Disney's first animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, is a film that continues to delight audiences more than seven decades later. The sweetness of Snow White and the clumsy affability of the dwarfs who shelter her make for a winning combination. That combo is revisited in What a Surprise!, the fifth volume in the Disney Storytime Treasures Library.
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Written by Lisa Ann Marsoli and illustrated by Adam Devaney and Diana Wakeman, this story takes place shortly after Snow White's arrival at the dwarfs' cottage. The seven short men want to show the princess how happy they are to have her as their guest, so they decide to surprise her by doing all the chores while she indulges in a nice long nap, dreaming the day away with visions of her Prince Charming.
This is one of the funnier installments in this particular series. Most of the stories have a heartwarming message about friendship and consideration for others, but humor is sometimes lacking. Here, all of the dwarfs, well-meaning as they are, manage to bungle their tasks in comically disastrous ways. The funniest illustrations involve Dopey attempting to bake muffins. There's also a rather alarming pair of pictures showing the chaos that ensues when the dwarfs accidentally bring a swarm of bees into the house with them.
The illustrations feature rustic coloring, with the rosy cheeks of Snow White and the dwarfs heavily accentuated. All of the characters seem to pretty much be themselves, and Doc's spoonerisms are particularly fun. While the woodland animals don't play a huge role in this story, we do see them quietly observing the outdoor tasks of the various dwarfs. The squirrels seem to be especially curious about what is happening.
While Snow White does mention Prince Charming, there is no reference to the queen in this book, so it has a very lighthearted feel to it. The only conflict comes through the dwarfs' clumsiness. How big a mess will they make of things before Snow White wakes up? How will she react to their attempts to keep house on their own? This book emphasizes Snow White's gentle nature, and her tact in the final pages makes me smile as she finds a way to express her gratitude for the dwarfs' consideration.
With seven speaking characters, this is a story with plenty of dialogue, but the narration is well-written as well, with the onomatopoeia on several pages adding a fun touch. In addition to the regular story, this tale, like the others in this series, has a brief poem at the end summing up the main idea of the book. Some of these are better-written than others, and I like this one a lot, as it discusses how touched Snow White is because "she saw how hard they tried / to show her in so many ways / the love they felt inside."
Indeed, there are many different ways to demonstrate love, as the dwarfs' sincere efforts here show. The idea that the end result is less important than the thought put into it is endearing and should encourage children to flex their own creative muscles and not be discouraged if their own expressions of love may be a bit clumsy.
This review is a part of the All Things Disney Write-Off.
Thanks to Stef for adding this to the database.