Snow White in New York by Fiona French is a new, picture book version of the classic story of Snow White, set in the roaring twenties.
The illustrations are gorgeous. French fills the pages with beautifully drawn sky scrapers and flapper girls, all in the height of Nineteen Twenties fashion. It really is a treat to look at.
The Queen, in this story, is a spoiled socialite who likes seeing herself in the pages of the New York mirror every day. Usurped by her beautiful step daughter she resolves to have her shot by New York mobsters.
The mobsters don’t have the heart to kill her, and set adrift on the mean streets of New York, Snow White stumbles across a Jazz club where instead of the seven dwarves she meets the seven members of a jazz band who allow her to sing with them.
The bones of the story are fun, but this is all they are. Fiona French has slashed the story to the bare minimum to get it to qualify for Snow White status. Snow White is barely in it, and nothing more than a figure head at best. The Queen’s evil plots are edited down and the jazz musicians become nothing more than cyphers.
I really wanted to love this story. I am a big fan of contemporary reworkings of fairy stories from the classic Roald Dahl reworking of Red Riding Hood, to Shirley Hughes’ beautiful Ella Enchanted, but this is just not up to scratch.
Take away the lovely illustrations and there really isn’t much left, and that’s a shame. It could have been wonderful.
Having said that, I am sure children will enjoy it, and as part of a fairy story topic at school it would be nice to have it as part of the bigger picture, but I get the feeling that it is more for adults than for kids, because of the setting and the humour, which probably only people with a knowledge of the era will fully appreciate.
It is more of a girl’s book than for boys, particularly because of the illustrations, although boys might appreciate the story a bit, if they already know the story of Snow White. Recommended for ages 4-7, although it might be fun to work on as a way of deepening understanding of the fairy story genre with older children.