40 years of The Snowman with Rosalind Jana & Penguin

40 years of The Snowman with Rosalind Jana & Penguin

Rosalind Jana & Penguin Ventures
autumn winter 2018

This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the iconic ‘The Snowman’ book, which forms the inspiration behind our magical Christmas film. In celebration of this, we’ve partnered with Rosalind Jana, literature and style journalist, to discover more about why she adores the classic story, and how it was a staple in her childhood…


I’ve always been a hungry reader. My mum tells fond stories of buying herself extra sleep time when I was small by leaving a pile of books at the end of my bed for me to busy myself with, when I inevitably woke up, alert and ready for the day, pre 6am. She’d come in to find me absorbed in all sorts of marvellous worlds and words and images; from Quentin Blake’s angular scribbles, to Shirley Hughes’ perfect evocations of childhood imagination. 

Among the pile, Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman frequently featured – especially as the year tilted from autumn into the season of eternal hope for snow. We had a tiny copy that could balance perfectly on one palm, the spine already cracking. By the time it was passed onto my younger brother, the pages would be looking distinctly ragged.


I’d all but forgotten about this miniature book until Barbour got in touch to talk about their upcoming Christmas campaign with Penguin, focused on the 40th Anniversary of The Snowman. I immediately went away, re-watched the film adaptation (my heart still leaping at those opening notes of ‘We’re Walking in the Air’) and, next time I was home visiting my parents, sought out this delicious little book once more – opening it to find our surname written in the front in biro. I promptly sat down and re-read it, struck immediately by its simplicity; the way in which Briggs’ illustrations tell such a sweet and ultimately elegiac tale of childhood imagination.  


It felt like an apt process for a story that’s generally so well-beloved: handed down from generation to generation, as so many good books are – from parent to child, perhaps, or in our case, sibling to sibling before lingering on the bookshelf waiting for rediscovery. Who knows who’ll get to enjoy it in future... In that respect, it’s similar to a significant piece of clothing going through multiple pairs of hands, taking on different meanings at different points – but still with an ongoing thread of connection.

I ended up thinking a lot about the parallels between handing down books and handing down clothes while subsequently filming this video focused on Penguin Ventures and Barbour’s collaboration – culminating in their own short Christmas film further exploring a narrative of imagination and fervent, festive hope.

There we ended up discussing everything from family Christmas rituals to the satisfaction of a good winter coat (like this one, which I’ll be wearing for many a blustery walk this year), to the ways in which stories continue to accumulate new meaning as the years pass. In doing so, it was lovely to return to such familiar, snowy terrain for a while – and feel a new crackle of satisfaction on navigating an old favourite anew.

Watch Barbour’s Christmas film and discover Barbour Christmas.