Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Beautiful Book #39

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. Hamish Hamilton. 1978.

December's here and it's time for a winter book. Some might call The Snowman a holiday book given the story's ubiquity as an animated Christmas favourite in the UK, not to mention all the product merchandising around it, but I'm not one of them. Neither is Raymond Briggs, whose own grumpiness about Christmas is rivaled only by that of his Father Christmas from his 1973 book of the same name. A pioneer of comics format in children's books, Briggs is comfortable writing for adults as well as children. Political/social issues are never far from his works, as evidenced in titles like the anti-nuclear Where the Wind Blows or the class-aware Gentleman Jim.

In all his works Briggs, conveys remarkable depth of character with nothing but subtle strokes and minimal dialogue. The Snowman, a wordless comics picture book in which a boy's snowman comes to life to spend one night with him before melting in the morning, has fantastic narrative flow and takes the reader through a range of emotions from pure joy to grief. Created entirely with pencil crayons, the illustrations are soft, child-like and accessible. The book, like the snowman himself, feels like an old friend you want to hang onto as you soar to imaginative places. Our library copy is so beat up, one could scarce call it beautiful anymore...which I guess is testament itself to the beauty of the book.

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