Book Review: “Endless to the End” by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by DanSantat

Poet Laurel Snyder, a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, is a Geisel Award-winning children’s book author. Endless to the end is her first collaboration with Caldecott Award-winning illustrator Dan Santat (who is loved in my home for his work on Corey Rosen Schwartz The three ninja pigs). It’s not her first pick-your-path book, however.

Her first published work in 2005 (written before she embarked on the writing for children route) was a scrapbook called Daphne & Jim: A Biography in Verse for Your Choice. There she turned the form to the task of investigating a couple’s courtship. This couple was based on her own parents, a sign of an intimacy and trust in that form that is also evident in it Endless to the end (Chronicle Books, April 2022).

This enchanting fragment fairy tale cannot be put down.

Of course, I had my own period of obsession with the original Choose Your Own Adventure book series. They’re a deeply safe way for kids to explore both the freedom and fatalism of decision-making. They make the reader feel as if they are collaborating in the act of creation, bringing alternate universes to life.

The struggle with a picture book designed in this way is that there is necessarily a hero in the story. The “you” is not just a cipher, but a character in whose role you slip. In this case, Snyder and Santat have created Rosie, a delightful blend of storybook tropes that manages to display enduring traits of compassion, resilience, and curiosity despite being dependent on the reader’s choices. Through a particular gift for facial expressions, Santat offers an image of Rosie who seems to mature as more choices are made, a pragmatic child who learns enough from her choices that she wouldn’t dare label any of them as “mistakes.” describe.

Snyder’s scathing rhymes take Rosie and the reader on a journey through a fairytale forest. The stable home of the third little pig is just a few paths away from a gingerbread house where two unfortunate children await rescue. Hans is looking for his goose, dwarves keep vigil and a princess is waiting for a kiss in a tower. The storytelling is done in verse, but each choice is set out simply in prose. This break in flow and form highlights the importance of pausing before making decisions, something kids — and all of us — could use more reminders of.

There are many unhappy endings included Endless to the end. This book embraces the darkness of fairy tales as well as their joy and effortless moralization. But at no point does the reader feel trapped, disappointed, or let down. The poetry of the text and the warmth of the illustrations ensure that the toughest lessons are graciously and gratefully received. And the happy endings are like hidden treasures that shine bright when found.

Snyder and Santat wrote a book that children (and their adults) will want to read over and over again. It’s perfect for snuggling into a cozy armchair on a cold or rainy day and escaping to a world where anything is possible.

This article was originally published in the July 2022 issues of Little Village.

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