Any seasoned parent can tell you that preschoolers like to experiment with boundaries. A wise parent strictly enforces rules sparingly, because young children need to learn some things for themselves. Caldecott Honor Winner Grace Lin, who wrote and illustrated A Big Bed for Little Snow, gives us just such a wise mother and a boy of appealingly unfettered spirits.

At the start of the winter, Little Snow's mother makes a big new featherbed just for him and says words that chomp at the bit to be disobeyed: "Remember, Little Snow, this bed is for sleeping, not jumping." He grins and nods, and our anticipation builds as his mother tucks him in.

Let us add at this point that Linn's pictures — all in pale blues and warm browns with a dash of black — instantly soothe. The mother's touch appears strong and tender; the new bed resembles a puffy cloud; and mother and son wear matching, snowflake-adorned nightshirts.

Soothing as these touches may be, there's nothing but glee on Little Snow's face as he listens to his mother's footsteps retreat. And then, of course, he jumps with great gusto, raining tiny feathers down around him and his stuffed-toy dachshund companion.

Of course his mother comes up and asks what he's doing, and of course Little Snow says "Nothing!" Perhaps less obviously, this saga repeats itself time and again, as Little Snow's mother lets him get away with his nighttime romps. (She couldn't be missing either the enormous jumps or the feathers on the floor, especially when Little Snow manages to rip the mattress!)

We won't give away the whole book, but Lin manages to tie the theme of flying feathers into the theme of winter snow, and this duo's closing encounter is priceless. If you're wondering what to get your 4 - 8 year old for the winter holidays, look no farther. But this book will bring laughter, elation, and reflection on inspired parenting any time of year.