________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 4. . . .September 28, 2012


Fairest of All. (Whatever After #1).

Sarah Mlynowski.
New York, NY; Scholastic (Distributed in Canada by Scholastic Canada), 2012.
176 pp., hardcover, $14.99.
ISBN 978-0-545-40330-6.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Rachel Steen.

*** /4



I look around the cottage at all the small furniture. I think about the apple and the woman in disguise. The stepmom in disguise.

"You're Snow White?" I ask again.

She nods.

"The Real Snow White?"

"I think so. Unless there's another Snow White?"

"Nope, there isn't," Jonah says.

"But" I slump back in my chair, the gears of my brain turning. Snow White exists only in a fairy tale. That means that if Snow White here is the real Snow White, then we, Jonah and I, are also in ain a


     Abby is far from thrilled when she and her family move to Smithville. She has to start in a new school, the kids play Tag differently than she's used to, they say "soda" instead of "pop" , and her school has a "Media Centre" instead of a library. When Abby and her younger brother, Jonah, discover an odd sort of mirror in the basement of their new house, the last thing they expect is that it would be magic. The mirror, it turns out, is enchanted, and it transports both Abby and her brother into the story of Snow White where they accidentally change key events in the tale! Now Abby and Jonah must find a way to give Snow White her happy ending before they become the evil queen's latest victims and find themselves stuck there forever.

     Fairest of All is far from being a simple fractured fairy tale as the author adds a clever twist to this fun take on the Grimm tale by posing a simple "What if" question. What if Snow White didn't eat the apple? How would the story change? This question is the basis of the first book in author Sarah Mlynowski's new middle-grade series.

     Jonah and Abby are a typical brother-sister pair, and their dynamic is realistically and skilfully handled by the author. Seven-year-old Jonah, reminiscent of characters like Mary Louise Gay's Sam, is curious, full of imagination, and, as far as Abby's concerned, one giant pain in the neck. Abby is the bossy older sister who reluctantly indulges him by following him to the basement to look at the supposed magic mirror. While the pair squabble a great deal (as brothers and sisters do), they also care for and are protective of one another. These traits play well in the story as the pair rely on their strengths (and discover new ones) to fix the story and get home before morning in their world.

     In Mlynowski's story, the fairy tale characters also take on a different dimension. Snow White, far from the damsel in distress that readers are familiar with, is content to keep house and cook for the dwarves, and she is initially uninterested in marrying the prince. Readers will especially enjoy the magic mirror, to whom the author has given a personality and a back story.

     Overall, the combination of comical elements and series of misadventures that the siblings experience creates a satisfying adventure story that young readers will enjoy.


Rachel Steen is the Elementary/YA selection manager at S&B Books in Mississauga, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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