their imaginary island in the end.

The watercolour and pencil illustrations by Marie-Louise Gay suit the text and theme exquisitely. Soft blues, greens, and oranges reinforce the calm atmosphere at Houndsley's house, and his furniture looks terribly comfortable. I also covet Catina's skirt, for the record - why on earth does she think she needs to change?

The inclusion of music and how it can have moods and suit a particular atmosphere is truly lovely. Howe's description of the concert is evocative and makes me wish I was there to hear it: "the musicians picked up their instruments began to play so softly that the notes fell on the listening ears like snowflakes on waiting tongues, gently, softly, there for a flicker before melting away" (p. 36). I know exactly what he means.

I had Houndsley and Catina and the quiet time in my display of books about winter as it captures the essence of a snowy day: quiet, beautiful, and well worth sharing.


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