Snow In Summer, by Jane Yolen

What if Snow White wasn't a princess, but just a girl, named Snow in Summer, loved by her papa and mama and growing up good and beautiful in the mountains of West Virginia in the mid-20th century?  And what if her mama died, and her papa was so grief stricken he couldn't spare a thought for his little girl anymore...but was ensnared by the magic of a wicked woman, who became the poor child's evil stepmother?

Snow in Summer, by Jane Yolen (Philomel, 2011) is that story, and these twists of time and place and character make for a fascinating retelling.   It's a dark one, starting off right away in sadness with the death of Summer's mother, and working its way slowly and inexorably into horror, as Summer's evil stepmother cuts the girl off from the rest of the community, punishes her horribly, and finally, plans to kill her.  For the stepmother's magic is dark indeed, and it's a greedy, hungry magic that feeds on young life....

Summer herself is aware that things are horribly wrong, but can't seem to find any way out of the maze of cruelty that's been woven around her.  It's not until she runs for her life that she finds a refugee--in the home of a family of small German immigrant brothers-- and that isn't until page 195.  

It wasn't one I loved.  I found Summer a somewhat distant, unemotional narrator, and I never connected quite enough with her to care all that much.  On top of that,  I couldn't help but feel that the last bit of the book was rushed (we don't get enough time to really get to know the Seven Dwarf equivalents), and the romance at the end (not even a romance) was unsatisfactorily tacked on.   But I did appreciate the freshness of  Jane Yolen's reworking, and can recommend it to fans of fairy tales on that basis--it made a lovely change from the faux medieval that's so ubiquitous in retellings (though I think I'll always love those medievally ones best!).

Those looking for fairy tale retellings with pretty dresses should look elsewhere (they will find the pretty cover has deceived them), but older middle-school kids (seventh graders or so) who are almost ready to move on to darkish, more Young Adult books may well enjoy it.  

Note on age:  The lust (verging on attempted rape) of the teenaged boy who has been charged with killing Summer pushes this, in my mind, out of the range of younger readers.

A sample of other reviews:  Semicolon, Leaf's Reviews, and Book Aunt


  1. I like medievally retellings the best too ha ha.

    I bought this one on a whim this week, so I guess will expect it to not be light hearted fare.

  2. I really like the cover of this book...


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