a beautifully imagined fairy tale

Snow & Rose, written and illustrated by Emily Winfield Martin
published in 2017 by Random House
205 pages

This book is sooo beautiful. Just look at that cover. And the inside art by Emily Winfield Martin is just as creamily, dreamily intoxicating as you would imagine. So, I was nervous to read it. Can the story live up to the illustration work? Yes, it does!

Martin has taken the old Grimms’ tale of Snow White and Rose Red, given it a twist here and a dash of nutmeg there, and blossomed out this lovely, lushly illustrated story.

It’s a tale of two sisters whose family fortunes have dramatically altered, their father vanished and presumed dead, their mother lost in a fog of grief. From their new digs — a cottage in the woods, of course — these two girls explore a forest tingling with mystery:
a cranky gnome;
a new friend whose splendid home and exotic mushroom nursery lies underground;
an enchanted library staffed by a curiously quirky librarian;
and hovering over all, the threat of an evil Menace, blamed for tragic, inexplicable disappearances right and left.

Through moxie, kindness, and sisterly affection, Snow and Rose adapt to their new lives, face the forest’s dangers, cultivate friendships, and work to break the spell that holds their fellow forest-dwellers in thrall.

Beautiful writing unspools this story. Martin does not baby her readers, pacing her story gracefully, employing a rich vocabulary, ratcheting up the menace adequately, yet keeping it well within the emotional range for advanced-but-young readers. That gives this book a nice wide age span for an audience. Read it aloud to ages 6 and up. Hand it to kids reading well beyond their grade level, as well as middle-graders looking for a somewhat quieter fantasy. Or curl up with it yourself!