Sarah Lowes and Miss Clara, The Snow Queen

Barefoot Books, 2014, ISBN 978-1846869631

This is an extremely attractive adaptation of a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, an allegorical story of the triumph of good over evil.

A magician has made a mirror that makes everything look ugly and bad. The Snow Queen rejoices when it shatters into millions of pieces, knowing its malign influence will spread far and wide. Splinters of glass enter people’s hearts and eyes, and they lose all sense of beauty and hope. This is what happens to Kay. The Snow Queen captures and imprisons him. His close friend Gerda goes in search of him, meeting all sorts of perils on the way, but getting help from kind strangers, both animals and humans. Her goodness eventually melts the glass in Kay’s eye and heart, and destroys the Snow Queen. Kay and Gerda return to their childhood homes, discovering that they have been away for years, and are now grown up. ‘A beautiful spring world was waiting for them.’

Lowes has made some changes to the Andersen tale. In particular, she has removed all the biblical and Christian references, for example Andersen’s ending, in which Gerda’s grandmother quotes from the New Testament: ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven.’

Barefoot Books pride themselves on the aesthetic quality of their publications. The typography and artwork here are stunning: Miss Clara’s illustrations are extraordinary. Lowes’ use of language is also lovely. The book will suit confident readers of seven and over, and makes a great read-aloud.

The hardback edition has the bonus of a CD.