Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Jesse Kornbluth, of, this week raving about an astonishingly great animated film.

The best holiday stories are fables. “Believe,” they instruct us. “Love,” they dare us. “Trust,” they implore us.

And the child in us — connecting with the child who inspired the holiday — responds. “Yes,” we say, eyes misting, because we so want it to be true. And because, looking down at our kids, we feel we know that it is true.

Sometimes the fables work right through the holidays. Sometimes they inspire us whenever we dip into them.

Chris van Allsburg’s classic Polar Express has that power.

And so, in spades, does “The Snowman.”

The 23-minute animated film was adapted in 1982 from the 32-page book by Raymond Briggs.

Don’t know Briggs? There’s a reason. He’s English — and he works as a freelance illustrator, book designer and writer of what are known as “children’s books.” They’re anything but. Oh, kids adore them — when our daughter was 3, she could watch “The Snowman” half a dozen times — but they function quite well, or maybe even better, as books for adults. [To buy the DVD from Amazon, click here.]

The first reason for the appeal of “The Snowman” is its deceptively simple story. A boy in rural England builds a snowman. At midnight, as the boy looks out his window, the snowman lights up. The boy runs outside. He invites the snowman to tour his home. Then the snowman takes his hand. And off they fly, over England, over water, to the North Pole.

Santa gives the boy a scarf. The boy and the snowman fly home. As the boy is going inside, the snowman waves — a wave of goodbye. The boy rushes into his arms and hugs him. The next morning, the snowman’s just a few lumps of coal and an old hat.

Did that magical night really happen? The boy reaches into his pocket and finds the scarf. He drops to his knees and, almost as an offering, places it by the snowman’s hat.

A desolate ending? Yes and no. Yes, if you get stuck on the facts: the boy’s alone again. No, if you are taken by the boy’s magical experience with a special, secret friend — he’s been given a night of exquisite sweetness that will forever be his to cherish. That’s not too deep for kids; they’ll be more fixated on the magic than its loss.

Then there is the artistry. This is not machine-driven animation — Briggs works with colored pencil. “I once kept a record of the time it took to do two pages,” he told an interviewer. “Penciling — 20 hours. Inking — 18 hours. Coloring — 25 hours. And all that’s after months of getting ideas, writing and planning.”

And the feelings in “The Snowman” couldn’t be more personal. The boy’s house? That is Briggs’s own house and garden in Sussex. The flight over the South Downs and the top of Brighton ‘s Royal Pavilion to Brighton Pier — those are old Briggs haunts.

The final appeal is to beauty. The film begins with Briggs walking across a field, talking about the snowstorm. From then on, the film is silent, except for a song. It is called “Walking In The Air,” and it is life-changing — the sequence when the boy and the snowman start to fly and the song comes in is one of the greatest moments in film. Period.

I once had a job helping several hundred people be better writers. There were two hobby-horses I rode continually: “Whenever you use the word ‘hopefully,’ you are using it incorrectly. And there is no such thing as ‘perfect.’” I was wrong. There is perfect. “The Snowman” defines it.

Categories: Jesse's Book Reviews | Tags: , , | 2 Comments »

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Well, it’s that time of year when our house starts to look more and more like the North Pole each day, and tonight, I plan on getting out my collection of Christmas books. So I thought I’d share a few with you…

Jingle Bells and Santa’s Toy Shop are definitely two of my favorite Christmas children’s books! In fact, this Fall I bought extra copies of each to use in some decor. (You can see the 1st of those projects, a wreath, by clicking here or over on DIYNetwork’s website.)

Christmas at the New Yorker is a fantastic collection of holiday essays that my mother-in-law got me years ago. It is one of my absolute favorite books to read on a December evening… glass of bourbon in hand, of course.

The Curious World of Christmas is a fascinating book full of little facts and stories. It’s the perfect thing to have sitting on your coffee table for guests who are waiting on dinner.

Do you remember reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever when you were in elementary school? I loved it!

This version of The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Douglas Gorsline may be my favorite. These are the pictures & details that are vivid in my mind every time I hear the poem recited.

Each year, around this time, I pick up Little Women. The first time I read it was in winter and that first chapter by the fire with all of the March sisters never ceases to give me the coziest of feelings.

The Berenstein Bears’ Christmas Tree was my absolute favorite when I was little. I don’t think I will ever get tired of reading it. In fact, I was reminded of it again today when I read about Rachel’s family trekking through the woods in search of a tree for Sebastian.

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So now, I must ask, what are your most-beloved Christmas books?

For a little more Christmas reading, click over to Secrets of a Belle.

Until next week, xo*,
Hannah B. 

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