I was supposed to borrow a different set of wordless picture books from our library when I saw this book by Fernando Krahn and I knew it was the perfect follow-up post to my review of Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman. I have borrowed something close to 15 titles from our NIE library and this is not even counting the ones I have reserved and would be borrowing from the community library for our Bimonthly theme this March/April.
The Snowman’s Origins. It all began with several mountain goats climbing up a snowy mountain, causing a few snowballs to fall off a cliff. The tiny snowballs lumped together causing it to become an even bigger snowball, seemingly with a life of its own, barreling its way down down down to Lordknowswhere. As I was going over the black and white illustrations, I was reminded of a picture book that I loved reading when I was a child entitled “Because a Little Bug Went Kachoo” by Rosetta Stone and illustrated by Michael Frith.
It shows the dynamics of cause-and-effect, how one seemingly-innocuous incident can trigger another event which causes another event which causes more and more events to transpire, it’s just lovely – something which is keenly felt in Fernando Krahn’s wordless images.
Confluence of Events Causing the Snowman’s Accidental Creation. In the Author Bio found at the back of this classic (book was published 1974, talk about longevity), Krahn was described to have an “appreciation for the unusual and the ludicrous in human and animal affairs.” This wordless picture book shows this capacity for the strange, the sharp turn of events (wit that goes beyond words), and the unlikely made possible simply because.
Here, we can see how the snowman ultimately formed its shape:
Driven by gravity, the wind, or its sheer mighty force (or Krahn’s dexterous hands), it goes barreling down down until it gets trapped yet again:
… where it found its purty Pinnochio nose and button eyes – all natural, I must say. No preservatives added.
The tent seemed made for this purpose, yes? (see illustration below). This spirited Snowman driven by its own momentum finds an empty wagon (I believe this is owned by the woodcutters who, for all intents and purposes, may not have realized exactly what hit them) and heads on to town where he/she seemed designed and destined for this lovely wreath (watch how the townsfolk behave, their facial expressions, and the general feel of this small-town, sleepy place):
This animated, wind-driven Snowman gets into a few more unforeseen scrapes and fortuitous chains-of-events; I would leave it to you to discover what the ultimate destiny of this Self-made Snowman would be.
Possible Teaching Activities and Discussions with your Kids. I have a feeling that children aged 2 to 7 would have a truly riotous time with this wordless picture book. The absence of words would also give them a lovely opportunity to create vocalisms, use hand gestures, and simply squeal in high-pitched screams as this action-packed book reaches its climax. I know that the absence of color might turn off a few children who may be more accustomed to vibrant splashes of hues and fast-paced high-definition animated moving images, but it truly is good exercise to expose them every now and again to these intricately illustrated black-and-white classics. Older children may also be requested to create their own one-or-two-sentence captions for each of the page, building their vocabulary, and giving them a chance to recognize emotions and animated expressions.
The author Fernando Krahn was born in Chile and started to draw when he was a child. He was known as a comic illustrator in New York for a time. According to this detailed article from This-is-Chile, he studied scenography at the University of Chile’s School of Fine Arts and that his illustrations have the unusual blend of black humor and “tenderness of everyday life.” In the bio found at the back of this book, he was quoted to have said: “I enjoyed making humorous illustrations of public catastrophes.” This illustrious artist has received a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 1973, the 2001 S.M. International Children’s Book Award, and the prestigious Apelles Mestres Prize in Spain. He has just recently passed away this 18 February 2010. In honor of his life, we would be featuring several more of his books here at GatheringBooks for our Wordless Picture Book theme: When Words are not Enough. Watch out for them.
Snowy Visual Feast Part Two. Here are more photos taken by my husband (post processed by yours truly via iPhoto) again from Yosemite and Tahoe early of this year. I just could not resist.