Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Snow and Rose by Emily Winfield Martin

Once, there were two sisters.
Rose had hair like threads of black silk and cheeks like two red petals and a voice that was gentle and sometimes hard to hear. Snow had hair like white swan down and eyes the color of the winter sky, with a laugh that was sudden and wild.

Before you read this review take ten minutes to listen to this audio version of Snow White and Rose Red by the Grimm Brothers.  It is essential to have a good knowledge of this fairy tale before you read Snow and Rose.

I first saw Snow and Rose in a large city book shop and I was attracted to the cover and the promise of a story based on a fairy tale. More recently I visited Beachside Bookshop where I again spied this book and so I decided to buy it. I was right about the cover and scrumptious illustrations but wrong about the story.  This is not a plot based around the fairy tale of Snow White and Rose Red but rather an actual retelling of the fairy tale in the longer format of a 200 page illustrated novel.

I will confess I was not familiar with this tale by the Grimm Brothers but as I read on I realised I needed to find the original tale. There are three covers at the bottom of this post or you may find the tale in a Fairy Tale collection. I actually thought there would be more picture book editions - this is a gap in the market which needs filling. 

Emily Wingfield Martin weaves in all the story elements from the original and then adds her own delicious descriptions. 

"Half the garden was filled entirely with white flowers of every kind - with pale, delicate bells of lily of the valley, spires of vanilla foxgloves with speckled throats, climbing moonflower vines, and bright-eyed anemones, from the tiniest white daisy to ivory dahlias the size of dinner plates."

"And the other half bloomed only in red: vermilion poppies and scarlet pansies and wine-colored snapdragons and Japanese lanterns the color of fire. And dozens and dozens of roses, each with a hundred red petals."

And here is the description of the very special library the girls find in the forest.  They each borrow an object not knowing exactly how these curiosities will help them.

"On every side of the staircase were intricate shelves built into the walls and arm's reach away. As the girls made their way up, they were further puzzled, for in this library, there weren't any books. Instead arranged on the shelves, nestled in nooks, displayed in boxes, stuffed into glass bottles, were hundreds - maybe thousands- of little objects. ... A bit of coral, a spotted feather, a scrap of velvet, a paper crane, a delicate bone, a pebble of fool's gold, ... a postage stamp, an acorn, a baby tooth, a sliver button."

One of the joys with writing this blog is when I discover connections. Emily Wingfield Martin is the author of several picture books (you can hear her talking about her books here) and she is also the author a book I did enjoy a few years ago called Oddfellows Orphanage.

As with all fairy tales, there are lessons in these books: Cultivate inner beauty. Be kind, especially to any creature or fellow human who is suffering. And because young heroines figure so prominently, one notion emerges with particular clarity: Girls have the interior resources to do anything they want, and while a little magic helps, it’s hardly necessary. New York Times

For lovers of fairy tales, this story of sisterhood, taking risks, and being kind is a physically beautiful book with an appealing cover and captivating full-color illustrations. Kirkus

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