You Can’t Kill Snow White

Enchanted Lion/Unruly. Oct. 2022. 96p. tr. from French by Karin ­Snelson & Emilie Robert Wong . Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781592703814.
Gr 5-8–Alemagna can make charming pictures, lovely illustrations, sweeping landscapes, and sweet-faced children—but not for this book. Here, she writes and paints from the perspective of the bitterest, most evil of old queens, and so the perspectives are skewed, deliberately ugly, frightening, and Gothic. Snow White’s beauty is left to readers’ imaginations. The dwarves are costumed as bent half-birds, half-root vegetables. The result is a return to the story’s grim origins, so that when the huntsman spares Snow White’s life and brings back the liver and lungs of a wild beast instead, viewers are treated to panel after panel of the queen devouring the bloody mess. This is a picture book for older, ghoulish listeners, but they will be leaning in for every delightful word. The translation is bold, vividly hewing to the harsh actions outlined in both story and illustrations, such as the iron shoes and dance of death that greet the queen when Snow White marries her prince. The paintings, almost primitive, are worked out in a feverish palette, consistent with the narrator’s warped view of events.
VERDICT If there is but one fairy-tale purchase in the budget this year, this one deserves attention. Alemagna is inventive and enthralling.

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