One autumn, lion finds an injured bird in his garden and generously invites him to spend the winter in his cosy little house, with the assurance, “You won’t be cold here.” As it turns out, of course, bird isn’t the only one in need of warmth, particularly the special kind that lonely hearts yearn for.
In contrast to the aptly wintry and languid atmosphere that permeates its pages, this beautifully illustrated book spins an imaginative and heartwarming story about how — instead of holing up somewhere and hibernating — a motley group of animals in the Northern Forest make like migratory birds and escape the bitter cold by catching a special train that will bring them to the Southern Forest.
If the extreme weather conditions that everyone has been experiencing around the world, especially in the last few months — unusually snowy and super-cold winter in the northern hemisphere; excessively hot and dry summer in the southern hemisphere — are anything to go by, it’s no longer possible to deny that climate change is well underway, and unfortunately, not for the better. Even here in equatorial Singapore, we are not spared: where we used to experience frequent showers and thunderstorms, in the last two months, we haven’t so much as seen a drop of rain, and as a result, all the poor plants are turning brown and wilting from the dry heat — in fact, February 2014 was the driest month here since 1869! Thus, the arrival of the milder conditions of spring (or autumn, as the case may be), is a harbinger of hope that maybe, just maybe, this crazy weather is temporary and that, fingers crossed, things will soon go back to normal.
But I digress.
For many little children, especially girls, even before they start to make friends or play together with other kids, they may already have a vague concept of what friendship means, through their interactions with their toys — particularly stuffed toys that easily lend themselves to make-believe conversations and physical expressions of affection, i.e. hugs and kisses. And while adults tend to dismiss such one-sided pretend-play as ‘cute, harmless fun’, in the minds of children, these ‘pretend-friends’ are probably as real to them as anybody else in their lives — and the bond between them and their toys actually serves as good practice for when they actually do get out there and attempt to make real-life friends.