Snow at last!

My snowman not yet smiling for blogUntil this weekend, we’d had no snow in my area for TWO WHOLE YEARS! Even without the daunting concern of climate change, I’ve had a personal reason to notice this fact.

YMMS cover and smile moment for blog

Cover and inside image from ‘You Make Me Smile’ (c) Layn Marlow 2012

My snowy picture book, You Make Me Smile (Oxford University Press 2013) was published in hardback last winter and came out in paperback just as this winter began. Through all this time, I’ve been patiently waiting for snow.

Hand-made Christmas card and envelopes 2009

Hand-made Christmas card and envelopes (c) Layn Marlow 2009

The book began even further back, with a Christmas card I’d made some years before. My editor, Helen Mortimer, asked if the little girl and snowman I’d depicted might somehow find their way into a picture book story. It took a while for me to see how that could work.

Raymond Briggs' The Snowman cover

Cover of ‘The Snowman’ by Raymond Briggs, Puffin 35th anniversary edition, published 2013





The thing is, Raymond Brigg’s masterful book The Snowman (Hamish Hamilton,1978) seemed to have the subject completely wrapped up. The Snowman is strictly speaking more of a wordless graphic novel than a picture book, but when it also became an animated film, (Snowman Enterprises Ltd 1982, with music by Howard Blake) its audience must have broadened to include even the youngest children – the pre-school, picture book audience.

Raymond Briggs' Snowman final image

Final panel from ‘The Snowman’ by Raymond Briggs (Puffin Books, 2013)






But then, there was that one slightly troubling thing about it, which Raymond Briggs himself talked about a couple of years ago: “The famous book, which led to the animated version, was not about joy and Christmas, but about death.”

Along with probably everything about him, and certainly all of his work, I profoundly admire Raymond Briggs’ realism. Snowmen melt – it’s a fact of life. I’m not suggesting that small children have to be shown a sugar-coated world. But I wondered if I could find a different way of depicting this reality for a picture book.

Nature, it seems to me, is as much about beginnings and coming to life as it is about endings and death.

You Make Me Smile - pages 28-29

Artwork for pages 28-29 of ‘You Make Me Smile’, (c) Layn Marlow 2012.

As long as the seasons continue to turn, there’ll be snow again one day, which means there’s always the chance for a snowman to come back. That was to be the message of You Make Me Smile.

You make Me Smile - thumbnail initially for pages 28-29 (then pages 4-5)

‘You Make Me Smile’ – thumbnail sketch (c) Layn Marlow 2012

My story points out the importance of letting time pass. I never imagined how long I’d have to wait! Finally though, this weekend, I’ve been able to make my own (very tiny) snowman. In our different ways, we made each other smile. I hope the book will do the same for some readers, even after the snow has melted away. my snowman smiling for blog

(You can click here for more about You Make Me Smile, including a trailer, links to free activities and buttons to buy the book.)

Posted in Nature, Picture Books, seasons
2 comments on “Snow at last!
  1. June says:

    Well, your snowman made me smile 🙂

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  1. […] are more picture book musings from Layn Marlow, who celebrates the recent snowfalls with a post on the genesis of her snowman book You Make Me Smile, and the problems of following in Raymond Briggs’ snowy […]

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Layn Marlow

Here's a bit about what's going on behind my picture books for small people...