Ever since Janet Evans introduced me (and a few others) to Raymond Briggs when she gave a talk here at the National Institute of Education in Singapore, I became a huge fan, and it became a personal quest to find his books (which are quite rare in this part of the world) – be they in vintage bookstores or our community libraries.
Given our bimonthly theme on Wordless Picture Books (When Words are not Enough), it is imperative that we also include a feature of Briggs’ The Snowman.
Comic Book Format and Soft Pastels. The wordless narrative is ingeniously broken down into seemingly-cinematic-like parts, very comic-strip-style in orientation sans the word bubble. The entire book also has that soft, quiet, peaceful quality to it that reminds one of the deafening silence brought about by snow and winter time.
I was born and raised in a tropical country – and I have only experienced snow when we went to Tahoe and Yosemite early this year with family – and yes, we had to drive something close to four hours just to be regaled with a postcard perfect snow-capped mountain as our backdrop for a family photo, then drive another four hours (without the proper snow gear or even snowtires, uh-oh) going back. Thus, I can relate with this boy’s enthusiasm, his eagerness to be all dressed up to leave footprints and tracks in the snow as he creates his own personalized snowman.
A Living and Breathing Snowman. The magical quality of Christmas and the entire feel of winter have been captured with the snowman’s oh-so-polite (must be a British quality to it) tipping of his hat that cold cold evening when fate, chance, or Briggs’ whimsical genius brought him to life.
What would you do with a Live Snowman in your Home? One of the qualities that makes this book a true classic is its ability to engage young readers and young minds to simply… imagine what would life be like with a snowman in your home? What would you feed him?
The possibilities in terms of discussion with your own child are endless. Aside from asking your children (or your students) to create their own thought bubbles (or even conversations) for each of the comic strip/frames, they could develop their own scenarios on the activities that they would share with the Snowman if they were to be a gracious host in their own homes. What delectable dishes would they spread out on the table? What games would they play?
Flying through the snow in the quiet of the evening. While the stars twinkle sleepily and the soft clouds lazily snooze back and forth, this Snowman takes his young boy out for a quick fly in the night.
The beautifully-rendered illustrations (that must have taken a lifetime to complete per frame) just evoke so many powerful emotions, it warms the heart while you simultaneously feel the chill as you flip through the snowy pages. How it ends or whether the magic is real and the snowman truly alive, I shall leave for you to discover.
Teacher Resources and Video Clip. As I was surfing through websites for possible resources connected to this beautiful book, I chanced upon the official website of The Snowman. Yes, that is how popular it is. It contains online games and activities (with coloring materials you can print out for your kids or your classes), special events, and importantly a downloadable pdf link that details a story plan template with characters, settings, opening, complications, and resolutions for your own students or your child to fill out.
Here is a lovely videoclip of The Snowman that has been adapted into a film – it contains the original introduction:
My own romance with the Snow – a Photo Journey. Inspired by this beautiful book, I thought I would also share with you some of the lovely pictures that my husband has taken (and which I have enhanced and edited through iPhoto – macbookpro is love) while we were in Tahoe and Yosemite. The tropical girl in me was just amazed at the white crumbly and soft loveliness of the snow. I wish we could stay longer the next time around.