by Isao Sasaki (Viking, 1982)
I’m not too sure if this book is still in print or not, but I snagged it at a used bookstore in Seattle once upon a long time ago. It was the best six bucks I spent in the entire city. Maybe the best six bucks ever.
This book felt familiar, and I’m sure I’ve buried some memories of reading it as a kid somewhere deep inside my book-person-soul. Opening the pages again to a story both calm and busy was also the only way to experience any snow in these parts.
And so, Snow.
The book itself is a square. It’s the soft gray of winter skies. Each illustration is framed within a border of a lighter shade of that barely gray. Maybe it’s its 1982-ness, but it also feels like looking at a slide. Remember those?
Because of this bit of framing, this story is told in snippets like snapshots—of a day, of a season, of a bustling platform, but it also feels like we’re watching from a distance, remembering something that was so simple and sweet.
And at the same time, Snow is intimate. All of the action happens in the foreground. That’s where the train rumbles and the station agent shovels.
Once upon another long time ago I wrote about the rule of thirds, and that’s beautifully at work here.
We’re looking in from the outside, thanks to the white space, but we’re right there with them, thanks to the foreground action. It’s a balance, a push and pull, and some inviting tension in the quietest of stories.
Only one spread has an illustration that takes up the entire page. A wide rectangle becomes a perfect track for rolling in. (Or is it out? But does it matter?) A wide rectangle becomes the perfect break in the pace of this book.
Much like the snow, falling heavier at times, lighter at others. Much like the light of the day, changing from dawn to dark.