Title: Snow White: A Graphic Novel
Creator: Matt Phelan
Type: Fiction, Comic
Genre: Young Adult, Adult
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Date published: September 13, 2016
Page Count: 216
E-copy of the book kindly provided through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: 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.” In a moody, cinematic new telling of a beloved fairy tale, extraordinary graphic novelist Matt Phelan captures the essence of classic film noir on the page—and draws a striking distinction between good and evil.
This was a very good retelling of the original fairytale…
…set in the 1920s and 30s (It starts off in 1918 kind of)! The art was not spectacular, but it had a very dream-like quality to it, and it was perfect for the story which Phelan was retelling. I am no expert on how the digital medium has evolved, but from the looks of it, Phelan used traditional watercolours in order to create his illustrations.
The illustrator used his drawings/paintings effectively to retell the story of Snow White, and he did it in a manner that I have not yet encountered (and I was a teaching assistant for a course on Fairytales in university!)
Tied to this was the fact that I did not find the story to be predictable. Where other retellings usually just change the setting, but keep everything else the same, Phelan adjusted the story in order for it to fit in with the setting which he selected. Characters were adjusted, events were adjusted, and the dialogue was accurate to the time period. The dialogue was also tasteful in style, as well as length—the speech bubbles or amount of text did not overpower the illustrations.
Which brings me back to storytelling through illustrations. Phelan has a way of effectively getting a story / events / happenings across, without using any text at all! There were numerous portions which were just action, but made complete sense. It was almost soothing that there was no narrator trying to explain what was happening.
Now, you may wonder, why despite all of my praise, I gave this book 3.5 out of 5 huskies. And it is because even though it had all of these very good attributes, I did not love it, nor did it awe me with its story or illustrations.
I can see myself maybe buying this book, and re-reading it every now and again.
About the Creator:
Matt Phelan made his illustrating debut with Betty G. Birney’s The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs (Atheneum/Simon & Schuster). Since then he has illustrated many picture books and novels for young readers, including Where I Live by Eileen Spinelli (Dial), Very Hairy Bear by Alice Schertle (Harcourt), and The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron (Simon & Schuster) winner of the 2007 Newbery Medal.
Matt studied film and theater in college with the goal of one day writing and directing movies. But his first love was always drawing, and the more he saw the wonderful world of children’s books, the more he realized that this was the place for him. Being an illustrator is in many ways like being an actor, director, cinematographer, costumer, and set designer rolled into one.
Matt writes: “I have a fascination with the decade of the 1930s. The movies were learning to talk (and in the case of King Kong, growl), the music was beginning to swing, and the nation was thrown into tremendous turmoil. On one hand, you see a level of suffering documented in the dramatic and gritty photography of Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans. On the other hand, consider what the American public was flocking to see in the movie theaters: the glamour and grace of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing in a series of perfect musicals. For my first book as both writer and illustrator (coming in 2009 by Candlewick Press), I naturally gravitated to this complex decade, specifically the strange world of the Dust Bowl.”