Sunday, December 18, 2011

Merry Christmas Mr. Snowman by Irma Wilde

I couldn't have been more than seven years old that Christmas morning when my parents presented "Merry Christmas Mr. Snowman" by Irma Wilde to me. It was a gem of a book and offered an unforgettable reading experience, one that I would frequent in my mind's eye many years later. The name of the story, the characters and snippets of the plot faded with time but the feeling I had while turning those pages—transfixed and transported into a happier, hopeful place—that indeed remained. My copy of Merry Christmas Mr. Snowman remained with me for the many Christmases that followed but somehow along the way, as with many treasured items from childhood, it exited my life just as suddenly as it had entered. The longing to be united with the story continued for decades. I had often erroneously assumed the book to be a Golden Books publication (beautifully illustrated, hard covered children's tales tended to be). I was indeed mistaken, as it was Wonder Books that published the tale in 1951 and sometimes under an alternative title "The Snowman's Christmas Present". After many years of searching for even a trace of the book, I stumbled upon it this year (it's a bit like finding the holy grail). Although, it's not physically in my hands, the scans and images that so many lovely people have shared online have soothed my soul.

Can you spot the book?
The photograph to the left is from our family album circa early 80s. Can you spot my copy of Merry Christmas Mr. Snowman in the bookshelf? 

Narrated by Mr. Snowman himself (I love when snowmen are adept at storytelling): the story is an account of how he came to be, the affection he shared with the three young siblings who created him and the magical gift that Santa himself bestowed upon the chap. In short, the jolly old fella replaced the sad expression that young Davey accidentally engraved on the snowman with a beaming smile fit for Christmas day instead. In the end, everyone was happy...but of course. Wouldn't want it any other way.

Irma Wilde created some magnificent illustrations to accompany her story. It was these drawings: their colour and expression alongside the independence of the three children (you never see any adults in this story) that gripped me as a child. Two illustrations of Christmas Eve night in particular (see below) remained etched in memory—the first depicts the older children walking the youngest Davey to bed hand in hand and the second shows the three amid the throws of a most peaceful slumber. There was magic and solemnity to those illustrations. A magic that spotlighted one's hopes and dreams against the backdrop of a surreal, beloved and sometimes isolating holiday.

Samples of the magic:



The Big Red Sun
Calsidyrose on Flickr


Mary, Billy and Little Davey
estelle & ivy on Flickr


Trimming the Tree
Calsidyrose on Flickr


Santa Will come
Calsidyrose on Flickr


Sweet Dreams
Calsidyrose on Flickr


Santa's leaving presents all around the tree...
estelle & ivy on Flickr



Hooray for Christmas
Calsidyrose on Flickr

Images via Flickr and eBay

3 comments:

  1. I swear I remember this book...

    ReplyDelete
  2. I LOVED this book as a child. I was born in 1962. I wrote a blog piece about it once, too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Linda, it was such a special (and unforgettable) book. I'd love to read your blog post about it.

      Delete

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