Thursday, March 22, 2012

"Snowed Up" by Rosalie K. Fry

I’m on a quest – limited only by my bank account -- to discover the works of Rosalie K. Fry, book by book.  Ever since encountering the hauntingly beautiful “The Secret of Roan Inish,” a film based on a children’s book by Fry, I’ve been wanting know more about the story’s creator that can be supplied by her few sketchy, Google-able biographical facts.  So I’m making an attempt to discover the artist through her art.

The book I pulled off the top of my stack of three was Snowed Up. As the title suggests, the tale’s young protagonists find themselves in the midst of an adventure caused by a blizzard. And some disturbingly myopic adults. I suppose if the children had remained in safety they wouldn’t have been allowed to become part of this sweet adventure but still, did Fry have to create adults with such weirdly dense priorities in order to set off the story’s chain of events?

Those events include a fair amount of danger which forces the children to – cheerfully, always cheerfully -- reach inside themselves to discover hidden stores of resourcefulness.  They encounter an abandoned house whose name – Pen Mynydd (not quite as magical as Roan Inish but still lovely in a British Isles sort of way) -- they find carved in stone above one of the doors. Instead of magical seals, Snowed Up contains hungry sheep and an edible called a “swede,” ingested gratefully by both human and ovines (the S in “swede” is not capitalized so no, they don’t become so desperate as to develop a taste for Scandinavians). 

Aside from one dreamy Christmas-inspired moment towards the end, the magical quotient in the book isn’t quite as high as that found in Roan Inish. And for all the danger the Snowed Up children face, the basic tenor of the book is as bright as the sun sparkling on the snow that reaches all the way up to the second floor windows of Pen Mynydd.  Snowed Up was published in 1970 when I was 10, and although I didn’t read anything British outside of The Chronicles of Narnia when I was around that age, this book seemed somehow vaguely familiar: I don’t recall reading anything darker. Perhaps tragedy-as-children’s-story might have been introduced a few years later, in 1977 with Bridge to Terebithia. Current 10 year-olds devour dystopian novels like The Hunger Games  (and the Harry Potter series had plenty of dark moments) but back in 1970, adventure books – at least those that flowed from the lovely pen of Rosalie K. Fry – weren’t all that scary.

All told, Snowed Up is a sweet little tale and I’m looking forward to reading my next Fry book in April.