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Friday, 13 January 2017

Harry and the Snow King

Author: Ian Whybrow

Illustrator: Adrian Reynolds
Publisher: Puffin, 1997

We saw a few Snow Kings dotted around our neighbourhood today; those scruffy mini snowmen children make on walls or benches when there is just about enough snow. So this book 'Harry and The Snow King' resonated nicely. My children were all so desperately hoping to wake up to footfalls of snow, but just like in the story, we only had that typical British, teasing, sprinkling of snow, the type that soon melts. 

'Harry and the Snow King' is a story about Harry of 'Harry and a bucketful of dinosaurs' fame. This is a sweeter version of that original book, with intense Harry sculpting a tiny snowman, leaving him on a wall, and when he returns, the Snow King is missing. Of course the adult audience realise the Snow King has melted but Harry and the child audience want to search for the mini snowman- where could he be? In this story, magic does happen; kind farmer Mr Oakley suggests the Snow King has gone off to order more snow and in the morning, Harry wakes to find a huge snowfall and ten snowmen in his yard. ( I'm not sure they'll be such magic happening in our garden tonight sadly). 

This is a nice book about dreaming and having hope. I quite like the very cantankerous relationship between Harry and his big sister, but have heard other parents / readers say they don't like this about the series in general, as it sets a 'bad example', modelling negative sibling relationships. Personally I think portraying a more hostile sibling relationship is both honest, refreshing and real for young readers. Harry also lives with his single parent mum, and active, feisty Nan, again, another welcomed escape from the otherwise over represented nuclear family in children's literature. 

I particularly like that this book leaves on an air of mystery, as the person who builds the big snow men, in order to delight Harry, is never revealed. I like to think it might be the argumentative older sister, Sam, who says herself that bigger snow men are better, but can't quite bring herself to be outwardly nice to little brother Harry. I also like to think a message in this book is 'it's sad that things don't always last forever, but things change and life moves on all the time'. Once more this is a brave, interesting and honest concept to bring to young children. Author Ian Whybrow doesn't hesitate to touch on these hard hitting messages to children. I hope to come back to review his book 'Harry and the Robots' later this year, but in 
short, it's a book that doesn't shy from addressing the fragility of aging grandparents, fragility  being a theme in this title too.
In terms of Harry and the Snow King, this is a good book for promoting discussion and offering hope. 

Here's some craft activities we enjoyed to support our reading of this title:

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