On the hottest day of the year, snow arrived.
As Britain baked and the nation desperately did a rain dance, I opened a parcel to discover an early Christmas present – a proof of The Snowman by Sir Michael Morpurgo.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the much-loved Raymond Briggs picture book, the bestselling writer and former Children’s Laureate has penned a novelisation based on the original story.
Aimed at a slightly older audience (roughly seven years and up), it is hoped that the new version will bring the magic of the timeless tale to a new generation, as well as spark nostalgia for parents and grandparents.
Raymond Briggs has given the project his blessing and the illustrations by Robin Shaw, assistant director of spin-off The Snowman and The Snowdog, remain faithful to the ones we all know and love.
Sir Michael says on his website: “It has been an honour and a sheer joy to tell again, in my own way, Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman, arguably one of the most beloved books in the world. I have loved doing it, as I hope to goodness you love reading it. It is different, but the same.”
I read the proof in one sitting on Sunday morning and thought it was just wonderful. It feels loyal to the first story with a few fresh elements that flesh it out for older readers.
For example, the main character – now called James – has a stutter that makes him lonely and shy at school. He also had a pet dog called Bertie and a doting grandmother who reads him The Snowman at bedtime.
It also includes a visit to see Father Christmas – a key part of the animated version which is not actually in Raymond Briggs’ book. The author-illustrator isn’t a fan of the festive season and has stated that he found bringing it into the story for the film “a bit corny and twee”.
One thing that this new book does is offer clearer reassurance to young readers about where The Snowman and his friends disappear to when the snow melts.
Raymond Briggs wanted the story to be a tale about childhood, mortality and the inevitable fate that awaits us all. But while the ending of the original is realistic and moving (as is that of the film version), it is rather bleak.
The beauty of having text rather than wordless pictures is that Michael is able to explain the disappearance in a gentler way, but without straying from the truth.
It’s rare that a remake is ever as good as the original but in this case, great care has been given to ensure it is both complimentary and a tribute to the book that means so much to lots of people. Heck, means Christmas to a lot of people.
For me, it is hugely sentimental because I watched the animated version with Baby Bookworm last Christmas Eve.
He was completely spellbound in a way we had rarely seen before and we made a note to record the next screening. He has since watched it at least a hundred times and is equally obsessed with The Snowman and The Snowdog.
A timeless tale, freshly made but with the same magic at its heart – just a like real snowman.
The Snowman by Michael Morpurgo, illustrated by Robin Shaw, is published on 18 October 2018 by Puffin, £12.99 (hardback). Preorder it from Amazon
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