Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Snow in Summer by Jane Yolen

Snow in Summer 
by Jane Yolen 
256 pages

Book Jacket Summary
With her black hair, red lips, and lily-white skin, Summer is as beautiful as her father's garden. And her life in the mountains of West Virginia seems like a fairy tale; her parents sing and dance with her, Cousin Nancy dotes on her, and she is about to get a new baby brother. But when the baby dies soon after he's born, taking Summer's mama with him, Summer's fairy-tale life turns grim. Things get even worse when her father marries a woman who brings poisons and magical mirrors into Summer's world. Stepmama puts up a pretty face, but Summer suspects she's up to no good - and is afraid she's powerless to stop her.This Snow White tale filled with magic and intrigue during the early twentieth century in Appalachia will be hard to forget.

My Thoughts
Jane Yolen is such a prolific writer but never seems to run out of good ideas. She is also a hit or miss with me and I either love her books or cannot finish them. This is one that I finished and really appreciated. A retelling of Snow White is a difficult task because their are so many variations out there that finding a new angle is hard because it feels like the reader has read it before. This version of the tale is set in the mountains of West Virginia in the 1940's. The cover makes it look like a more fairy tale-esque time period but the time setting works in its favor.
Summer in Snow leads an idealistic childhood until her mother dies in childbirth and her father falls into a deep depression. Her Cousin Nancy takes care of her and makes sure she is feed, clothed and loved. This suddenly changes when a woman enchants her father and quickly becomes her Stepmama. All Summer wants is to be loved by her new Stepmama but quickly learns that it is not to be so. Stepmama is really a witch who is after the family property and will stop at nothing to get it.
The book is told through many points of view but it is mostly Summer's story and how she handles the situations her Stepmama places her in. Cousin Nancy wants to help but the restrictions of society and some pride on her part make it difficult for her to take Summer out of harms way. I really like Cousin Nancy and how she did fight back in small ways. The story heavily relies on Appalachian myths and turns of phrases. It was interesting seeing the tale of Snow White in such a place. There are many parts that talk about menstrual cycles and birthing, so if you are squeamish about that in literature I would stay away. 
I would recommend this book to those who love fairy tale retelling and definitely those who are fans of Jane Yolen. The woman knows how to spin a tale.

Book Pairings 

The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell
Troll's Eye View: A Book of Villainous Tales by
Toads and Diamonds by


  1. I love Jane Yolen! Great review. I'm looking forward to reading this one.

    -Kimberly @ Turning The Pages


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