Author / Illustrator: Raymond Briggs
The Story: A young boy builds a snowman in the garden. In the middle of the night he wakes, and sees that the snowman has come alive. Together, they wander the house, the snowman being surprised by all kinds of domestic detail. Then they go outside and the snowman takes the boy by the hand and flies him around the world through snowy landscapes and over seas, to a magical land where a snowmen party is taking place. But when the boy wakes the next morning, the sun has come out and the snowman has melted. It is a wordless picture book.
I have always loved stories in which inanimate objects come to life: toys, cars, snowmen. This picture book is especially effective in that it manages to stir complex and incredible emotion, despite being wordless (and even without the now-famous song from the animation). Even as a young child, I saw the brilliance of ‘reading’ a story without words, and now, as an adult, I understand the capacity of a visual narrative to stir the soul. Briggs is a genius in growing a magical relationship between the boy and the snowman, and then building the tension so that the reader knows from visual clues, and their own knowledge, what will inevitably happen to the snowman.
Can you describe a favourite illustration or give a favourite quote from the story and tell us why you chose it.
The sequence of the illustrations is just brilliant and the many emotions elicited in the face of the snowman, but my favourite is the final hug between the boy and the snowman. It’s a close up from midriff up, and the reader sees the adoration in the boy’s face, and the warmth of the enveloping arms of the hug (despite them being made of snow), but there’s something in the snowman’s eyes (even though they’re only currants) that shows the reader that maybe the snowman has an inkling that this is a final goodbye. It brings tears to my eyes even typing about it now. It’s a brilliant illustration, emotive and tense and yet warm and simpatico at the same time.
I work as a children’s reading consultant, book editor, and primary school librarian. But I also write adult literary fiction and am currently redrafting my second book. You can find me @minervamoan on Twitter and see my children’s book reviews and conversations on my website, MinervaReads, and you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Which book is on your Christmas wishlist this year?
I always have loads of books on my Christmas wishlist – because books make me happy. This year I’m hoping to find Simon Schama’s Belonging, Gwendoline Riley’s First Love, One Christmas Wish by Katherine Rundell and Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers under the tree, which is a bit greedy I know.
2017 Story Snug Advent on Pinterest