CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 2. . . .September 12, 2014
Snow White and Rose Red are "helpful, grateful and loving" sisters, very different in appearance and personality, but equally beautiful and kind. Snow White is introverted while Rose Red is extroverted, each sister complementing the other perfectly. The girls live a quiet, peaceful life in the woods with their mother until one cold, wintery day a black bear comes to their cabin, seeking shelter from the storm. Though initially apprehensive, the girls soon realize that this is no ordinary black bear, and eventually they uncover the mystery surrounding the bear's true identity.
Kallie George's retelling of the classic Grimm Brother's fairy tale remains largely faithful to the original story. The girls' kindness and helpfulness are repeatedly emphasized, contrasting sharply with the rudeness and ungratefulness of the wicked dwarf who, of course, eventually receives his comeuppance. As befits a traditional fairy tale, there is an element of violence to the story that parents and teachers may want to be aware of as the mighty black bear defends the sisters, knocking the dwarf "down dead" with "one powerful blow of his paw."
The real stars of this adaptation are Kelly Vivanco's stunningly evocative and atmospheric paintings. The large illustrations add depth and substance to the story, anchoring passages that might otherwise feel a bit too saccharine, particularly those describing the many virtues of the two saintly sisters. Vivanco's muted, earth-toned palette is, in a way, reminiscent of the classic fairy tale illustrations of the great Arthur Rackham and represents a clear departure from the candy-coloured fairy tale adaptations of publishers such as Disney. This classic colour scheme is paired with Vivanco's wide-eyed and oddly proportioned characters to create a modern and visually arresting illustration style.
While the story of Snow White and Rose Red could be read aloud to younger children, the heavier text, darker and more complex illustrations, and potentially frightening elements might make this picture book more appealing to older children.
It is worth noting, particularly for readers who may be less familiar with European fairy tales, that, despite the similarity in title, the Snow White referred to in this story is no way connected to the Snow White made famous by Walt Disney's film adaptation.
Jane Whittingham is a public librarian in British Columbia.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.