By Patricia MacLachlan and Steven Kellogg
Newtown, Connecticut could be every town USA where lives, families and communities intersect closely, much as they do all across our country. The good and the horrific are shared and processed – together.
This December is the third holiday season since the national spotlight of the 24/7 news cycles were turned on Newtown because of the tragic events of December 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Adding to a yearly refocus on this tragic shooting at an elementary school, a report was released one year ago on November 13, 2013. As this sad second anniversary passes, here is a book you might consider looking at if your children bring up questions of the events. They are NEVER specifically addressed, but referred to in a very oblique way through the use of change in the seasons.
Award winning author/Illustrator, Steven Kellogg, was very active in the school and library communities of Newtown and Sandy Hook. He reached out to Newbery winning medalist for Sarah, Plain and Tall author, Patricia MacLachlan, and together they fashioned “Snowflakes Fall.” It is a picture book that endeavors to quietly capture the vitality, individuality and zest for living that is part of each and every child we meet in the book, with the uniqueness of a snowflake as metaphor for the life of a child.
Here is a quote from Steven Kellogg’s book Dedication:
“The changing seasons in the woodlands, field, and
streams that surround the Sandy Hook village pro-
vided an idyllic environment for raising a family.
Those scenes and memories inspired these illustrations.
It is my hope that this book celebrates the laughter, play-
high spirits and the uniqueness of the children of Sandy
Hook and of children everywhere.”
No one picture book, no one sentiment can encapsulate the uniqueness of promise, hope and beauty lost at Sandy Hook. How does one measure such loss? How do you combat such darkness?
It may seem a trivial small step, but the picture book has often been used to address feelings of such loss and loneliness in the past. Witness Maira Kalman’s, picture book called Fireboat, and its treatment of the unimaginable events surrounding 9/11 via the heroic contributions of the decommissioned fireboat, The John J. Harvey, that day!
“Snowflakes Fall” uses the metaphor of the uniqueness and the intricacy of the falling snowflake and compares it to the individuality of each child. Each is wonderfully special and set apart as they land in Steven Kellogg’s quietly beautiful illustrations, alighting on ancient churches, hilltops, a flagpole, a river’s sandy banks; all the symbols that define a town.
And, amid these symbols are snow suited children, hooting, laughing, sledding, and trudging up country hillsides as they play in the freshly fallen snow with their laughing voices echoing through the cold, clear air. At times the pictures are full of brightness and bounce, and at others, when darkness falls, the mood of the children at the windows turns quietly reflective.
It is this metaphor, the authors use of the falling snowflake melting in streams and sunlight, followed by its rebirth in the drops of water it sends up for renewal, then to be recycled as rain, that offers a feeling of hope and promise for the future.
For in the spring, flowers are shown blooming in the very spot where a season ago, snowflakes fell. There is a hopeful spirit alive in this book that beckons young readers to look not just at the present snow that will melt and change, but also for the promise of what lies ahead and how the snow contributes to that cycle of growth and change.
The children still remember the snowflakes, and so will we in the final pages, in the imprint of snow angels that the children left in the snow, ultimately transforming into angels flying heavenward; pure spirits of love and peace. They help us all by their example to rise and renew as Newtown continues to do.
May this book comfort the community of Newtown in some small way.
And, if your child has questions concerning the tragedy at Newtown and you are wondering how, in a very general and non-specifically detailed way to address it, you may find this book helpful in sitting and reading it with your child, and let the questions arise naturally from them.
And, with the publication of “Snowflakes Fall”, a contribution will be made to The Sandy Hook School Support Fund.
…while the morning stars sang together and all the angels
shouted for joy.
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