Snow White and Rose Red: A Flight

February 17, 2018

After reading ( and loving) the new picture book Snow and Rose by by Emily Winfield Martin, we were drawn to revisiting the tale to see if there are picture book and YA authors who share our obsession.  And yes!  There are easily enough books across the readers’ ages to create a book flight. I’ve chosen my favorites for this blog.

I was thrilled to find images from the picture book my sister and I pored over as kids (Ruth here) and chose that picture to illustrate this blog.  Brought back so many memories!  In my recollection, this illustration is from a Little Golden Book, but I also remember reading about these sisters in The Blue Fairy Book, which includes a translation of the Brothers Grimm tale by Andrew Lang (1899).

I encourage you to check that story out as a starting place.  Then, dig into the luscious pictures books and retellings across the ages.  And let us know if we’ve missed a favorite of yours.

Primary Age Picture Books:

Rose Red and Snow White by Ruth Sanderson

My favorite retellings are usually illustrated with full-color oil paintings, and this version of Snow White and Rose Red is a wonderful example. The text adheres to the original Grimm version:  the two very different sisters live in a cottage in the woods with their mother, a cozy but simple life.  One night, a huge shaggy bear knocks on their door and asks to be let in to warm himself. Though they are initially frightened by his gruffness, they soon befriend him and look forward to his nightly visits. They are sad to see him leave in the spring, and take to heart his warnings about a little man coming their way.  Fairy tale adventure ensues (no spoilers here, just the bare bones of the story), including treachery, love, and magic.  I felt transported by the magical retelling and the incredible and lush illustrations.  A terrific read-aloud to start your Flight adventure with your family.


Snow White and Rose Red by Barbara Cooney

The same Brothers Grimm tale is told here, but the illustrations are classic Barbara Cooney. The Caldecott award-winning illustrator comes through with her characteristic humor and charm.  Readers will appreciate the chance to compare and contrast the different styles and interpretations.  Both illustrated picture books are superb.


Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia Wrede

If you like retellings set in different historical times, this romantic illustrated tale is for you. Blanche and Rosamund live with their mother, the Widow Arden, in the village of Mortals during the reign of Elizabeth I. The daughters help their mother gathering the herbs she sells to support them, sometimes crossing over into the Land of the Faerie.  Magic, romance, and medieval England are all evoked in both the language of the text and the captivating illustrations.


Teen and Young Adult:

The Shadow of the Bear:  A Fairy Tale Retold by Regina Doman

Definitely a retelling, but securely grounded in the original Grimm tale.  Two sisters, Blanche and Rose, move to New York City with their widowed mother and attend a contemporary (and quite realistic) high school.  Bear is the nickname of a young man who befriends the girls and visits them at their apartment through a long winter. Rather than give away the plot, I’ll just say that it does follow the story you have come to know in a very contemporary world.  I liked the writing style and cared about the characters.  One warning is that the book is steeped in Catholic faith.  It is never preachy, though, and I found the belief system to be woven through the story as part of the characters’ philosophy; it wasn’t intrusive.  I’d give it a try!




LOVE by Matt de la Peña, Illustrated by Loren Long

February 10, 2018

Love by Matt de la Peña, Illustrated by Loren Long

A complex and moving picture book for young children–and for everyone. I urge you all to read Matt de la Peña’s interview :  Why We Shouldn’t Shield Children from Darkness and Kate di Camillo’s response:  Why Children’s Books Should Be a Little Sad

Children long for realism as well as confirmation that they are loved.  This new poetic book by Matt de la Peña is rich in both.  I can vouch for the fact that the book speaks honestly to readers and audiences, and that it tugs at your heart strings.  Author and illustrator stress the power of love, even in the darkest times, even in the hard ups and downs that are part of our lives. My favorite line might just be: “A slice of burned toast that tastes like love.” The accompanying illustration is spot on.  This wonderful book reminds us that love is everywhere even in places we might not have bothered to look.


February 3, 2018

I’m Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Adults by Chris Harris, illustrated by Lane Smith

If you’ve been wishing there were a poetry collection for today’s kids that rivals the fun and joy in language that Shel Silverstein brought to generations of children, we have a recommendation for you.  In reviews, you’ll see this comparison to Silverstein is not original, but when you read the poems, we feel confident Shel will leap to your mind as well.  For me, though (Ruth here), I must say I actually prefer Harris.  I love the wit as well as slapstick, the clever wordplay, and the downright literate silliness. Here’s one of the shortest:  “Two Roads/Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–/I took the one less traveled by/Since then I’ve been completely lost./Thanks for nothing, Robert Frost!”

You can see why B.J.Novak loves the book when you read “Hey, Kids! Get Your Parents to Read You This Poem!”  Check out the first stanza:

I’m your parent, and I’m so dumb,/ I bite my tongue and I suck my thumb!/ I try to give my fist a kiss,/ But miss, and hit my nose–like this!

I keep finding examples I want to share with you, gentle reader, but I think I’ll just say loud and clear:  You and your kids will love this collection.  Check it out!

