cover image Snowmaiden


James Riordan, Stephen Lambert. Random House (UK), $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-09-173861-7

Snowmaiden (the offspring of a brief flirtation between Spring and Frost) has been kept hidden away for 16 years, safe from the perilous rays of Yarilo the sun god. Her absence has plunged the world into a long winter, and when her parents finally agree to release her (she's sent to live with a childless peasant couple), spring returns once again. It's bittersweet for poor Snowmaiden, though, who has no heart and cannot return the love of a shepherd boy. She's finally granted a heart, and with it ultimately comes pain, death and--this being a myth of the cycle of seasons--rebirth. Though polished and courtly, Riordan's retelling of this Russian tale is somewhat detached, an aloofness underscored by Lambert's ethereal, expressionless illustrations. This twofold lack of passion may put off young readers. Ages 6-8. (May)