Snow & Rose
Written & Illustrated By Emily Winfield Martin
Hardcover, 205 pages
2017, Random House
After the disappearance of their father, Snow, Rose and their mother are exiled from their lavish home to a small cabin in the woods. As they explore the deep woods around their new home, the girls encounter a small, bearded man, a boy who lives underground and a great bear who needs their help. They discover the strange forest contains more than meets the eye.
I’ve always been a fan of fairytale retellings and this middle-grade didn’t disappoint. I was briefly reminded of Margo Lanagan’s Tender Morsels, but only because the stores are loosely (very loosely) similar. Fortunately, this book doesn’t contain bizarre bear sex!
Martin wrote and illustrated a delightful little fairytale. Two sisters (one light-haired, the other dark, as is traditional) explore the forest around them as they reluctantly try to adjust to life without their father and the home they grew up in. Naturally, they come across some strange happenings.
Like many fairytales, descriptions are used sparingly, but in all the right places. The beautiful, watercolor (or, at least they look that way, maybe she used markers) illustrations help fill in some of the details too. The girls were spunky and smart and their world had just enough magic – giving me that nostalgic feeling of possibility that I, too, could have stumbled upon a magic forest, without feeling too saturated or bizarre.
The girls and their mother do befriend a strangely tame bear and he lives with them during the winter – hence the Tender Morsels vibe. I’m sure both books have roots in the same tale. This one is obviously geared towards younger readers and I vastly preferred it to the aforementioned story. I did think this was going to be a bit darker – though it’s ok that it’s not – but there is a detail that’s revealed later in the story and not addressed after the ending that left me thinking there is a bit of darkness here, it’s just not as obvious. I dig it.
If you’re a fan of tales where children explore a magical forest, meet bespelled creatures, discover friends in strange places and take charge of their own fate, you’ll probably enjoy this. I can’t recall if I’ve read older versions of Snow and Rose, so I’m not sure how faithfully it sticks to its origins (and I don’t care), but if you also enjoy fairytale retellings and middle-grade, you’ll probably enjoy this.
P.S. If you missed it, I’ve done a Judging post so you can see Emily’s artwork.