THE CRUEL PRINCE by Holly Black: The Start of a New YA Series

January 27, 2018

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, Book 1 of The Folk of the Air Series

Another new year, another great new YA series by Holly Black.  It’s a pleasure to recommend a newly published Young Adult novel, and especially sweet to be able to let our readers know that it is an on-going pleasure, with two more books in the series to come. If you’ve read Holly Black before, you’ve likely appreciated her world of faeries and mortals, and the difficulties between the two realms.  These tensions play out in The Cruel Prince as well, where a young human girl becomes caught up in a fairy intrigue, a royal one at that.  Jude is our fascinating and courageous heroine, a mortal whose parents were murdered and she and her sisters are stolen away to the realms of the faeries and raised there in the intrigue of the High Court of the Faeries. Our story takes place ten years after her arrival; Jude wants to find a way to belong in this world, but mortals are definitely second-class citizens. She is both drawn to and repelled by the cruel prince himself, Cardan.  The book is riveting, with action and deception, love and loyalty, suspenseful spy plotting, and terrifying human/faeries interactions. The plot is intricate, but draws readers in and has surprises I never expected. I never lost interest, and now I am aching for the next in the series. Book 2, The Wicked King is coming soon! Can’t wait!

One for You and One for Me: Audrey Hepburn

January 19, 2018

One for You and One for Me: Audrey Hepburn

We’ve been spending some time deliciously, tasting older movie classics this winter.  One of our favorite actors from yesteryear is the brilliant and beautiful Audrey Hepburn.  And she holds a place in children’s literature as well as the adult fare (which includes books, photographs, and of course her wonderful screen presence).

If you want to share a delightful winter afternoon or evening with the younger readers in your life, you can’t go wrong with Audrey Hepburn.

One for You:

Just Being Audrey by Margaret Cardillo, illustrated by Julia Denos

I have always been a big fan of Audrey Hepburn, and this small, delightful picture book really captures why she has come to be an inspiration to so many.  She’s charming, playful, elegant, down-to-earth, courageous, and above all, kind.  Her important lesson from her mother was framed around compassion for others:  “Always be kind.” It was a message she took to heart and brought to her humanitarian role later in life.  It’s intriguing to read how she was an object of bullies as a child, made fun of for being too tall, having big feet, a neck that was too long, and eyes that were deemed too large for her face. Of course, these traits were what made her iconic as an adult.  Though this book is written for a young audience (probably k-grade 3), I recommend it for tweens as well.  The pictures are charming, and connoisseur can debate which movie roles the clothes she is wearing are chosen from.

One for Me: 

Audrey Hepburn:  A Photographic Celebration by Suzanne Lander

A great (and inexpensive!) coffee table book to peruse and share with friends.  I really enjoy the range of aspects of her career that are captured in these photos, as well as the numerous quotes.  Her own words are inspiring, but it is also fun to read the quotes form her colleagues (including Hollywood directors and movie stars).  “Classic elegance” is the term you’ll hear over and over agin in regards to Audrey Hepburn. This photographic celebration demonstrates why.


RENEGADES by Marissa Meyer: Terrific New YA Series Begins

January 13, 2018

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Fresh on the heels of her great success with The Lunar Chronicles, and her recent stand-alone best seller Heartless, Marissa Meyer is moving away from fairytale retellings and into brand new territory. This new universe is a bit darker, but not so dark as to be in the same category as other dystopian fare. In the world in which this story takes place, there is deadly rivalry between the Anarchists and the Renegades.  Both groups have superpowers of a kind (they are named Prodigies) and each believes they are fighting the good fight.  When these Prodigies first arrived, they were feared and hunted until Ace Anarchy led the Prodigies, and began the Age of Anarchy.  Unfortunately normals as well as Prodigies sunk into a life of crime and living without laws; well, anarchy prevailed. Rival gangs murdered and stole from each other.  Then the Renegades banded together:  prodigies who fought crime and protected those who needed protecting. Renegades started putting the world back together.

So, that’s the premise, but doesn’t tell you anything about the characters, conflict, action, and thrills.  Nova and Adrian (one an Anarchist, the other a Renegade) tell the story as it unfolds.  Both are compelling and fleshed-out characters–and of course, their paths cross.  There are capes and masks, star-crossed lovers (maybe), recognition of good and evil and the fine line between, deception and fast-paced action.  Told with Meyer’s ear for dialogue, and skill for creating believable twists and turns of plot, Renegades is the beginning of a terrific new YA series.  Highly recommended!

FLOAT LIKE A BUTTERFLY by Ntozake Shange, illustrated by Edel Rodriguez

January 5, 2018

Float Like a Butterfly by Ntozake Shange, illustrated by Edel Rodriguez

We often hear about Mohammed Ali as either an activist or an athlete.  In this compelling and accessible picture book, Ntozake Shange creates a more complete picture of one of the heroes of the twentieth century.  I appreciate the chance to learn  about his courage, the controversy of his convictions, as well as his quite amazing boxing abilities within one storyline. His background in the South of segregated mid-century America is told with honesty, as well as his rise from poverty to becoming heavy-weight champion of the world. I also loved the recreation of his dialogue with his parents when he was known by his birth name of Cassius Clay.  While there are more complete picture book bios of Ali, I like this one to introduce young readers to a great man.  The illustrations are bright and appealing and will draw in graphic novel fans.  This picture book is great way to start the New Year by introducing young readers to contemporary heroes.