“In the desolate, cold, Alaskan wilderness, Jack and Mabel try to make a home for themselves. They left to fulfill the American Dream of the 1920’s –following a government call to settle in Alaska. Leaving incredibly difficult family relationships
behind and the loss of their own child, the two set off on what Mabel imagined to be the adventure of a lifetime. What she found was a terribly difficult and lonely life that pulled Jack and Mabel farther and farther apart from one another.
During the first snowfall of the season, Jack and Mabel are overcome with the beauty and freshness of the fallen snow, forget for a moment all their troubles, and they enjoy a playful evening making snow angels, throwing snowballs, and making a child out of the snow. They decide they will create a little girl; Jack carves beautiful features into the snow child and Mabel adorns her with mittens and a scarf. The two retreat into the house to warm up and bunker down for winter. When they go to sleep, they could never anticipate how this night would change their lives.
Faina, a child of the snow and of the woods, appears to Jack and Mabel in the morning. First, only her tracks can be seen from the snow, but then they both see her running through the woods with the mittens and the scarf Mabel left on the actual snow child. Neither can believe their eyes, and don’t even tell each other what they have seen, until she starts leaving food at their door-step and accepting gifts. She can’t be held inside for too long, but she begins to visit more and more. Jack and Mabel begin to love her as their own child. Every winter from this one on, Faina comes, but every spring as if melting with the snow, she leaves. Jack and Mabel’s lives revolve around this young girl who grows into a beautiful young woman. Both Jack and Mabel find themselves looking into every aspect of her life, desperate to confirm that she is real and not a figment of their imagination. Desperate to understand how she survives on her own in the Alaskan wilderness. One winter, however, Faina and Garrett have a chance encounter that will change all their lives and confirm that sometimes things are too good to be true.
This devastating beautiful book is full of figurative language and is not as simple as you might think at first glance. The real and harsh Alaskan wilderness is violent and cold, held up in contrast with the beauty of Fiana. The themes of love, loss, and family run throughout the story.
This would provide an excellent example for close reading. Students can find a number of examples of imagery, simile, metaphor, and allusion. It would be an exercise in truly taking apart the story to understand its complex nature, very much like the snowflakes Faina seems to conjure.
Mabel remembers an old fairy tale that her father used to read to her when she was a child. She sent for the book from New England. It was a German fairytale and every aspect of the Snow Child in this story came true with Faina. Mabel is desperate to change the ending, however. Students can research other stories that are based on fairytales and folklore and find companion books to those tales, like this one. In addition, students can read the children’s book, Snow Child: A Russian Folktale by Freya Littledale and look for similarities and differences between the two.
I absolutely loved this book!