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Snow in Summer by Jane Yolen- 4 stars!

Today's Tea Choice: Starbucks Gingerbread Coffee (because I still miss the holidays!)

Trigger Warnings: Child abuse situations

Genre:  YA- Middle Grade Magical Realism/ Fairytale Retellings

Pages: 253


An unforgettable take on a favorite fairy tale by multi-award-winning author Jane Yolen Summer's life in the mountains of West Virginia feels like a fairy tale--her parents dote on her, and she's about to get a new baby brother. But when the baby dies soon after he's born, taking their mother with him, Summer's life turns grim. Things get even worse when her father marries a woman who brings poisons and magical mirrors into Summer's world. Stepmama puts up a pretty face and Summer's father is under her spell, but Summer suspects she's up to no good--and is afraid she is powerless to stop her.

My Review:


Hello everyone! I’ve been a bit MIA due to health reasons and of course, the holidays! But I have a ton of book reviews to post and catch up on. Jane Yolen is one of my favorite authors for fantasy stories, primarily King Arthur renditions and fairytales. From the moment this story began, I knew it was going to be a special retelling of Snow White:


I’d been born on July 1, 1937, ten pounds of squalling baby, with a full head of black hair. It was a hard birth that nearly killed Mama. Though the next baby, being even bigger, actually did” (Yolen).



What I loved: 

As previously noted with that impactful quote, this is how the story begins, with a strong hook in media res. The narrator’s mother and newborn brother are about to be buried, and we are taken into the funeral procession. This was such a somber but impactful way to begin the story.

POV:  The narration style is first person POV, as if someone is recounting their younger years by a warm fireplace.  Primarily, we see Summer (or Snow in Summer’s) perspective, but sometimes the story switched to the wicked stepmother (Stepmama) or Cousin Nancy, who acted as a mother figure for many years to Summer. I loved seeing those small glimpses into other perspectives.

Symbolism: Another subtle device used by Yolen was the main character’s name: Snow in Summer. While Cousin Nancy is warm and loving, calling the protagonist Summer. Stepmama is described as cold consistently: cold hands, cold stares and a cold attitude, and calls her stepdaughter Snow instead of Summer. This small detail shows the maternal war going on in Snow’s life. I also enjoyed the nods to the original fairytale, such as witchcraft, the magic mirror, and dwarves!

Characters:  The characters are also nuanced and well written with different flaws and likeable qualities, making them realistic and relatable. Summer is very young and naïve but knows something is going on with the wicked Stepmother. Cousin Nancy acts as a maternal figure, and even though the father loves his daughter, he cannot move past his grief and is distant for many years.


Dialogue: The dialogue was also another fantastic device utilized in this piece. The use of regional language like teetoal and tetched created an authentic atmosphere and natural character exchanges.

What Needed Improvement:

While I enjoyed this novel, the only part I felt needed improvement was the ending, since it seemed a bit rushed, especially when the Happily Ever After part is told. Otherwise, this was such a unique and interesting spin on a classic!


Authors Can Learn:


How to incorporate symbolism

The importance of a “hook” sentence

How to write authentic characters and dialogue with regional distinctions.


Readers Will Love This For:


A unique spin on a classic story that uses historical fiction elements instead of direct fantasy clichés.



I give this book 4 stars.




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