Review: The Snowman by Michael Morpurgo (Based on the original story by Raymond Briggs.)
Once upon a Christmas, a little boy called James and his Grandma snuggle up together and wish for snow. When that snow comes, there is one thing James wants most of all – to build a snowman.
When that snowman comes to life and takes James on an adventure he will never forget, he returns home desperate to share the magic with his Grandma.
The Snowman is a staple of British Christmas, and this year marks the fortieth anniversary of the original picture book by Raymond Briggs. For many adults, there has never been a Christmas without The Snowman. There are several things which make the story so successful, and I think one of those things is it speaks equally to people watching together as to those watching alone. Its poignancy makes it effective even for those who are not having the happiest of Christmases. Its key message is about how short and precious time is – Christmas comes, it melts away, and it comes around again, except we can never be children again.
This adaptation is a short chapter book suitable for children of all ages. It is extraordinarily faithful to the original story, changing very little, but it develops the characters. James is a modern-day child who lives on a farm. He has a stutter and wants a bike just like cool-kid Paul.
The other key change is the relationship with Grandma. In the original story, James’s family know very little about his adventures but in this adaptation, Grandma is well aware of what James is up to. I don’t want to spoil the plot – this is a book which lots of families will want to read together -but I thought it was a heartwarming addition. Children can get caught up in the excitement of Christmas and the story reminds us that memories created with grandparents are precious.
The illustrations are equally faithful to the original, picking out moments which we all recognise such as the flight and the circle of snow-people. I loved the pictures of a rural childhood, where a garden might have views of the mountains and hills beyond.
This is a story which never loses its magic. It works for every generation and the new adaptation will bring it to a young audience. Whether you share it with someone special or cuddle up alone, I think this will be a favourite this Christmas.
Thanks to Puffin Books for my proof-copy of The Snowman. Opinions my own.