Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, December 9, 2013

There's Magic In The Air

When it snows the pine boughs are frosted in downy white.  When it snows we are reminded of the diversity found in our world; no two snowflakes are alike nor is any individual.  When it snows we realize Mother Nature is in control.

Walking down a snow-covered road, as the flakes fall, footsteps softly crunching, the sliver of moon dimly shining through clouds, it feels like anything is possible.  In his debut picture book, When It Snows (Feiwel and Friends), released late this summer here in the United States, Richard Collingridge asks us to step into a world transformed by winter and imagination.  We follow a boy with his teddy bear companion on a special solstice stroll.

When it snows...
all the cars are stuck and
the train disappears.

Deep, deep snow means there is only one thing to do if you want to find your way, follow the tracks of those who went before you.  If you choose this path it might lead to other means of transportation; like riding on the backs of polar bears.  Even not being in a hurry, stopping to romp and frolic, you still will arrive at a spot you thought only existed in your dreams, the home of snowmen.

As the day ends, the light of the sun is replaced with a glowing ball, guiding your way through a darkened forest.  It brings you to the magnificent Queen of the Poles.  She in turn takes you to a place of marvels and delights.

You discover the gleaming orbs are more than they first appear to be.  You discover thousands of beings and creatures of magic living in this icy realm.  The best discovery of all... waits for your return home.

With his first set of words Richard Collingridge lets us know this snowfall is no ordinary snowfall.  No, this snowfall, of epic proportions, is extraordinary.  It opens the door into those possibilities we all feel when surrounded by a world covered in winter white.  There are only eight sentences in this book but the use of language is enchanting page after page with impeccable pacing.

I don't know about you but when I open up the jacket and cover of this book, I want to be where the boy is, seeing what he is seeing. I know with every fiber of my being that from the top of his head to the tip of his toes, he is filled with the warmth of true happiness.   The opening and closing endpapers are a solid color, the soft rose found in the boy's scarf.

A single page illustration by Richard Collingridge precedes the title pages.  It pictures a window filled with a warm light, shutters open, an unadorned evergreen tree stands in one corner, a single wrapped package beneath its branches.  In the other corner is a box with wrapping paper and tree trimmings.

The title pages begin the story; a quiet town, windows darkened, and snow falling as the sun rises.  The little boy with his teddy bear is shown in the lower left-hand corner.  All of the remaining pictures are also edge-to-edge across both pages; luminous, dreamlike, alternating in perspective and stunning in their execution.

The final single page takes readers back to the beginning.  Now the shutters are closed.  The tree is decorated; lights shining in the room, and one singular glow off to the side.  The box has been replaced with a small table; a glass of milk and a plate on top.  I would love to tell you about my favorite illustration but I don't want to spoil the story for you.

After reading When It Snows written and illustrated by Richard Collingridge, I guarantee you'll always be wondering and waiting to visit the same places, beings and creatures as did the boy and his teddy bear.  Maybe, just maybe, you will be able to do that very thing.  This is one of those titles you can expect to hear the words "Read it again".

If you follow the links embedded in Richard Collingridge's names you will be taken to his website and blog.  This link takes you to the United States publisher website which provides pages for viewing and an activity guide.  This title has been nominated for the recent CILIP Kate Greenaway Award.

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