Review Blog

Nov 23 2016

Snow White - a Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan

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Candlewick Press 2016. ISBN 9780763672331
The classic story of Snow White is a dark one; her mother dies, the wicked stepmother usurps her father's love and is jealous of her. She survives a murder attempt and briefly finds friendship in the seven dwarfs only to be poisoned; rescue comes only at the last minute. This graphic adaptation embraces that darkness and imbues it with 1920s style. It opens with the 'glass coffin' scene but here 'White as Snow' lies in Macey's Christmas window display with NYPD crime scene tape in the foreground. The detective interviews a street urchin, one of 'the Seven' and then the story flashes back to the beginning. The monochrome pencil and ink illustrations and foggy winter setting effectively suggest the coldness of Snow's life making the rare splashes of colour quite startling. The stepmother is a famous Zeigfeld Follies star who has enthralled her father and the magic mirror is replaced by a ticker tape machine which seems not only to have protected them from the stock market crash but also to emit statements about who is the most beautiful. The Seven are a group of motherless street urchins who protect Snow when she is alone on the streets and take her in. When the inevitable happens, the investigating detective is the one to give the kiss and wake Snow adding colour to all of their lives.
The visual storytelling is multi layered. A quick read with little dialogue but the attention to detail reveals a great cast of well-drawn characters and an authentic feel of Depression era New York. Not for the very young but a popular story cleverly retold.
Classroom ideas are available.
Sue Speck

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