I’ve had the chance to hear Barbara Reid talk about her books and her plasticine art on a few occasions, and every time, I walk away thinking what a charming, smart, funny, talented person she is. It always makes me love a book more when the author or artist impresses me as an individual. Her latest picture book, Perfect Snow, is another remarkable creation with plasticine artwork so outstanding that you’ll be gobsmacked, yet again. It is crazy what she can do with the stuff.
The book was inspired by a snow fort that Reid’s daughter made when she was young, a fort that became legendary in their family and community. Two boys, Scott and Jim, each wake up thrilled to see that snow has fallen overnight. Both are excited to get to school and make the most of the white stuff at recess. Nearly all of the story takes place during recesses, following the boys’ games on their own and with their friends.
For the first time ever, Reid includes ink and watercolour panels along with the plasticine landscapes, and the mixed media works beautifully. I wouldn’t have thought it would be possible to improve upon her genius plasticine illustrations, but I really liked the way that the black and white sketches served to set off the rich detail and colour in the plasticine images. Also, the comic style layout of the ink drawings allowed Reid to get in even more narrative, giving readers an opportunity to get to know the characters better as we have more of a chance to see them in between major scenes in the story.
Looking at one of Reid’s full-page or double-page plasticine spreads, you really have to wonder: a) how does she do it? b) how long does it take? There is one illustration that shows a tornado of kids, swirling up in a mess of flying scarves and hats and mitten strings and big sweeping whirls of snow. The facial expressions of the children and the textures in the flying snow and the tremendous movement on the page gets full marks – more than full marks because it’s stunning that she does it with plasticine.
Here’s Reid introducing the book:
The tale itself is straightforward and pretty simple, but so true to a kid’s perspective, to what matters to them in their day-to-day school life. It’s an honest, entirely relatable winter story, brought to life in a uniquely vivid style, making the experience seem fresh as… (dare I say it?)… brand new snow.
Perfect Snow is published by North Winds Press, an imprint of Scholastic Canada.
Perfect Snow is perfect for a wintery gift. Just perfect. So quit it with the rain, and let’s get some white stuff started.