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Review: Snow White

Snow White detail

I’ve always had a soft spot for retold or fractured fairy tales. I marvel at the ingenuity of an author to take an existing story, keep it recognizable, and give it a unique spin. There’s a long history of fractured fairy tales from Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted to Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Just Ella. And in the comics world, there’s Rapunzel’s Revenge, Fairy Tale Comics, and most recently Mighty Jack.

snow whiteSnow White: A Graphic Novel
By Matt Phelan
Candlewick Press, 2016, 9780763672331
$19.99, 216 pp.
Ages 12+

Matt Phelan stays true to his own style by giving the story a historical spin. His 1920s-era Snow White is the much-loved daughter of a wealthy stockbroker and doting mother, but when her mother falls ill and dies, her father remarries a Vaudeville actress. Snow White is immediately sent away to school, but when her father dies, and she returns, an enchanted stock market ticker tape claims that she is the fairest of them all. Phelan’s version of the hunter called in by her jealous stepmother is a thug who can’t bear to kill Snow White, so he sends her away. The seven dwarves are seven street urchins. The glass coffin and the prince… read the story to find out!

The story is nearly wordless and told mainly through the exquisite artwork. Sepia tones give it an authentic 1920s feel. The details of the characters tell much about the story and allude to their fairy tale counterparts, such as the rosy red cheeks and the pale white complexion of the central character or the pointed features of the stepmother.

Younger readers will enjoy this story, but realistically, they will need some knowledge of the 1920s to truly appreciate the details, so I would recommend it to high school students who by then have covered the 1920s in history.

Read and re-read this title to find more nuances each time. This is a title to treasure.

(Snow White was one of our picks for the Top Ten Graphic Novels of 2016. You can see a preview here.)

Esther Keller About Esther Keller

Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. Her collection is also the model for all middle school libraries in NYC. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library, and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.

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