Picture Book Snob
The Secret Life of Snow
Where Snow Angels Go by Maggie O'Farrell and Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini
"Once you make an angel in the snow," he said, "it is yours forever. We never disappear. We watch over you, the whole time, and come back whenever you need us."
A little girl called Sylvie is visited by her snow angel one night. This is a guardian she unintentionally created a long time ago, by making its shape in the snow. The snow angel has sensed that Sylvie is ill and has come to help. He tells Sylvie she probably won't remember his visit and if she does, she will consider it a dream.
Sylvie doesn't forget her snow angel; she knows he is real and can't stop thinking about him. She longs to meet him again and she wishes everyone dear to her had their own snow angel too. Sylvie takes risks and deliberately places herself in danger, hoping the snow angel will return to rescue her. Will Sylvie find a way to reconnect with her angel and protect the people she loves?
Maggie O'Farrell is one of my favourite authors. I've read her memoir and all of her novels (some of them twice). When I heard she had written her first children's book, I was extremely excited and intrigued. I knew it would be wonderful and I wasn't disappointed.
This looks and feels like a classic. The hardback edition is gorgeous and luxurious. The endpapers are stunning and beneath its dust jacket, the book's cover is even more attractive. The text is as graceful, poetic and captivating as all of Maggie O'Farrell's work. The illustrations, by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini, are absolutely spectacular - elegant and stylish with a timeless quality, and remind me of Elsa Beskow.
Every single page is ornate - either fully illustrated or with snowflakes decorating its border. The spread that describes Sylvie at school looks like a child's copybook, complete with doodles. As exquisite as the images are, O'Farrell's prose matches their beauty, especially when describing the snow angel. Even though the story is about an angel, it's not the saintly kind. There is no religious agenda and this is a story that's suitable for all faiths and none.
Sylvie is a fantastic character; daring, determined and brave. She is thoughtful and considerate of others but also unafraid of breaking rules and taking control of her narrative. The snow angel is mysterious and compelling, formidable but gentle, and reminds me a little of Clarence from the film It's a Wonderful Life.
I love how perfectly this story captures the sensation of being a child. It evokes the confusion and feeling of powerlessness that is often present, the anxiety about family and friends and the impulse to protect them. The suggestion that a simple childhood game might one day save their life is a comforting and reassuring prospect for young people. I also like how this story doesn't dismiss play as trivial; it's vital to Sylvie's survival (and crucial for everyone - adults and children).
Where Snow Angels Go is as magnificent and enchanting as the elusive, luminous creature at its centre. It's not explicitly festive but because it's so snowy and magical, it's a fantastic, atmospheric story for December. Best suited to children aged between five and nine, and adult admirers of Maggie O'Farrell and/or illustration. This would be a fabulous fireside companion on Christmas Day and a stunning gift at any time of the year.
Title: Where Snow Angels Go
Author: Maggie O'Farrell
Illustrator: Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini
Publisher: Walker Books
Publication Date: 5th November 2020