Books Picture Books Reading Themes Throwback Reads and Hot for Cybils!

[Hot for Cybils] A Whirlwind of Grudges and Sleet of Snow in “The Grudge Keeper” and “Blizzard”

Myra here.

Widget courtesy of the talented Iphigene.
Widget courtesy of the talented Iphigene.

Part of our current reading theme this January-February gives love to CYBILS. I am privileged to once again be among the Second Round Judges for the Fiction Picture Book Category along with several other amazing kidlit enthusiasts. The winners for Cybils 2014 have just been announced. I have also done a feature of the seven finalists for the fiction picture book category last Monday here.

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 4.52.17 pm

Second Round Judges for Fiction Picture Books 2014

Julie Larios
Books Around the Table

Dawn Mooney
5 Minutes for Books

Jennifer Reed

Julie Rowan-Zoch
Julie Rowan-Zoch

As part of our Hot for Cybils reading theme, I am going through titles that have been nominated but didn’t make it to the Top Seven for Second Round Judging. Here are two that are definite favourites from the eliminated titles.

IMG_9249The Grudge Keeper

Written by: Mara Rockliff Illustrated by: Eliza Wheeler
Published by: Peachtree, 2014
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Old Cornelius plays a very important role in the small town of Bonnyripple. Even more important, I think, than the Town Mayor, Teacher, or even the Librarian, if you really think about it:

Ruffled feathers, petty snits, minor tiffs and major huffs, insults, umbrage, squabbles, dust-ups, and imbroglios – the Grudge Keeper received them all, large and small, tucking each one carefully away in his ramshackle cottage.


I wanted to share that quote with you, as I was pleased with the author’s lyrical play with words – there is much love, attention, and painstaking care devoted to finding just the right color of grudge to mix and match in those lines above.

As you can see in the image, Cornelius has that patient and unruffled air about him, simply filing up the old insults and the occasional grudge in the nooks and crannies of his place sagging with the weight of ill-feeling. Then one day, a freak windstorm came and blew away all these rolled-up resentments to the wind:


The townsfolk of Bonnyripple never saw anything quite like this before. What would happen now to all the secretly-filed hurts packed away with such gentle care by the Grudge Keeper? How the story ends, I shall leave for you to discover.


I enjoyed the many layers of metaphors that can be discerned from the book. With a near-folktale-feel to it, this story can be paired with Sho and the Demons of the Deep with the old drifter man who collected nightmares and released them out into the sea. Both picturebooks have exquisite art done in such different styles that are definitely worth comparing and contrasting.


Written and Illustrated byJohn Rocco
Published by: Disney Hyperion Books, 2014
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

I love reading the backstory of any book that I read – and this one has an equally amazing Author-Illustrator’s Note that shared how Rocco experienced the blizzard of 1978 in Rhode Island where he grew up.


I like how the entire story was gradually built up from the very first page until one reaches the jacketflap that contains a cute photograph of John Rocco as a child in 1971. I also love the endpapers – so much snow-love here, my tropical heart aches with joy.


Told from the perspective of John Rocco as a young boy, it shows how excited he and the other kids were about being let out early for school, and staying at home all week to wait out the snow. It reminded me a little bit of Komako Sakai’s The Snow Day with that sense of isolation and the overwhelming white that seems to cover everything in sight.


Technically, the entire experience should have been an exciting one – with countless nights of hot cocoa and snuggling up in bed with a good read in the cold – except that the blizzard has been dragging on for nearly a week by that time, the family supplies are dwindling, and the snowplows are nowhere in sight. The young Rocco, a quintessential explorer and adventurer, took matters in his own hands and he came up with a plan based on his extensive reading of the Arctic Survival Guide.


I so enjoyed these folded pages here – detailing the young Rocco’s map and how he managed to help not just his family, but his neighbors as well, and how he obtained the much-needed supplies from the store. There is childlike joy here, but there is also resolve, a sense of determination, and yes, exhaustion too, in the end, that is sigh-inducing with glittery snowflakes caught in one’s eyes. A hands-down beautiful read. Perfect as well for those who are still wrapped in snow this February with the spring still but a wee whisper in the wind.

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

3 comments on “[Hot for Cybils] A Whirlwind of Grudges and Sleet of Snow in “The Grudge Keeper” and “Blizzard”

  1. As you know, I love both these books, and that map of Rocco’s meandering for all the neighbors was a wonderful surprise. But The Grudgekeeper touched me & I would hope others see the beautiful metaphor embedded as a message for us all. Great two books, Myra. And the illustrations pleased too!


  2. Thanks for sharing both of these, Myra! Love Peachtree, and it’s refreshing to see Rockliff’s folktale-like story make such a strong showing (& the illustrations look fantastic). Also love John Rocco’s work, and this book is especially timely with the winter over here in the States this year!


  3. Blizzard sounds like a great book for my family! We just moved to Connecticut. 😀 No snow yet this year, though.


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