Reviews /

The Smallest Snowflake

Authored by Bernadette Watts
Illustrated by Bernadette Watts
Published by North-South Books

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When I saw this book, I was instantly enchanted; Bernadette’s enticing snowy village created with her delicate colour palette is an utter delight. Gorgeous endpapers show a snow-laden sky, and the story seems full of promise.

The ink and watercolour illustrations fulfil this early promise making the book a pleasure to peruse. They are full of detail and variety; the birds and animals have endearing, expressive faces. The tale takes the snowflakes around the world, and this means that the illustrations move from mountain to forest, from domed palace to coastal castle battlements and each one is stunning. In the classroom, the pictures could easily be used to prompt creative writing. They would also naturally stimulate interesting discussion about where children would choose to be, if they were the tiny snowflake. Moreover, the vivid opening seems an invitation to drama. As the snowflakes gather, whisper together, stretch, ‘poised like dancers, ready to fly’, children could show this through movement and freeze-frame. This will enhance the sense of expectation and rich possibility that the snowflakes’ future holds.

Once the journey begins, each snowflake chooses boldly and confidently, while the smallest snowflake quietly schemes and dreams. She finally finds her peaceful home, nestled in a cottage window box, joyful at the love she finds there. Again, the illustrations are charming and the snowflake seems to have made an excellent choice. However, I found the ending the weakest part of the book, as the final, inevitable melting of the snowflake is not due to the spring sunshine; instead, she melts with joy at the sight of a tall, handsome snowdrop. This conclusion may prove confusing to children. Even those who see it as metaphorical may feel a little disappointed; it does not quite feel a worthy end for this resilient snowflake.

With that small (and possibly over-literal) caveat, this is a lovely story to take children from winter to spring. It will inspire creative artwork, discussion, drama and story-writing. It is an ideal seasonal book for your KS1 bookshelf.