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You Can’t Kill Snow White

Siding with darkness as a way of understanding the madness

We’re big fans of Enchanted Lion Books, publishers of gloriously unusual children’s literature. You Can’t Kill Snow White by Beatrice Alemagna is a stunning offering from their imprint, Unruly, on a mission to bring rich and innovative picture books to teenagers, because ‘we never age out of pictures’. In this revisiting of the Brothers Grimm fairytale classic, Alemagna shifts perspective to the jealous queen, asking the reader to focus on her dark heart, and the suffering behind it. Stripped of Disneyfication and much closer to the Brothers’ original, it’s a  beautiful and brutal affair.

Before she became irretrievably wicked, Snow White’s stepmother was already a brooding soul. We join her and her famous mirror pre-queenhood, as her royal predecessor dies while giving birth to Snow White.

‘This girl is tearing out my heart. She is the child I will never have. She is the youth I have lost.’

Bitter with envy at the love surrounding the baby princess, and intent on ensnaring the widowed King, the aristocratic villainess drapes herself ‘with diamonds, and anger.’ Having never received love as a child, she is unable to freely give it. At least her beloved mirror thinks she’s wonderful.

Until the day it doesn’t and her heart becomes a ‘ball of dirt’.

Inspired by European folk art, Alemagna gives us a collection of bold, visceral paintings, their earthy tones offset by the occasional shock of pink or red, a flash of murderous sky, a glimpse of a poisonous toadstool.

Honouring the Grimm’s grotesquery, she visually recreates their original scenario of the queen gobbling what she believes to be Snow White’s liver and lungs. Any reader who’d forgotten that particular episode may also not remember the imaginatively torturous ending awaiting Madame Queen, here brought to vivid life by Alemagna’s enthralling vision.

A marriage of art and words, this bold and brilliant interpretation is suitable for 12+ readers.

You Can’t Kill Snow White by Beatrice Alemagna is published by Unruly, 96 pages.

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