Yolen spins an interesting variation of the classical Snow White story, setting it in a small town in West Virginia in the 1940s.
Snow in Summer—named after the beautiful white flowers in the front yard and called Summer for short—is 7 years old when her mother dies. After her death, Summer’s father, Lemuel, is swallowed up by grief. Summer and her Cousin Nancy, who lives next door, do their best to hold things together as they watch Lemuel fade. Summer herself tells most of what happens in the years that follow, but occasional chapters are narrated by Cousin Nancy and, eventually, by Summer’s stepmother, who has enchanted Lemuel in hopes of getting control of his land. Stepmother saps the remaining vitality from Lemuel and makes Summer’s life a sequence of torments. The pace starts to pick up when Summer has her first period. Stepmother, convinced by now that Summer will not join her in what she calls “the craft,” arranges to have the girl killed. Summer has only the advice of a magic mirror and, eventually, seven small friends to aid her. Can she survive? Yolen folds in references to folk tales and songs as well as such classics as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the Just So Stories, giving the narrative a metafictive lift.
A quiet and compelling story more closely tied to the classical fairy tale than the now-popular Disney version. (Fantasy. 9-12)