Saturday, 14 January 2012

Snow Reviewed in Summer

You know, someday you might even get an adult's book review out of me. (It's true! I'm currently most of the way through "The Help"). But not today. Today I get to gush about Caldecott award winning author Jane Yolen. *gush* ^_^

As soon as I saw Snow in Summer hit the shelf, I knew what my next book was going to be. If you want a good fairy tale and you don't want an original Grimm or its illustrated legacies, find a book by Ms. Yolen. I was even lucky enough to hear her speak in a panel about writing fairy stories. She took over the conversation a bit, talking about the evolutions of fairy tales. When she realized that she had been the only one talking for about 10 minutes, she apologized and offered to turn the room back to her other panel members. The entire room, including those on the panel reacted with 'no no! You just keep going! Please!'

But I digress. As you might have guessed from the title and the cover art, Snow in Summer is a Snow White tale. Also, it's set in 1940s Appalachia!

Snow In Summer, or Summer, lives with her happy dancing mother and her singing gardener of a father. And then, as always, her mother dies, this time giving birth to a baby brother that also dies. Summer's father takes the hit hardest of all. He no longer sings or dances or even tries to garden. Summer and Cousin Nancy (who does her best to step into the shoes of both parents and raises Summer) try to keep his gardens going in order to make money and, well, eat. But every night he goes up the mountain to the small abandoned church here Summer's mother is buried.

One night he comes down bewitched. Then the woman appears. She marries Papa, banishes Nancy, and as Papa is kept in an herb/magic induced stupor when he's not tending the gardens, enslaves Summer (who she insists upon referring to as Snow), who is under her spell enough to obey. One day, Snow finds the magic mirror in Step-mamma's room, gets caught and threatened. Another time, Step-mamma takes Snow up into the mountains to a ' church' she attended for a time - one filled with crazy mountain folk, fire, and snakes. Snow passes out, but unfortunately a certain person takes a liking to her before the service starts.

Meanwhile, Cousin Nancy, who is not even allowed to take Snow to the church in town once a week anymore has figured out a small way to fight back. She convinces Step-mamma to let her take Snow out for her birthday and, while out, she gives Snow presents, love, and most importantly, a little bit of folk-magic. Suddenly, Snow feels safer at home. A small burden seems to have been lifted, and even Papa, thanks to some rowan berries in his pocket, seems to be snapping out of it. And this is, naturally, where everything falls apart. Snow is told to put on her best dress. Step-mamma does her hair and even offers her some makeup and tells her to get in the car. Then she proceeds to drive Summer up into the mountains to the home of one of the younger men from the 'church', and leave her there.

This took up most of the book. We often think of Snow White AND the 7 Dwarfs. So now here we are, all the way at the end, and WHERE are the dwarfs? (The story never drags getting to this point. I just kept wondering how we were getting so near the end and still hadn't made it into the forest yet...) But fear not! They're there. You just have to read the book to find out where.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like an interesting take on the story. But there is a timeless esscence to folk literature the resenates within humans culturally, thus making it possible to adapt them to any time period. You can keep them current by tweaking the details and the message is still there. One of the classes I subbed for last year was working on modernizeing their own version of their favorate fairy tails. The panel you went to also sounds fasinating.
Darlene