Thursday, December 4, 2014

Beautiful Book #40

Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs. A tale from the Brothers Grimm translated by Randall Jarrell. Illustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. 1972.

I have to remind myself that this book was published in 1972. On the one hand, the illustrations have a medieval European feel to them, but on the other hand the book feels so contemporary, or, more to the point, it feels like a 90s picture book--and that is high praise coming from me because I think the 90s were a golden decade for the picture book genre. In a world swimming with interpretations of Snow White, this version is my favourite. The text is from the original with all its Grimm darkness. Jarrell's translation is suited to oral story-telling (with its pace, cadence, repetition and spareness), which is good given that text and illustration alternate pages. Burkert's illustrations are detailed and naturalistic with heraldic touches that lend it that medieval feel. I am also enamoured of the way she uses light subtly and to great effect. More than any other folk tale, Snow White carries a cartoonish legacy, not just because of Disney but because those dwarfs are, time and again, depicted as comic. Burkert, thankfully, doesn't fall into this trap. Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs was a Caldecott Honor Book for 1973.

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