I had a blast spending time at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference 2022 recently, and one of the highlights was definitely coming across the Albatros Media booth. They’re a small Czech press and this was their first time exhibiting at ALAAC, and I was so pleased to be able to chat with the publisher of some of the most beautiful educational books I’ve had the pleasure of reading this past year.
At the end of our conversation, the lovely people of Albatros pressed on me this volume to go with the postcards and stickers I’d already picked up from their booth. Now that I’ve had time to sort through most (but not yet all: it was a lot!) of my haul from ALAAC, I’m pleased to present this as my very first selection for review!
And it’s not just because I dearly love fairy tale adaptations, which this is, or cleverly constructed papercraft, which this also is. It’s because this beautiful and thoughtfully created volume pleases so much the polymath in me. My only regret is that childhood me never got a chance to enjoy a book quite like this, because she would have adored it even more than I do.
For Discovering The Underground With Snow White, the traditional fairy tale is adapted ever so slightly to more prominently feature its subterranean elements. The mining occupation of the dwarves is an obvious hook, but from the very start the Evil Queen summons a prisoner from underground caverns, instead of the traditional huntsman, to dispatch Snow White in exchange for his freedom.
If you continue to flip the pages in the usual way, you’ll enjoy a beautifully illustrated variation on Snow White. But each two page spread may also be unfolded upward to showcase how we humans interact with the subterranean, both in its natural bounty and in our artificial constructions. The way these are arranged is inspired, from the mining and related industries to root vegetables and fungi to underground dwellings and transportation. It’s a wealth of information, presented in a thought-provoking manner, that is wholly fascinating for readers of any age but is written in language that’s accessible for middle-grade readers (or precocious younger ones.)
Some of the writing could use better grammatical editing but that’s about the only flaw in this terrific children’s book. Gosh, I love the stuff Albatros produces, and it was just such a delight to meet some of the lovely people who work so hard to get these out to us. I’m so grateful for ALAAC for bringing us together in person and creating more opportunities and goodwill for book lovers from all over the world to get together over such wonderful books like these.
Discovering The Underground With Snow White by Tom Velcovsky & Jakub Cenkl was published June 29th 2021 by Albatros Media and is available from all good booksellers, including