Thursday, December 17, 2009

Heartwarming: Heart of a Snowman by Mary Kuryla and Eugene Yelchin

Owen knew that at the heart of a snowman is a perfect snowball. To make a perfect snowball, you need the powdery kind of snow that's a touch melty.

"You make the best snowman," says his little sister. "His eyes are looking at me."

"But how will you keep him warm?"

"He does need to be warm," said Owen. "He's cold all the way through."

"But he's warm inside," she said, sure of it.

Owen shapes his snowman with artistry, perfect spheres of snow, finishing it off with his little sister's scarf, old and soft and full of holes, which drapes warmly around the snowman's neck.

But despite his care, Owen's Christmas Eve snowmen always begin to melt by Christmas Day. Determined to discover the cause this time, Owen lies awake to watch, only to see an amazing sight, a strange craft which hovers over his snowman and begins to beam it up. Owen barely manages to grab his snowman as it slides into the vehicle's port, and Owen finds himself among a strange group of animals, all studiously devoted to dissecting his snowman--carrot nose, button eyes, right down to the threads in the scarf and the branches on each snowflake inside, all in the interests of building the perfect snowman. Owen thinks he has at least solved the mystery of why his snowmen always melt on Christmas.

"Everybody thinks the sun melts snowmen, but you're wrong. Snowmen are just brought here."

But, as Owen explains to these scientifically minded rabbits and puffins, the secret lies not in the de-construction and physical perfection of the parts, but at the heart of the snowman himself.

"I'll show you how." Owen scooped up a handful of snow. He held the snow until it got a touch melty from the warmth of his hand. Now the snow rolled nicely into a round ball.

At last the alien creatures get it. Perfect carrots, perfect scarves, perfect coals from the fire, perfect snowflakes are not the secret of the best snowmen.

"When a boy makes a snowman, he gives it a heart," said the puffin. "It gets so warm inside, the snowman can't last."

Back home, Owen pulls his little sister on his sled to the site of his snowman.

"Look, your snowman melted," she said.

"Don't you know it's not the sun that melts the snowman?" said Owen.

"I know," said his sister.

Owen retrieved her scarf. His sister noticed the scarf was woven like new. "That's all right," she said, wrapping it around her. "I'll have it comfy by next Christmas."

A stunningly illustrated wintry tale, Yelchin's and Kuryla's recent Heart of a Snowman (HarperCollins, 2009) is a layered fantasy like Raymond Brigg's modern classic, The Snowman, with which it shares a theme, that the meaning of a snowman is not the impermanent object which is fashioned, but the experience of imagination and artistry, the human touch of creation itself which is what endures. It's a strong and complex theme, possibly too deep for its intended audience to comprehend fully at first reading, but one that will perhaps remain, like the warmth of the human hand which shapes the snowman's core, to warm their understanding in another time.

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  • interesting!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:40 AM  

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