cover image The Snow Wife

The Snow Wife

Robert D. San Souci. Dial Books, $14.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1409-0

With this carefully balanced adaptation, the author and illustrator of The Samurai's Daughter turn their attentions once again to ancient Japanese legend. As he braves a dangerous blizzard, Minokichi, a woodcutter's apprentice, witnesses a terrifying act: a beautiful, white-robed woman, who seems incarnated from a swirl of icy mist, draws the life out of Minokichi's aged employer. She spares Minokichi after swearing him to secrecy. Soon after, Minokichi marries, and he and his wife, Yuki, live happily for years. One evening, however, Minokichi is reminded of the snow woman and tells Yuki all about her. Yuki dissolves into mist and vanishes, crying, ``The woman you saw was I!'' The hero's quest to reclaim his wife, told with lilting language and evocative images, involves various supernatural obstacles and results in Yuki's transformation into a mortal. Johnson's full-page, watercolor-and-pastel illustrations in misty violets and burnished golds impart an appropriately delicate and faraway quality to the tale. His still compositions and muted colors take the edge off any frightening images, with the result that the tone here is more mysterious than chilling. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)