Just So Willow

by Sara F. Shacter
illustrated by Stephanie Laberis
Sterling Publishing
ISBN 978-1-4549-2741-9

Willow is a polar bear who likes things just so. She even irons her underwear and straightens her spaghetti! So when a storm covers her backyard in a clean, smooth blanket of snow, she’s determined to keep it that way—in spite of all her Arctic neighbors sliding, stomping, and creating a lumpy, bumpy mess. Will Willow stick to her precise ways, or will she join in the messy fun?

Book Secret: When I first wrote Just So Willow, the title was…The Just So Hippo! Yep, Willow was originally a hippopotamus. But after many revisions, she became a polar bear. A polar bear who doesn’t want to play in the snow seems pretty silly to me!

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“A youngster’s passionate efforts to keep things pristine prove challenging. Willow, a white bear cub, prefers things prim and tidy, even going to lengths to unscramble her spaghetti. When a fresh snowfall makes her backyard into ‘a crisp, white sheet,’ she thinks it’s ‘perfect.’ But then an errant snowball from some kids playing nearby (other arctic animals, including a seal, puffin, and hare) threatens to turn the snow into ‘a lumpy, bumpy mess.’ She tries yelling remonstrations to them, but they’re too loud and she’s too far away. She tries to get closer, jumping from her back porch to her swingset, fully aware of the consequences to her precious snow if she falls. Eventually, she jury-rigs a zip line to the fence, but the force takes out some boards, on which she toboggans wildly, making ‘a crisp, white ribbon’ in the snow that is, in her eyes, ‘perfect.’ Everyone happily joins in for some winter fun. . . .  the lesson to accept changes and messiness is a valuable one for similarly minded readers. The illustrations are animated, especially in Willow’s expressions . . . Pleasing highlights include many piles of soft, convex snow and coloring that’s just outside the lines.” —Kirkus