This deliciously frosty book is full of empty mountains, tall pine trees, forest animals and snow – lots of it. Even the snowflakes themselves are so exquisitely drawn to represent wild creatures fleeting across the sky that they feel like something straight from a winter’s fireside day-dream. And indeed the story does start by a fire.
A little boy and his father – his mother is shown in photos only, hinting at a separate story of love and loss – are happily drawing and reading in a cosy room until they realise they need provisions. Together they set out to buy them, but during a snowstorm the two become separated.
After a period of frantic searching, the boy curls up to sleep on the ground – at which point the creatures of the forest emerge to check out the stranger amongst them. Fortunately the child discovers a sweet in his pocket and proffers it to the largest of the animals, the bear, who accepts the gift gratefully. Before long all are great friends, playing and dancing together until the bear eventually leads the boy back to his father.
The contrast between snug interior and vast outdoors is dramatic, and the scenes of snowladen pine trees backlit by a pinky-yellow winter sun are stunning. You can almost feel your breath steaming up with the chill on the air. The animals provide a welcome touch of warmth, though, and there’s a great comedy spread where they are all shown full-face, staring out at the reader in nervous anticipation of the newcomer – who is equally wary of them.
Throughout there are plenty of references to drawing and illustration, which is particularly appropriate for a wordless book that’s telling its story through images. The boy draws both at home with his father and in a cave with his friend the bear, and alongside their work can be seen hand prints similar to those so often found in ancient cave paintings. These hand prints, together with the empty forest landscape and starlit night sky, add a sense of timelessness to the story, and help to make it an enchanting tale with heaps of emotional resonance.