Wednesday , February 21 2024
A clever, modern Snow White with a twist.

Book Review: ‘Snow White’s Seven Patches’ by Jewel Kats, illustrated by Dan Goodfellow

Snow White's Seven Patches: A Vitiligo Fairy Tale by Jewel Kats, illustrated by Dan Goodfellow.
Snow White’s Seven Patches: A Vitiligo Fairy Tale by Jewel Kats, illustrated by Dan Goodfellow.

Literature for children with disabilities has come a long way since the 1970s laws and the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 pushed the disability community into the mainstream. We see less of the “pathetic” hobbled or crazed diminutions of the blind, halt or maimed villainous.

Writers with disabilities are using their talents to inspire and advocate for others and focus on issues in the disability community. And even children’s literature has advanced, but the fictional narratives and stories are not as prevalent as should be.

With the recognition that disabilities are both physical-noticeable and invisible (such as ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome), the offerings of fiction that portray children with disabilities with abled friends must increase. This is one way to encourage disability blindness  at a young age and encourage kids to look past the wheelchair or stop the ridicule about the kids in “special” classes in school.

Jewel Kats is an important children’s book writer who understands the disability and ability communities and recognizes that there is a need to meld the interests of both to promote and encourage disability blindness amongst children. She has managed to accomplish this difficult task in her modern day fairy tale, Snow White’s Seven Patches, A Vitiligo Fairy Tale, illustrated by Dan Goodfellow.

The fairy tale is the latest in the Fairy Ability Tales Series which include an autism fairy tale and a wheelchair fairy tale with heroines from the fairy tale canon. Her works appeal to abled and disabled children and offer a range of topics for kids and adults to discuss. Her works foster a deeper understanding of human nature beyond simple platitudes regarding good and evil.

In Kats’s clever update of Snow White, we have the recognizable elements of the beloved classic. Present are the omnipotent talking mirror, the vain and arrogant wicked woman, the dwarfish family, the poisoned apple, the glass coffin, the gorgeous guy who comes to Snow White’s rescue. What is missing is the paternalism, the heroine as sad victim and Snow White’s being swept off to a life of “happy-ever-after” with no troubles. As in the classic, elements of good and evil are clearly defined.

However, in Kats’ Snow White, these are modernized and given great depth and  psychological power beyond the facile “magic” of the classic. Kats defines her heroine as a creative, ambitious and curious “Snow” who is motivated by brilliance, love and generosity. The evil elements are complicated and put an interesting spin on the antique story. The arrogant and vain woman is Snow’s mother. And what Kats has to say about her mother’s wicked core involves a trope that every woman needs to be reminded of when raising a daughter.

Gorgeous and wealthy Ivy is a beauty queen with many crowns and no real competitors. She wishes for an equally beautiful child, but instead of flawless perfection, the child born to her has a worsening impairment which cannot be corrected: she suffers from vitiligo and is disfigured by seven white, odd-shaped patches. The theme that some women are not natural mothers screams out; it is a fact that has been researched to discover the physiological and psychological elements (postpartum depression, etc.) present in child abuse among other things. Kats has provided the undercurrents of Ivy’s lack of love and maternal caring and set the groundwork for her plot complications.

Jewel Kats, author of Snow White's Seven Patches, A Vitiligo Fairy Tale, illustrated by Dan Goodfellow.
Jewel Kats, author of Snow White’s Seven Patches, A Vitiligo Fairy Tale, illustrated by Dan Goodfellow.

Ivy is infuriated that this imperfect creature could have been birthed to her. Because she will be ridiculed and scorned for having such a disfigured, ugly child, she hides Snow from the wealthy society of friends, having her live in a shed where she rarely visits. The irony and underlying humorous reference of wealthy parents dispensing of their children by sending them to sleep-away school at a young age is certainly referenced. Ivy hires the finest tutors to mentor her daughter and develop Snow’s mind since the seven patches of vitiligo that mar her body will disqualify Snow as a beauty queen.

Over the years Snow’s talents as a writer bloom and with Ivy’s connections she becomes a best-selling author. But Snow never receives adulation or recognition for her endeavors. Ivy takes the credit passing herself off as the artiste and author. She, of course, withholds this knowledge from Snow who is her slave and whom she controls like a vicious tyrant. The very qualities that make Snow an ambitious, creative, curious writer doom her with her mother, motivating Ivy toward her daughter’s physical destruction. The resulting events are unique and Kats evolves an appealing resolution leaving the possibility of sequels to this iteration of Snow White.

This is a fresh, innovative Snow White which raises the level of cultural values for children. The issue of what constitutes beauty and what should be defined as ugly is front and center. Kats ties in the practice of mothers raising daughters superficially-to be slim, to be pretty, to be loved and accepted; she underscores the danger of valuing appearance over internal beauty of spirit, goodness and creative genius. She also presents the importance of relying on one’s own efforts. Snow’s hard work autonomy and resourcefulness help her survive. These are positive qualities with which young children can and should relate.

Finally, she sneaks in the issue of a permanent impairment in such a way that it is an enhancement and the opposite of a “disability.” Kats has created magic indeed, underscoring that the perceptions and beliefs of our inner lives are an essential key to our humanity and goodness. Children must be encouraged toward inner health and wholeness, not false values of physical appearance which can only bring unhappiness.

About Carole Di Tosti

Carole Di Tosti, Ph.D. is a published writer, playwright, novelist, poet. She owns and manages three well-established blogs: 'The Fat and the Skinny,' 'All Along the NYC Skyline' ( 'A Christian Apologists' Sonnets.' She also manages the newly established 'Carole Di Tosti's Linchpin,' which is devoted to foreign theater reviews and guest reviews. She contributed articles to Technorati (310) on various trending topics from 2011-2013. To Blogcritics she has contributed 583+ reviews, interviews on films and theater predominately. Carole Di Tosti also has reviewed NYBG exhibits and wine events. She guest writes for 'Theater Pizzazz' and has contributed to 'T2Chronicles,' 'NY Theatre Wire' and other online publications. She covers NYC trending events and writes articles promoting advocacy. She professionally free-lanced for TMR and VERVE for 1 1/2 years. She was a former English Instructor. Her published dissertation is referenced in three books, two by Margo Ely, Ph.D. Her novel 'Peregrine: The Ceremony of Powers' will be on sale in January 2021. Her full length plays, 'Edgar,' 'The Painter on His Way to Work,' and 'Pandemics or How Maria Caught Her Vibe' are being submitted for representation and production.

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