I really like the Brothers’ Grimm version of Snow White, but did not like Disney’s film Snow White, so going into this book I was a little skeptical. However, I really enjoyed this modern twist on a classic tale! Matt Phelan sets Snow White in 1920’s-1930’s New York City which is a new retelling setting for me.
The novel starts out with a crime scene and a detective questioning a little boy about a young woman found in the Macy’s department store window. This seemed out of place from what I know about the tale when starting the book, but upon finishing the book this is actually foreshadowing of what’s to come.
The tale progresses through chapters, the first portraying Snow, Samantha White, playing in Central Park with her mother in 1918. The scenes tell of Snow’s mother coughing up blood, collapsing in the park, and then cut to Snow and her father holding each other as a medical personal covers up her mother.
The next chapters show Snow’s father reading the newspaper and seeing an ad for “The Queen of the Follies” and them him going to see this Ziegfield queen’s show on Broadway. Watching the queen he seems enamored and the queen knows it. The very next page, the queen is living with her new husband and shipping Snow off to school.
Alone in their house, the reader sees the father checking the stock market through a machine–this machine showcases the queen’s greed as it magically changes to print out instructions to kill her husband and her step-daughter in order to get the father’s wealth.
She gets one of her stage hands to go after Snow, but instead of killing her he tells her to get out of town because the queen “isn’t like no other woman. She’s powerful. Dangerous”.
Snow escapes, only to find herself being cornered in an alley by two muggers. However, things don’t ned here for Snow as she gets rescued by seven…boys! Seven adorable boys in their own little gang save Snow and take her in, but refuse to tell her their names.
As the story goes, Snow goes out into the city on her own for lunch, gets an apple the queen injected poison into and falls into a coma. The boys find her, chase the queen to the roof of the building in which she preforms. The queen gets electrocuted when the stage hand turns on the lights for the performance that night and she falls to her death. Flash back to the detective interviewing one of the boys: for some reason, he kisses Snow’s cheek before the medical person covers her up. However, Snow awakens! The story ends with the boys and Snow living in her father’s penthouse and the detective stopping by with flowers.
One aspect about this book that I found very interesting was the use of color. Almost all of the images are black and white, except for certain items of importance that are in red–Snow’s cheeks, her mother’s blood, the fake heart the stagehand got from the butcher to throw off the queen, the apple, and Snow’s lips which fade as she eats the apple. The scenes with the queen are the darkest of all, while the scenes with the boys have sepia-like tones, as if their presence is trying to bring color and joy to the tale. Once the queen is dead, the scenes in the apartment are in full color, depicting the joy and peace that comes when the “evil” is defeated.
Another aspect about this book that I found interesting is how few words there are. I believe it is expected that readers will know the tale of Snow White and be familiar enough with it to fill in the gaps. However, I do not think this retelling is for younger children as many scenes require more “life experience” in order to interpret, for example the stock machine, the fact that the queen poisoned her husband through a drink, what an estate is and why the queen was so furious when her husband’s estate went to Snow, etc. The words that are there are chosen carefully to guide the reader, to make sure they don’t get lost, while leaving them to interpret the rest. The most words come from the boys, which I find hilarious because kids tend to be very talkative.
I truly enjoyed this book and think it would also be enjoyed by children in 3rd-5th grade! I think they will really enjoy the modern setting of the novel and find it fun to interpret the many pictures. The medium of a graphic novel is a fun way to reach a wide variety of kids and engage them in a new tale they may already think they know.
Written by: Haley Jones