Illustration by Raymond Briggs
I grew up where it was meant to snow every Christmas. It didn't. The countryside around London would only have its overdue (but uncontrollably exciting) fall every few years. As a young one this was not enough, the disappointment of another cold but snowless and probably rainy Christmas Day was deep. This extreme expectancy for snow, and eventual let-down was only ameliorated by one thing - The Snowman.
Raymond Briggs' gorgeous and graceful work is an exceptionally beautiful book. The softly crafted story is a wordless ode to winter, companionship and loss.
My first introduction to this magical friendship was the TV special aired to coincide with Christmas. This is a slightly extended tale told gently with the same graphic style of coloured pencils with large strokes overlapping to bring the subtlest of colour to every view. The attention to detail that Briggs can weave into the simple pencil strokes is also shared by the animated version, that went on to be nominated an Academy award for best short film.
I remember feeling the cold when in both book and animation the boy is building the Snowman.
I remember the heat and fear when the snowman begins to melt near the fireplace, and the relief when he gets in the freezer.
But above all, I remember the slowly building anticipation and eventual elation when the Snowman takes the boy by the hand and runs into the night sky.
If it never snows again for me on Christmas Day, I can still be happy as I will always have that feeling when I remember the pure, peaceful joy of 'The Snowman'.
A must read for every family at Christmas.