Rummanah Aasi
 Matt Phelan's Snow White is a beautiful and artistic blend of historical fiction and fairy tale retelling. Many thanks to Candlewick Press and Netgalley for an advanced copy of the graphic novel.

Description: The scene: New York City. The dazzling lights cast shadows that grow ever darker as the glitzy prosperity of the Roaring Twenties screeches to a halt. Enter a cast of familiar characters: a young girl, Samantha White, returning after being sent away by her cruel stepmother, the Queen of the Follies, years earlier; her father, the King of Wall Street, who survives the stock market crash only to suffer a strange and sudden death; seven street urchins, brave protectors for a girl as pure as snow; and a mysterious stock ticker that holds the stepmother in its thrall, churning out ticker tape imprinted with the wicked words "Another . . . More Beautiful . . . KILL."

Review: Phelan re-imagines the famous Grimms' fairy tale in the glittery, pre–Depression era New York City setting. The book opens in 1928 with a detective questioning a street urchin, “What’s the story here?” as the NYPD cordons off what seems to be a crime scene of a woman's dead body in a Macy's window holiday display. We go back in time in order to find the answer and to see what events lead up to this moment. 
  In a flashback to 1918, we see happy little Samantha “Snow” White playing with her mother in Central Park. There are allusions that her Snow's mother is dying of tuberculosis. Fast forward ten years later, a Ziegfeld Follies showgirl easily casts a spell, ensnares, and marries Samantha's wealthy older father. I loved the telegraph as a device that replaces the magic mirror in the fairy tale and it also predicts the fall of the stock market which also serves as a catalyst for the stepmother's actions in sending Samantha away to boarding school and poisoning her husband. 
 Samantha's stepmother, furious upon learning that the dead man left the bulk of his estate to his daughter, decides that Samantha is next. The graphic novel follows the rest of the fairy tale quite faithfully. The seven dwarfs are actually seven, diverse, street boys who view Samantha as a mother figure. The moment where each boy tells Samantha his name is sweet and touching.
 The graphic novel reads like a silent movie. Most of the pages are wordless, but Phelan's wonderful illustrations still maintains its pace and furthers the storytelling in showing it. The gray, smokey tones gives an old school noir feel, and the occasional spots of color such as the red for the poisoned apple and the blushed cheeks and rosy lips really pop. The various fonts when dialogue is included add drama and sense of urgency in the story. Readers who are use to action packed graphic novels much be taken aback by this graphic novel's format, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. This graphic novel should be read slowly as you taken in every stroke and image on the page. I would definitely recommend this to readers who enjoy a fresh, new take on fairy tale retellings.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

If you like this book try: Bluffton by Matt Phelan, The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
4 Responses
  1. Well this is definitely different. I like the revision of the old tale, and I would be interested to see how the telegraph substitutes as a mirror.

  2. You're the second person with such praise for this graphic novel just today. I don't read them often, but this is one that deserves an exception.

  3. Oh now you have me very curious. I love retellings because they tend to be creative, but to add wordless pictures to tell the tale? SOLD! I need to pick up one graphic novel and this one might be the one. Off to bug the library... :D

  4. Kindlemom Says:

    Love retellings, especially ones that put a modern and realistic spin to them. This sounds fun!

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