Monday, January 09, 2012

Snow in Summer

Snow in Summer

Jane Yolen is a masterful storyteller. I don't know how she does it. Picture books, poetry, nonfiction, novels...she does it all. Cue my great excitement and impatience when I heard some time last summer that she had written a retake of Snow White, set in 1940s West Virginia. Hel-lo!

Papa hasn't sung much since Summer's mother and their infant died from childbirth complications. Thankfully, Summer (named Snow in Summer at birth) has her Cousin Nancy to act as a mother figure, until Papa suddenly marries a very strange woman. Very strange, indeed. Stepmama (what Summer, now called Snow, must call her new stepmother) is hard and artificially affectionate. When Summer reaches maturity, Stepmama announces that it is time to take her to "her church." Oddly enough, Stepmama has not regularly attended any services since she mysteriously arrived in town.

This is when the parallels between the original Snow White story and Yolen's creation become most apparent. Yolen has included the well-known aspects of the story-evil stepmother/witch, magic mirror, the huntsman, and even the seven strange men. Snow White, in my opinion, is one of the darkest and creepiest Grimm tales, and Yolen incorporates the sinister aspects of the story to a chilling effect.

Snow in Summer is definitely for the mature child reader, not just for the fact that Summer entering her cycles is a key plot point of the story, but for the fact that Yolen tends to expect more of her readers in terms of vocabulary, mood, and plot development. Sensitive readers might balk (for various reasons), but I found it a very unique and memorable read.

1 comment:

Ms. Yingling said...

This cover does not quite portray what is in the book, so students might find it kind of confusing. I normally love Yolen, but just couldn't get into this one.