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Snow White: A Graphic Novel Hardcover – September 13, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4–8—Spanning the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression, Phelan's noir-esque adaption of the classic fairy tale is atmospheric, clever, and touching. Samantha White, affectionately called Snow White by her ailing mother, is sent off to a boarding school as her father, the King of Wall Street, grieves his wife's death by marrying the dazzling Queen of the Follies. Banished from her home by her stepmother, the young woman returns a decade later after her father's mysterious death. Not content with the fortune left to her in her husband's will, the menacing bob-haired villain dispatches Mr. Hunter to kill off Snow, who gets lost in Hooverville, where she encounters the Seven, a group of diverse street kids who take her in. The graphic novel plays with the source material, using the trappings of the time period to add depth and nuance to the narrative. With the dramatics, pacing, and mostly black-and-white palette of a silent film, the lush and stark watercolors showcase the good and evil aspects of the era to tell a timeless tale of love, betrayal, and family. Splashes of red are economically and strategically used to add drama to the presentation, from the drops of blood on Snow's mother's handkerchief to the scarlet of the poisonous apple. Themes of class are also explored here, making this a title worth sharing and studying at multiple levels. Especially resonant are the relationships that the heroine builds with her young protectors. The last few colorful pages will tug at heartstrings as Snow, the Seven, and an intrepid Detective Prince get their happy endings. VERDICT A stunning, genre-bending graphic novel for all middle grade and middle school collections.—Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal
Matt Phelan sets his graphic retelling of "Snow White" in 1920s New York, with both its Ziegfeld Follies glamour and its impoverished Dead End Kids.
—The New York Times Book Review
The visuals are deeply effective: entire sections are wordless, propelling the reader through dramatic scenes and inviting reflection during quiet, contemplative spots...Pencil, ink, and watercolor illustrations break out of loose panel structuring; sharp lines and shadow heighten tension and expanses of open white space sometimes draw the eye to a specific scene. This graphic novel will find a welcome home with fairy-tale fans who have outgrown the Disney version (or, less likely, the Grimm version) but still find the tale compelling.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)
Phelan (Bluffton) delivers a spectacular 20th-century update of "Snow White," transplanting the story to Jazz Age and Depression-era New York City, where themes of jealousy, beauty, and power find a comfortable home...Moody gray and sepia panels carry the story forward, punctuated by splashes of lurid red—for an animal heart, procured at a butcher’s shop, or an apple tainted with a syringe. Snow’s affectionate relationship with "the Seven," a group of street children, is among this adaptation’s most potent elements. The boys are hesitant to tell Snow their names, but readers will want tissues on hand when they finally do.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Spanning the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression, Phelan’s noir-esque adaption of the classic fairy tale is atmospheric, clever, and touching...Especially resonant are the relationships that the heroine builds with her young protectors. The last few colorful pages will tug at heartstrings as Snow, the Seven, and an intrepid Detective Prince get their happy endings. A stunning, genre-bending graphic novel for all middle grade and middle school collections.
—School Library Journal (starred review)
Phelan masterfully shifts a tale heavily reliant on magic and fantasy into a realistic and historical setting without compromising plausibility. Creating sweeping and dreamy watercolors that play with emotion and color, Phelan is an exquisite visual storyteller, and he lets expressive, wordless sequences carry a large portion of his interpretation. With a keen historical slant, a bit of action and intrigue, high visual interest, and the fairy-tale leaning, this will awe a wide readership. Brilliant.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Pencil, ink, and watercolor images (in mostly sepia tones, with occasional spots of color: red for the poisoned apple, for example) move readers’ eyes across each page, providing an appropriately cinematic noir sensibility. This cinematic effect is further enhanced by the feel of constant movement, the varied panel sizes, and a judicious use of text. Some scenes are wordless; for others, Phelan uses varied fonts to enhance the drama. By the final wordless all- color sequence (spoiler: there is a happy ending), it is clear that this is an original and darkly beautiful take on the classic tale.
In a series of silent-movie-like vignettes, Phelan puts a Jazz Age spin on the classic tale of Snow White...Readers hungry for graphic adaptations of fairy tales will find their appetites slaked here.
I don’t think I’ve ever actually enjoyed the story of Snow White until now. Hand this book to graphic novel fans, fairytale fans, and any kid who’s keen on good triumphing over evil.
—A Fuse #8 Production (blog)
Fans of Snow White will enjoy this new take on the beloved tale—a graphic novel set in Depression-era New York...All of the illustrations are full of emotion, propelling the story forward quickly with minimal dialogue.
—School Library Connection
How Phelan manages to tell this nail-biter of a story with so few words in comic-strip panels is a testimony to his great talent, and his murky pencil, ink and watercolor artwork elegantly captures the ominous mood. Dark, gorgeous and ultimately heartening.
