First up: An Apology.
This post will mention Christmas.
Yes, I know it’s still months away, but Christmas cards are on sale everywhere I go at the moment and so I’m jumping on the bandwagon and giving you what may be my only Christmas post all year so be generous, and stick with me… please?
The Story of the Snow Children by Sibylle von Olfers is an utterly delightful wintry tale full of whimsy, sprinkled with magic and sparkling with charm.
You know how when parents are off out of the scene, all sorts of interesting things can happen that might otherwise never be possible? Well one day when Poppy is left alone, she spies a group of snowflake children dancing through the sky. She can’t resist going out to join them (who can blame her?) and they quickly invite her to visit the Snow Queen. Her palace is “a castle of ice all shining white – the turrets like sugar, the walls smooth as glass.”
Poppy and her new friends share a huge feast, a ball and enormous amounts of fun but at the end of it all Poppy is tired and wants to go home. The Snow Queen understands and returns Poppy back to her mother in a polar-bear drawn sleigh. All’s well that ends well, sweet and simple as that.
This tale is full of comfort, joy and excitement; Poppy’s Snow Queen couldn’t be further from that found in Narnia. And the final line is so deliciously tantalising, addressing the reader directly, as it does, about the possibility that we too might one day be able to visit the Snow Kingdom.
The illustrations are full of pale blues, greens and white, with Poppy in her red coat, hat and gloves acting as a perfect foil to the cool wintry landscapes. Sibylle van Olfers’ style has often been compared to that of Kate Greenaway and Elsa Beskow, and in this book the snowdrop panels used to frame her pictures have echoes of Arts and Crafts design.
The Story of the Snow Children has recently be re-published in mini-format (only a little bit bigger than an iPhone) and this little edition would make a perfect stocking filling, especially if you can conjure up some snow for Christmas morning.
Having read The Story of the Snow Children we just couldn’t resist trying to create our own palace of crystal, all sparkling and bright.
First we made some snowflake crystals using powdered alum (also known as potassium alum or alum potash – we ordered ours online). We three-quarters-filled a clean jar with hot water and then stirred in powdered alum one spoon at a time until the solution was saturated (i.e. until we could see the alum collecting at the bottom of the jar and no longer dissolving in the hot water). We then hung a star made out of bent pipecleaners into the solution using a paper clip hooked round a pencil, making sure the pipe cleaner didn’t touch the sides/bottom of the jar. Within a couple of hours this is is what we had:
You can imagine how excited we were! We then tried to repeat the process but with many more snowflake shapes.
Perhaps because our solution wasn’t so saturated, the second batch of snowflakes took much longer to grown (several days), but an unexpected bonus was that beautiful crystals did grow on the bottom of the container we were using, so we turned that on its side to create our crystal palace.
We decorated our palace with the crystals we had grown, and then populated the palace with some painted figurines to represent Poppy and her new friends.
Around the side of the palace we stuck sugar cubes using icing sugar as glue, to further create the illusion of a building made completely from sparkly crystal.
Here are some of our crystals close up:
Growing the crystals was a great deal of fun, and definitely worth the price of a packed of powdered alum. Science, sparkles + a sweet story = success!
Whilst making our crystal palace we listened to:
Other activities which would be fun to get up to along side reading The Story of the Snow Children include:
So… is Christmas on your radar yet? Are any books you’re hoping to give or receive in mind?
Disclosure: I received a free copy of The Story of the Snow Children from Floris Books. I was under no obligation to review the books and I received no money for this post.