Taking de la Mare’s poem Snow, Carolina Rabei has imagined a white Christmas setting, in which the snow falls and the world becomes a glittering wonderland where children can build snowmen and sledge. Stockings are hung in front of a blazing fire and Santa’s sleigh can land on the roof. This is an idyll – part of the mythology of winter. However, it is saved from unbearable romanticism by Rabei’s illustrations with their blocky lino-cut effects introducing a solidity and humour to the scenes. Her sparing palette also helps, subtly suggesting the cold of a winter day in which the dark comes quickly, an effect emphasised by the use of red – the only colour. In this she matches the perfect minimalism of the poet’s words, complementing and extending them. The scenes may be cosy, but the loneliness of a freezing winter night is not far away.
Though this will inevitably be placed on the picture books shelves – and why not? – it should also find its way into the hands of older children. It could provide a door to poets and poetry.