The Snowman and the Sun has an undercurrent of deep emotion
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This book grows on you. Initially, it seems amazingly simple, yet I had many questions after my first read through. Maybe I’ve read stories aloud to small children too often, but I suspect they would be full of questions too. We might want to ask the illustrator: Why use graph paper? Has the boy a goldfish pond in his garden? Why is the bee on the bike? Are bees even flying around in snowy weather? Why does the ice-cream become a lightbulb? How come the ice-cream is always there? We might have questions for the author, too. Why alternate the voice between a narrator and the first-person narrative? If I were a teacher or parent, I would explore all these questions with the children.
And so, I started again, this time focusing on the text. And the word ‘transformed’ struck me. Unlike Briggs’ Snowman who seems to just melt and cease to live, this snowman gets a new existence as water. He has been transformed, and we learn that he ‘ran as water over the ground’. He is not finished even then, though. The ground is warm and ‘tickled him’ and he is transformed yet again, this time into vapour that rises, cools and falls back down as snow. And then he is returned temporarily to snowman state.
After each stage of the process, the snowman ponders what will happen next. There are lots of ‘I wonder if’s and ‘what if’s. Such ponderings are perfect for little people who constantly ask questions in order to make sense of their bewildering and wonderful world. There is a lot of science in this little story, and questions, after all, are the genesis of all scientific research. The adult reading this book aloud should wait and let the child or children think, speculate, and hypothesize.
A day after reading the book, I realised it was still with me. It is quietly powerful. There is an undercurrent of deep emotion: happiness, sadness, loss, loneliness, change, bewilderment. We notice the absence of any reassuring or guiding adult. We reflect on the fact that we are continually outgrowing our former selves and we recognise that small children might need to focus at times on the things that appear to remain constant. Perhaps the polka dot chair; the snowman’s carrot, hat and scarf; the cat and the bee, all represent stability, as the snowman is ever evolving through the different stages of the water cycle. Maybe we could think about what the chair was before it became a chair? And the hat and scarf? For a little one listening to the story and looking at the images, thinking and playing with words and ideas, it is possible that fun stuff like bicycles, goldfish and ice-creams can also help them feel reassured and grounded.
It is a very thought-provoking and existential read. I didn’t expect that when I first looked at the cover.
Reviewed by Mary Roche
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
- Read a blog: The Snowman and the Sun is perfect for budding geographers!
- Watch: The Snowman and the Sun trailer
- Download: The Snowman and the Sun activity pack
- Read: The Snowman and the Sun is full of positive energy! – Scope for Imagination
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