The Snowman by Raymond Briggs

Captain’s Log: Module 2

Port of Call: Briggs, R. (1978). The Snowman. New York, NY: Random House, Inc..

First Lines: n/a

Cover of The Snowman

Summary: This is a beautifully illustrated story told entirely in pictures. Drawn in what looks like colored pencil, each page is filled with panels of varying sizes that tell the story of a young boy and his snowman. Beginning with him waking up and discovering it’s snowing, the boy runs outside and builds a snowman. He dresses it, and when he goes to sleep, he can’t stop thinking about it. He gets up to go check on his snowman, who tips his hat very courteously. Greetings exchanged, the boy invites his snowman inside, and proceeds to give him a tour of the house and all the novelties inside that a snowman would never have seen before. The snowman then returns the favor, taking the boy by the hand and leaping into the sky to fly over the world until morning comes when they both return and the boy goes back to bed. When he wakes up the next morning, he runs outside to see the snowman again, only to discover that he has melted.

More than the story, the best part of this picture book is the illustrations. Some pages have 12 small panels, while others are full page spreads. It’s always easy to tell what’s going on in each picture, and the book reads smoothly and quickly. I think this book would be a great bedtime story, with its theme of adventures while you sleep. I also love that a child who can’t read will fully be able to enjoy this book. Finally, it’s a great wintertime story, and I bet children will want to make a snowman after finishing it!

First Impressions: I did not know that this book had to words, so the first couple of pages were amusing and surprising. I thought the comic book-style illustration strips were fun, and I flew through the book very quickly.

Suggestions for use: This is definitely a winter story, so reading it around that time of year – first snowfall – would be a great use. Also, this is somewhat a story about imaginary friends and dreams, so reading it to children can stimulate their imaginations or help them understand a dream they themselves had.


The boy and his snowman take off into the night sky

“Who needs words to tell a story? In Raymond Briggs’s charming tale, told with 175 softly hued, artfully composed frames, a little boy makes friends with a snowman. He wakes up on a snowy day, tells his mother he’s going outside, then begins a flurry of snowman-building. That night, he can’t sleep, so he opens the front door and lo! the snowman has come to life. The amiable yet frosty fellow enjoys his tour of the boy’s cozy home; he admires the cat, but is disturbed by the fire. The boy shows him other wonders–the TV and a lamp and running water. Predictably perhaps, he is disturbed by the stove, but likes ice cubes quite a bit. Soon it is the snowman’s turn to introduce the boy to his wintry world. They join hands, rise up into the blizzardy air–presumably over Russia and into the Middle East–and then safely back to home sweet home. The boy pops into bed before his parents get up… but when he wakes up the next morning he races outside only to find his new buddy’s melted remains, scattered with a few forlorn lumps of coal. Since the book is wordless, you can make up any ending you want… like “Then, in a puff of pink smoke, the snowman recomposed himself and went to live in the boy’s garage freezer.” Or you could just resign yourself to a peaceful “And that was that.” Raymond Briggs’s The Snowman won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and this wintertime classic continues to win the hearts of kids every year. (Preschool and older)” Karin Snelson

Snelson, K. (2001) review of The Snowman. Retrieved September 6, 2010 from

Bats at the Library by Brian Lies

Captain’s Log: Module 1

Port of Call: Lies, B. (2008). Bats at the library. Boston: Houghton Mifflin

a number of bats pulling a book off library shelves using headphone cord

Cover of Bats at the Library

First Lines:

“Another inky evening’s here-

the air is cool and calm and clear.

We’ve feasted, fluttered, swooped and soared,

and yet… we’re still a little bored.”

Summary: A colony of bats has an unexpected night of fun and reading when they discover someone has left a window open at the local library. Apparently this happens every year or so, and the older bats get to show the bat pups what fun the library has to offer. Making shadow puppets on the overhead projector, to making batty photocopies, swimming in the drinking fountain…. the bats explore everything but eventually they find themselves enthralled by the books and stories all around them. So immersed, in fact, that they almost don’t notice when morning comes!

Bats at the Library

Bats hang upside down from a lampshade, reading

First Impressions: I immediately loved the full-color illustrations of the cover and was not disappointed to see the same style continued within the book. The dark colors and bat theme give this book a Halloween atmosphere (and in fact I found it in the holiday books at my library) but the story itself is not a Halloween book. I thought the bat illustrations and font were fun and cute. A few amazingly memorable pages show illustration montages from highly recognizable children’s classics.

Suggestions for use: This book would be great for sharing with children the excitement of reading and how wonderful it can be when you are sucked into a story so completely. Also a great book for Autumn thanks to the Halloween-ish atmosphere which does not overtly promote that holiday.

Other Notes: Apparently Lies has a series of books featuring the bats, including Bats at the Ballgame and Bats at the Beach. So if you liked the bats (and I did!) there are a few more ways to see them again.


School Library Journal: “In this companion to Bats at the Beach (Houghton, 2006), Lies pays homage to the pleasures to be found within libraries and books. The story opens on three winged creatures clinging to an autumnal branch against the backdrop of evening.





A bat flies through the air on a bed saying, no more melted cheese for me, no

Part of the children's classics montage

Observant readers will recognize the young bat with yellow “water wings” from the earlier title and notice that the chimney and trees at the top of the page point downward—a cue to attend to perspective. The bats are bored, but an antidote is announced: someone left a window open in the library. The golden glow from spotlights on the side of the building and an Arts and Crafts-style reading lamp illuminate the nocturnal adventures in this handsome, traditional space. The bats cluster according to interests. Some peruse “guides to fancy foods” (insect books) and form literary discussion groups. The younger mammals make images of themselves at the copier, frolic in the fountain, play at the computer, and explore the gingerbread castle in a pop-up book. An impromptu storytime brings everyone together, however, and after the pint-size protagonist is literally drawn into the featured book, two spreads reveal a montage of scenes from classic stories, with bats in the starring roles.

Lies’s acrylics are a successful fusion of fantasy and reality. The rhyming narrative is generally smooth, with enough humor and sophistication to propel readers along. And who can argue with the message?”

Lukehart, W. (2010)  School Library Journal  review of Bats at the Library. Retrieved August 28th from

Worcester Telegram and Gazette News:The creator of “Bats at the Beach” has brought his endearing band of flying mammals back for a nocturnal visit to the public library, a stimulating trip made possible by news that a window to the building has been left ajar. The older members of the group — you can tell them by their spectacles — are content with seeking out favorite titles such as “Goodnight Sun.” Some bats, in “munchy moods,” will study “guides to fancy foods.” Others — quite literally — “hang out” by the lamps to schmooze, while a few of the youngsters play shape shadows with an overhead projector. Brian Lies clearly has a passion for libraries and the world of wondrous treats that they have to offer, an enthusiasm he shares by way of his wonderfully sophisticated chiaroscuro paintings.”

Worcester Telegram and Gazette News (2008) Review of Bats at the Library. Retrieved August 28th, 2010 from

a full page spread from the book