Snow

Snow by Marcus Sedgwick (Little Toller Books, £12)

In the beginning, when the world began, I like to think it was covered in a thick blanket of fresh snow, and as it melted the new world stretched and eased and was born.

And perhaps it was, who knows? As the award-winning author and illustrator Marcus Sedgwick tells us in this exquisite little hardback, the myths and legends surrounding snow go back more than 6,000 years, that's before English, French and German developed as languages, before even the written word. And long before his own fascination with the stuff began as a small child growing up in the countryside of 1960s Kent.

Did it snow more then? He tracks back through the meteorological records of the time and YES! he's right - it did. It's a comfort to the seven-year-old me trailing, at the time, round a bleak hillside in Hertfordshire pursued by my parents' admonishments to 'put on another jumper'.

Marcus doesn't put on another jumper, he builds an igloo, just big enough for him to sit up in and the heat it traps beguiles him into removing his coat and scarf. But he's not in any danger this, after all, is how the Inuit live.

Nevertheless snow has twice nearly killed him, once around a mile from his Cambridge home when he exhausted himself walking into a drift and once when, alone in Sweden he walked out across the virgin white, dropped chest-deep through the crust and had to painstakingly dig himself out a handful at a time.

However, such is his fascination that undaunted by these narrow escapes he moved around five years ago to a chalet halfway up a mountain in France's Haute-Savoie where he and his wife Maureen have to sweep the snow from the roof and satellite dish to maintain contact with the outside world and where they can be cut off for up to three weeks in winter. One year a neighbour's house was swept away in an avalanche.

The six chapters of this book, one presumably for each arm of a snowflake cover, the art and science and the myths (surprisingly rare) as well as its beauty and terror. This is a highly personal exploration of one man's lifelong love of snow and as bright and illuminating as the winter sun on a glacier.


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