The first snow fall and William Steig

brave irene_small

Well it finally happened, we got our first real snow fall of the year in Niagara last night. This quickly changed into a freezing rain/ice storm. My 3 year old son and I have been reading a lot of Christmas books together recently, most of which involve snow, and he is very eager to get outside and build a snowman. He is however a bit concerned that when the snow storm rolled in it may have brought a snow monster with it, as I had let him stay up one night to watch the old Rankin/Bass Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer TV special. Upon watching the clip below I realize  that may have been a mistake.


While snow is not a uniquely Canadian element, it would be impossible to explore the visual identity of Canada without giving it a thorough examination. The subject of snow in regards to Canadian identity can certainly not be covered in a single blog post, but my intention here is to acknowledge its importance as a subject that needs to be further reviewed.

Seeing the snow and working on this blog, reminded me of Brave Irene (1986)  by William Steig, a book which I remember reading fondly as a child.

William Steig is an American Illustrator/Cartoonist known best for his work with the New Yorker magazine, and for writing and illustrating children’s books. He is probably best known for having written the children’s book Shrek (1990) that was adapted into the animated Dreamworks films.

With Brave Irene (1986)  it was not the story line that stood out in my memory, although it is indeed a fine story, but Steig’s imagery of the child battling the snowstorm. Growing up in a climate where snow is a regular occurrence there is something strangely enchanting about a good snowstorm. There is a strange peacefulness and tranquility that comes with being out in a snowstorm where your senses are taken over by the howling wind and crisp cold. For me this book conjures up memories of wearing heavy snow suits and playing outside for hours building and hanging out in snow forts that always seemed to accompany an eerie silence within their walls.

As an adult this book and its imagery also seem to serve subconsciously as a reminder to how lucky we are to have shelter that protects us from these snow storms and the dangers that lurk in our cold landscape.There is something very warming about reading a book or watching a film that involves a snowstorm, inside on a cold winters day.

You can watch Al Gore read Brave Irene below as part of the BookPALS Program if you’re interested in finding out more about the story.


  • STEIG, W. (1986). Brave Irene. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.


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