Random House Children’s Books has announced the fall 2013 publication of Snowflakes Fall, a picture book written by Newbery Medalist Patricia MacLachlan and illustrated by Steven Kellogg. After the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School last December, the author and illustrator were moved to create a book that would bring a message of hope and renewal to children and families affected by the tragedy. This is the first collaboration between longtime friends MacLachlan and Kellogg, who for 35 years lived with his family in Sandy Hook, a village within the town of Newtown.
In Snowflakes Fall, MacLachlan uses the image of the snowflake to underscore the uniqueness of individuals and the healing power of nature and time. The motif was inspired by the Connecticut Parent Teacher Student Association’s drive to encourage people to make paper snowflakes to decorate the new school that Sandy Hook students began attending after the shooting.
The picture book sprang from Kellogg’s overwhelming sadness about the tragedy. “I raised a big family in Sandy Hook and my heart is still very much there,” says the illustrator, who now lives in upstate New York. “I was very active in the school and library community, which is so safe, trusting, and loving. The news of 12/14 was so horrendous and so shattering and devastating. I was having trouble coming out from under the shadow of it and recovering my sense of well-being. I really wished I could do something creative as a counterbalance to that.”
Kellogg shared his feelings with MacLachlan, with whom he serves on the board of the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance. “Steven told me that since the shootings, he had lost his natural optimism,” she recalls. “Because he lived in Sandy Hook, it struck him very hard – but it struck us all hard, and we all felt we couldn’t do anything. I realized that I had to do something, and words were all I had.”
MacLachlan used her words to create a poetic narrative about changing seasons, the cycle of life, renewal and memory. “I always say I don’t write with a message, but here, I wanted to say that there are good things that happen, and there is renewal,” she says. “After the flowers are gone, the snowflakes come. There are fond memories of the children who are gone, and of the others who are still here. While writing every word, I thought about all children touched by loss.”
Kellogg notes that his fond memories of the people and places of Sandy Hook inspired his illustrations, which depict iconic scenes of the village and its environs. “Newtown has very beautiful hills, woods, streams, excellent schools, and caring families,” he says. “I tried to capture all of that in the illustrations, as well as the theme of seasons changing. The tragedy occurred in winter, and Patty emphasizes that snowflakes are all different and beautiful in their own way, just like children. I want to capture what she so poetically put in the text. I want it to be an uplifting book as well as a book of remembrance. It is an appreciation of children everywhere.”
Maria Modugno, editorial director of picture books for the Random House/Golden Books for Young Readers Group, acquired Snowflakes Fall at an auction conducted by Rubin Pfeffer of East West Literary Agency. She will also edit the book, which will be released under the Random House Books for Young Readers imprint and will be supported by a major marketing and publicity campaign.
“I was initially hesitant about a book on this subject, but once I saw how organically it came about it made perfect sense,” says Modugno. “Patty’s words are just beautiful. You can tell this was written from the heart. And the first piece of art Steven created was brimming with emotion. The response from everyone at Random House has been overwhelming. We all believe in Snowflakes Fall and in its purpose. This is one of those books that can really make a difference, and as an editor that’s what you always hope for.”
Random House Children’s Books, together with Random House, Inc., will make what the company calls “a significant monetary donation” to an organization to be determined by MacLachlan and Kellogg that benefits the Sandy Hook community, as well as to a national child-focused organization. RHCB will also donate 25,000 books, with bookplates signed by the author and illustrator, to First Book in honor of the residents of Sandy Hook.
“We are very grateful to Random House for making these donations,” MacLachlan says. “We are going to work very hard to support Snowflakes Fall after it is published. This book has been a real collaboration between Steven and me, and I feel as though we have a deeper friendship and sense of purpose because of it.”
Snowflakes Fall by Patricia MacLachlan, illus. by Steven Kellogg. Random House, $17.99 Nov. 2013 ISBN 978-0-385-37693-8