Well, it’s still very much winter here in New Jersey. Right now it’s a horribly cold 19 degrees out, not to mention the wind chill factor. There’s still snow on the ground from weeks ago, though it has finally begun to melt in some areas – my yard is not one of them. If I really wanted to (and had the proper clothes), I could go out there like I used to when I was little and build a snowman. Which is why, for this week, I have chosen to feature The Snowman by Raymond Briggs – even though the story takes place on Christmas Eve.
I absolutely adored this story when I was little, and it had nothing to do with my love of Frosty the Snowman, or snowmen in general. In fact, I think it was this story combined with that of Frosty the Snowman that started my love of snowman. What I really loved besides the snowman himself, although I didn’t know it at first, was that this story has absolutely no words, and is told entirely through illustrations. The reason I didn’t know this at first is because when my parents would take it off the shelf as my chosen bedtime story, they would tell me what was happening, calling the snowman simply ‘the snowman’ and the boy was, well, ‘the boy.’ The story differed slightly each time they told it because neither of them had a script, they based it off the illustrations.
When I was a little older, I found the animated movie adaptation in a video rental store, and begged my parents to let me rent it. By then, thankfully, I had started flipping through the book on my own and knew there were no words, that my parents had been giving descriptions to the pictures for me so as not to ruin my nightly bedtime story time. Even though the movie was mostly like the book, no words except for a brief narration that did not continue throughout the movie. I was lucky enough, though I didn’t realize it later, to find a copy with the original narration done by Raymond Briggs himself, as I have heard since that there were different narrators and, therefore, different opening sequences. It was the very first silent movie, if one can call it that, I ever watched and I must say that I didn’t even notice it because I was so enthralled by the animation.
The same holds true for whenever I pick up the book, whether it was when I was little and wanted a nice snowman story, or even in the present when I want to revisit my childhood or read something that doesn’t need a lot of brain power, just a little bit of imagination. It is a story that I will treasure for all of my life.
I don’t always have an answer when people ask me when or why I wanted to become a writer, because it wasn’t one moment or book, it was a lot of them, but this story was the one that made me think about illustrating stories, and then later, illustrating my own. Unfortunately, I don’t do a lot of drawing anymore, but there are still times I do, and even though they aren’t the best or the most accurate, I do sometimes think about getting back into it more.
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