Where Snow Angels Go by Maggie O’Farrell, illustrated by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini
Where Snow Angels Go is a sumptuous Christmas gift book by Maggie O’Farrell, Edinburgh-based author of the acclaimed novel for adults, Hamnet, a tale of William Shakespeare’s son.
Where Snow Angels Go is an illustrated work in picture book form. It is an atmospheric tale that is an ideal addition to Christmas book collections and conjures a possible response to a child’s questions about snow angels.
Sylvie wakes in the night to a glimmering light and the sound of tiptoeing footsteps. The angel she spies is introduced beautifully with his “moon-like glow” and enormous wings “made of the softest snow-white feathers imaginable”. This description is endearingly balanced with his comical mutterings, “‘First, save the person … then fly down … no, that’s not right … Find the … No, hang on … first, fly down. Second, find the person. Third …’”
We are drawn into this world immediately, wondering who this physically impressive but unsure otherworldly creature is and what he is doing.
The snow angel is surprised that Sylvie can see him and worries that he is bungling his first flight. He is supposed to save Sylvie from something, and we quickly discover that she has a fever.
Like many people around the world at the moment, Sylvie is ill on Christmas Day. Like those who are fortunate, she does recover but her healing is slow.
Unexpectedly, Sylvie remembers the snow angel and longs to see him again. She contrives to cause another meeting by placing herself in dangerous situations but he doesn’t seem to rescue her. These scenes are an apt mix of action and pensiveness.
Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini’s generous illustrations depict the human characters empathetically and are most notable for their magical rendering of the awe-inspiring, yet kind, snow angel, as well as a plethora of sparkling snowflakes that create so much of this book’s magic.
She skilfully imbues the cool colours of the glowing snow angel with warmth and creates lovely contrasts between snow and snow angel and the brightness of spring and summer and the family’s winter clothes. Warmth is also created through the light sources of illuminated windows and bedside lamp.
The notion of a guardian snow angel formed from a child’s imprint in the snow is alluring and original. The tussle between science and magic is explored and children are made aware of the possibility of the supernatural world of guardian angels.
Ultimately, however, Where Snow Angels Go is about love, particularly love of family.