The Battle of Elm and 11th
by Tanner Frankfort
Authors Press

"They’d no reason to think that each snowy friend,
Would all come to life and would fight to the end"

Welcome to North Green, where the Murphy and Conroy families live in harmony, both on Elm St. and with 11th in between. Both sets of neighbors are families of five: one has all girls, while the other has all boys. The Murphys and the Conroys do everything together; their kids go to school each day on the same bus, while both sets of parents carpool to work, following right behind the children. One day, after “the leaves were all raked and the wind turned cold” after a great snowfall, the two families built snowmen together. Having bid their goodnights, and retiring to their respective houses for a good night’s sleep with all children and pets snug in bed, little did any of them know just what was to happen out in their yards and in the street below. The Murphy and Conroy snowmen seemed to have fashioned weapons of snow and, in fact, to have had a great battle. Shoving and chaos ensued. Snow spears were thrown, and top hats knocked off.

When both families awoke the next morning, they were shocked to find six dead snowmen, smashed beyond recognition, out in the street. How and why had this most curious occurrence happened? Perhaps the Smith boy, who lived nearby, had something to do with the odd disaster? After all, he was always known to be causing naughty shenanigans. But his family was out-of-town. And, more significantly, the Murphys and Conroys felt there was simply no way one kid could have caused so much snow-commotion. The cat had witnessed what had happened, but of course not one of the family members spoke Meow. Mr. Murphy, as it turns out, had an inkling of what might have occurred, whether or not the other adults and their children would believe him or not, and so he begins to tell a tale of dueling snowmen in his own charming and eccentric fashion. Murphy explains, in humorous detail, what seems to have gone on: the two families’ snowpeople apparently had battled to the death, and all because one of the snowmen had looked at another in a funny way.

Frankfort’s charming and lighthearted book is actually one long rhyming poem and, in the end, is a tale of getting along and working together. Presented is a life-lesson for children about being the “big guy”—that is, one who lets little things (such as an unapproving sideways glance) go without agitation. It might have led to the duel between the snowmen, but certainly the Murphy and Conroy children knew better. We are all in this together, even the strange Smith kid down the block, whom the two families initially had suspected as having perpetrated this snowmen fight as a prank. As the author writes, even he is “your brother.”

The reading aloud of this whimsical, fun tale is an excellent exercise in both meter and rhyme for young children. The cadence throughout is similar to Clement Clarke Moore’s famous childhood poem of 1823, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” where we read, “’Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house …” In fact, Frankfort’s work is set in the same anapestic tetrameter as is that most famous of children’s Christmastime rhyming books. With an AABB rhyme scheme, Frankfort’s book here is also a wonderfully entertaining wintertime story about and for little boys and girls. And, like Moore’s classic, this children’s rhyme also provokes a great sense of wonder and excitement, which is sure to entertain little ones during Christmas or, frankly, any time of the year.

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