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Pickle Me This

November 19, 2015

The Story of Snowflake and Inkdrop

IMG_0811The Story of Snowflake and Inkdrop is written by Pierdomenico Baccalario and Alessandro Gatti, illustrated by Simona Mulazzani, and translated from Italian by Brenda Porster. It’s a gorgeously illustrated picture book about yearning, desire, and storytelling, with beautiful intricate die cuts that make it a book that might be better be kept up on a hight shelf, and perhaps best suited for grown-up picture book lovers. Although my children, with their grubby little fingers, like the book as much as I do, and are as adept at getting lost in the illustrations, and perhaps even better at picking out its perfect details, at noticing things. And there is a lot to notice here, in a book about tiny particles and what it means to be part of something larger than oneself. And also about what it means to see the world and want to be a part of it, and the amazing, serendipitous way that this (that love!?) can happen.

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At first, this is the story of some wind and a snowflake drifting over the rooftops of a European town. The snowflake, we’re told, has been travelling for a long time. He feels, however, that he’s finally on the cusp of arriving somewhere, and the world below is glimpsed through the snowflake’s crystals, revealed altogether when the page is turned: we see a city street in one image, a circus in another, and then children playing in a park as the snow begins to accumulate.

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In none of these scenes does the snowflake fall, however, and he begins to despair that he ever will… When he sees a tiny ink drop flying resolutely toward him, and the snowflake is overwhelmed by the desire to hug it tight. BUT WAIT!

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Turning the book around and starting from the other side, we encounter that storm from an altogether new perspective. A single drop in a bottle of ink watching the wind rattling the world outside.

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Although the Inkdrop has her own concerns—for days, she’s been waiting for her artist to finally carry her to one of his paintings. Her longing is intensified as a gust of wind from the window blows the paintings around the studio, so that they “flew up, dancing in front of Inkdrop like so many dreams.”

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She sees each painting, and wishes deeply to be a part of the scene.

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And yes, it is a picture of a teapot. Naturally, we are delighted. We see also a portrait, a bucolic scene. (Clearly this is an artist with a diverse set of approaches!)

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When the wind blows so strongly again, unleashing a chain reaction that sends the ink bottle tilting, Inkdrop herself flying out of the window. And then we’re back at the moment we’ve seen before, the ink drop and the snowflake heading for each other in a dazzling cataclysm.

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And both books end in the same place, the two parts coming together to have their stories blend, this final image testament to the beauty of contrast.

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Truthfully, I am not entirely ensure what the endings means, the snowflake and the inkdrop landing in an embrace “that lasted forever.” When one considers physics, it does not seem entirely plausible, and there is the matter of the inkdrop in the jar—what then of the rest of the ink? Where did one drop end and another begin? And why is the artist so scattered in his style—is he perhaps a forger, I wonder? (Although he looks quite innocent and rosy-cheeked when we spy him out buying a baguette.) One suspects, however, that physics aren’t quite the object of the book, except perhaps those involves in the die-cutting process. For The Story of Snowflake and the Inkdrop is to be looked at and admired and even roughed up a bit by those aforementioned grubby hands, and perhaps this one is the single way that the book should be torn apart at all.

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