As Mark Twain was to the birth of American folklore, so Jane Yolen is to the next generation of Americana. Yolen is able to take classic Old World fol...moreAs Mark Twain was to the birth of American folklore, so Jane Yolen is to the next generation of Americana. Yolen is able to take classic Old World folk tales, clothe them in distinctly American cultures, mores, and histories, and present a story which gives a nod to its European roots while remaining uniquely American.
Snow in Summer is no different. At its heart, you will find the traditional Snow White fairy tale: evil stepmother/wicked witch, potions and poisons, magic mirror, the hunter, even the dwarfs who mine for precious minerals and the infamous apple (though this time it takes the form of apple kuchen). But this Snow White is set in a very rural Appalachia community, specifically a small town in West Virginia in the 1940-50's. Add in the folklore rooted in those very mountains and valleys--stories of haints and green magic, the power of rowan berries and garlic, and, most importantly, babies born with a caul--the mysterious sect of snake-handlers and their practice of faith-healing and speaking in tongues, miracle testimony and the belief in their immunity to poisons and venom, as well as those animals who have their own long and storied folktale history such as the snake, the owl, the fox, and the bear, and you've got a completely new perspective on an old story. And a beautifully haunting, lyrical, evocative perspective it is.
Snow White is known as Snow in Summer, her name coming from the little white flowers covering the yard.
The Snow in Summer plant, Cerastium tomentosum
We see the bulk of her story from her perspective, from the death of her mother, when she's known as Summer (because, as Summer's Cousin Nancy relates to her in a well-told tale: ”Your daddy laughed and said, 'We gonna call her all that? Snow in Summer? Don't you think she's too tiny for such a big name?' 'We gonna call her Summer,' your mama told him. 'It's warm and pretty, just as warm and pretty as she is.'”), to the arrival of Stepmama, who decided Snow was a better name (the changes in Snow in Summer's name are obvious, yet important signals in plot development), to the final, fulfilling conclusion. To add depth to the tale and to the characters, certain chapters are told from either Stepmama's or Cousin Nancy's perspectives, infrequent enough to add a piquant flavor to Snow's tale without becoming a distraction.
The novel is an expansion of Yolen's short story, "Snow in Summer," originally published in the anthology Black Heart, Ivory Bones. I'm sure I read that story as I love the anthologies produced by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, all of them involved with fairy tale retellings, but it's been so long ago, I'd forgotten all the details of the short story, making the book a nicely unfamiliar tale for me.
Now this is what I call creative writing! Some people take issue with Murdock's use of multiple P.O.V.'s (eight in all!). However, as detailed in the...moreNow this is what I call creative writing! Some people take issue with Murdock's use of multiple P.O.V.'s (eight in all!). However, as detailed in the author Q&A at the back of the book, Murdock did what a writer's supposed to: Tell the story. If the P.O.V. being used isn't serving the story, then change the P.O.V. or do as Murdock did and add new P.O.V.'s. Perhaps eight points of view seems excessive to some, but it works and what results is a richly layered and deeply nuanced tale. And even though this is a tale of fantasy, there is an element of reality to it as well: With the use of varied and sometimes conflicting viewpoints, one can see how real actions can be transformed into folklore and fairy tales. Multiple viewpoints allow for a well-rounded perspective on the action; there's always more than one side to any story and there will always be those who put their own spin or interpretation on events. Lines get blurred, fantastical stories get rationalized into dull yet more "realistic" occurrences, and people start to believe that what really happened couldn't have happened. Mix in entries from a Encyclopedia (a gimmick which appealed greatly to my inner geek) and voila! you've got an instant winner on your hands.
