Snow Still by Holly Surplice

Snow Still by Holly Surplice front cover

Snow Still by Holly Surplice

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Snow Still by Holly Surplice is a charming and cleanly told story, perfect for sharing on a wintery day. A fawn explores the wintery world about them (it’s characterised as a ‘he’ on the back, but as I am no expert in recognising gender in deers and the text never explicitly refers to a ‘he’, I shall settle with alternative pronouns) before returning home to be with their parents. Their adventure is scored by a series of rhythmic couplets, all of which begin with the word ‘snow’. So we have the fawn playing with some rabbits – ‘snow hide’ – and then when the owl flies high above a vast, empty plain – ‘snow silent’. The ending sees a paired couple for the first time as the fawn snuggles in for a sleep ‘Snow safe, / snow sleep’. It’s charming stuff.

Snow Still is told in a series of really elegant big double page spreads that fully embrace the wintery world from all perspectives – there’s a gorgeous moment with an owl that feels intensely filmic, for example, and Surplice does not shy away her subject. This is a book about winter and sometimes books that take on this season can feel curiously empty times, dwarfed not only by the limited colour palette but also the great scale of the thing. Winter is big. Sometimes books struggle with grasping that, particularly from a young and small perspective. Snow Still handles it very well, moving from the intimacy of the forest to the open, big meadow (? it’s under snow…), and using the landscape to give space and rhythm to the story. Even with this, the text does feel a little disjointed, perhaps, if you’re looking for a more conventional style but it’s kind of lovely to let the images do so much work.

A particular hallmark of this book is the use of gilt throughout. Each spread is highlighted with silver and, I admit, I was worried about this being a bit – well – tacky. It’s used fairly judiciously and with some restraint, acting more as a highlight of colour, shape and movement then some cheap effect. It’s a shame that the endpapers don’t push this motif further (use. your. endpapers. people) – they’re ripe for something special as opposed to the rather generic spotted red affair that they are. Nevertheless, this is still a charming book and something that when it works, works intensely well.

My thanks to the publishers for a review copy.

View all my reviews

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