—Shelf Awareness for Readers
Phelan’s wonderfully expressive and realistic faces do most of the storytelling, and readers will linger on the dynamic structure of each page, as the artist’s characteristic soft edges contrast with interesting page layouts...Fans of Brian Selznik’s books will enjoy this one.
With atmospheric, largely monochrome watercolors, Mr. Phelan reworks the old story with chilly elegance but also tenderness of heart:
—The Wall Street Journal
Film noir and fairy tales each offer their own unique escapes into worlds that dramatize our fears and fantasies. In Snow White: A Graphic Novel, Phelan draws from the best parts of each form to create both a hardcover hideout and an artful homage to be read and revisited panel by panel, frame by frame.
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Top Customer Reviews
I was blown away by this graphic novel! It is so different from any other that I have read! It is a graphic novel that is driven by the artwork rather than text. In fact, there is very little dialogue included at all.
The story begins outside of a Macy's window. There is a man in a hat and coat asking a young boy who "she" is. The tearful boy only says, "White as snow..." From there, we jump back to 1918, and then the story continues until we reach that same scene outside of Macy's. I LOVE when stories do that!
The tone of the artwork was incredible. The dust jacket states that it has a "moody, dramatic feel reminiscent of film noir" and that is the perfect way to describe it! The texture used in each of the panels is so distinct; it looks like you could actually feel the textures on the page if you ran your fingers over the paper.
The rare use of color was very interesting. For the majority of the graphic novel, the artist only used shades of red and green. But he used them very sparingly. So in a panel where color was added, it really stood out! This held true right up until the last few pages.
There was one part of the story that actually made me tear up!
The setting takes place in New York City, and the grand times of the roaring twenties have just ended. Only to open up to the Great Depression, full of misery and despair. The young and pretty, Samantha White, has returned to the city due to the tragic death of her father. Also known as the King of Wall Street, for surviving the stock market crash. The death is a delight to Samantha’s wicked stepmother, the Queen of the Follies. But her delight ends soon, when she finds out Samantha’s father has left his money to Samantha, not her. Dark ideas form in the stepmother’s head, when a stock ticker produces evil words on the ticker tape. Samantha runs away, going on an epic adventure, while meeting seven young friends and a charming detective. Follow Samantha on her exploit, by enjoying the beautifully drawn pages of Snow White: A Graphic Novel.
The story has little dialogue, but each drawing is captivating, whether it is dramatic, suspenseful, or tragic. This combined with a thrilling plot makes it hard to put down. All ages will love this story, but ages 11-13 should find this book extremely enjoyable. I give it 5 stars because it is a wonderful graphic novel art book and is my favorite. If you want a story with intricate illustrations and a thrilling adventure, you should read Snow White: A Graphic Novel.
Tessa H, age 11, Oklahoma Central Mensa
She would say that the snow covers everything and makes the entire world beautiful.
* tick * tick * tick * KILL
I love a good fairy tale retelling, and this one is truly unique. Set in 1920s New York City, Matt Phelan’s SNOW WHITE is a gritty comic book adaptation with a decidedly noir spin.
Samantha White is just a child when her mother dies; the two are traipsing through a city landscape blanketed with snow when Mom doubles over coughing. On her kerchief are specks of blood. The year is 1918, and little Snow White is about to lose her mother to the “Spanish Flu.”
Fast-forward ten years. The widower Mr. White, a wealthy stockbroker, is instantly smitten with the newest It Girl, the star of Broadway, the Queen of Follies. They wed, Snow White is shipped off to boarding school, and the family somehow – magically – survives the stock market crash of 1929, which leaves so many of their peers destitute. Everything is okay-ish; that is, until our wicked stepmother receives ominous messages from her husband’s stock market ticker. Before long, Samantha’s father is dead and she’s on the run.
From the glamour of Broadway to the shanties of Hooverville, Phelan makes excellent use of the setting. Much of the artwork is rendered in shades of black, white, and tan, accentuating the story’s gritty atmosphere and noir influence. Little pops of color, particularly red – the bright, spotty blood on Mom’s handkerchief; the blush on Snow’s cheeks; the drugged apple she accepts from an elderly sidewalk vendor – call attention to important panels and props. The artwork has a rough quality, much like the streets Snow wanders when she is cast out of her childhood home.
Like the artwork, the dialogue is rather minimalist; yet if you are familiar with the story (and what American isn’t?), you should have no trouble following along. All of the various components – setting, plot, atmosphere, illustrations, and dialogue – work in harmony to deliver a Snow White that’s darker and more firmly rooted in reality than the original. The huntsman is a hired gun; the seven “dwarfs,” a group of homeless street kids. Yet there’s a touch of magical realism in the form of the Queen, linking this tale to its predecessors.
I also love the cover, which isn’t sad and naked, but rather designed to match both the front and back of the dust jacket.
Read it if: you fancy fairy tell retellings; you like the noir aesthetic; you’re a comic book fan, and want to try something a little different.
** Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review from the publisher, Candlewick. **