Despite all that, the multiple P.O.V.'s could've been just that, a gimmick, a ploy to take the reader's attention off a lame or underdeveloped plot. Thankfully that's not the case here, as Murdock's story is just as inventive as her method of telling it. The characters are all unique and while not all of them are likable, they're believable. I will say this, though: Tips is a fool. While I understand and applaud Murdock's intention to avoid the cliche of a girl finding her true love at age 16, the way Tips and Trudy's story turned out seemed wrong. (view spoiler)[To seemingly lead Trudy on and then, when they meet again, to effectively tell her "Sorry, I did love you, but now I love this other girl" is just plain mean. Then again, Tips is a man and like all men can't see the treasure in front of them, instead becoming dazzled by the new and exciting thing flashing in front of their face, thereby hurting the one who loves him best. (hide spoiler)] However, taken as a whole, the novel is quite satisfying and the ending, while not the one I would've picked for the main characters, manages to tie things up nicely and in an entertaining fashion. One thing's for sure, Murdock had quite the fun time coming up with names of towns, countries, even some battles; as you read and come across these names, they make for an extra giggle or two.
Some have said that Wisdom's Kiss is a retelling of certain fairy tales, but I disagree. I see it more of an homage or a re-imagining at the very most, seeing as there's more than one fairy tale involved in the book. We have the sleeping princess as in Snow White or Sleeping Beauty, but, presented in a very unique voice, we also have the appearance of Puss 'n Boots (who, coincidentally enough, sounded very much like Antonio Banderas in my head), as well as some influence from German and Arabian folklore. In entwining these various characters, Murdock has created an entirely new and thoroughly entertaining fairy tale.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This is a truly sweet, cute, funny and entertaining modern fairy tale. I haven't read any of Alex Flinn's previous books so I don't know how much or h...moreThis is a truly sweet, cute, funny and entertaining modern fairy tale. I haven't read any of Alex Flinn's previous books so I don't know how much or how little Cloaked differs from them. From what I can tell, Flinn has hit her stride as a writer, deftly weaving several of the lesser known fairytales--such as The Six Swans, The Golden Bird, The Valiant Tailor, among others--into a larger, more complex tale set in a very modern South Beach, Florida.
Meet Johnny, a seventeen-year-old boy who works at his family's shoe repair shop located in the lobby of the posh Coral Reef Grand hotel, who's rather ashamed that he works in his family's shoe repair shop but has no choice as his family depends on the money. In his spare time, though, he dreams of becoming a famous shoe designer and joining the likes of Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin. So when a real-life princess checks into the hotel, paparazzi hot on her stiletto heels, Johnny believes he may have found his chance to fulfill his dreams. The princess, however, has other plans for Johnny. Deeming him trustworthy, she shares her secret with him one night: Her brother, the prince, has been enchanted, turned into a frog by an evil witch. Even worse, now the prince has disappeared somewhere into the depths of the Everglades. Would Johnny please rescue her brother? In return, the princess would marry Johnny, giving him status and wealth and every opportunity to follow his dream. How could he refuse? With the help of some talking swans, a magical earpiece which lets him understand other 'used-to-bes'--animals who were once human--and a magical cloak, not to mention his best friend Meg whom he may or may not be in love with, Johnny sets off on an adventure which leads him from the Florida Keys to the wilds of Europe. Along the way, Johnny discovers that "happily ever after" may not be such a fairy tale after all.
Full of adventure and daring-do, rescues and traps, magic, luck, humor and true love, not to mention a bit of chauvenism to help prove that while not all frogs are princes in disguise, some princes can really be toads, Cloaked is a wonderfully vivid and enchanting tale, quite equal to William Goldman's The Princess Bride in terms of entertainment and storytelling.(less)
Simple, beautiful, lyrical. One of the best remembered books from my childhood and one I still find enjoyment in today. Not only is M.M. Kaye a gifted...moreSimple, beautiful, lyrical. One of the best remembered books from my childhood and one I still find enjoyment in today. Not only is M.M. Kaye a gifted writer, but, annoyingly, she's also a gifted artist as well, as the gorgeous drawings of this book attest. I can honestly say this book, more than any other, inspired me to write. Although I will never be able to attain her simplicity of prose, her example encourages me to continue to try.(less)
One of my absolute favorite books, by one of my favorite authors. The beauty (no pun intended) of this retelling of the classic fairytale carries me a...moreOne of my absolute favorite books, by one of my favorite authors. The beauty (no pun intended) of this retelling of the classic fairytale carries me away every time I read it. A book that must be read in one sitting, it's a pick-me-up, a carry-away-the-blues book, a story that never fails to entrance, mesmerize, enthrall, or delight me.(less)