Candlewick, 2016 unpaged
Graphic Novel/Fairy Tale
Set in New York City during the Great Depression, Phelan, serving as both writer and illustrator, revamps a classic fairy tale using his own unique vision. Snow White's father is a business man, the stepmother is a star with the Ziegfeld follies, the mirror is now a ticker-tape machine, the prince a police detective and the dwarfs are homeless children. After being chased by a dangerous hobo sent by her stepmother to kill her, Snow White meets a group of homeless boys in an alley. They take her to the abandoned warehouse they call home and she entertains them and makes them feel safe by telling them stories. The children become attached to her and are devastated when, the next day, Snow White returns to the warehouse and passes out; the effects of a poisoned apple. The boys chase the old hag/stepmother, who meets with her final demise in a scene of massive karmatic significance. Now it is left for the well-meaning police detective to try to wake Snow White, eventually leading to a happy ending for all.
This stylized cover has been staring at me from my library's new book section, coaxing me to read it, until I finally gave in. The story is close enough to the original to be familiar and comforting, yet different enough to engage the reader and encourage active participation in comparison. The Depression setting in integral to the plot and the the book's design and mood reflect this distinctive setting. Phelan is very conservative with his text, using speech only when necessary. The bulk of the story is told in the illustrations. These finely crafted and loose pictures are drawn primarily in black and white. Sparse color is used intentionally and carefully to highlight where the artist wants the eye to go and use of color also helps to tell the story. Starting with just red touches, Phelan moves onto blue while Snow White is in her deep sleep, finally moving onto an introduction of yellow light into full color for the happy ending. We see the boy's attachment to Snow White as at first they will not reveal their names to her and finally, after she is poisoned, slowly come forward with their true identities, willing themselves to trust this kind adult. A beautifully crafted book that reflects the growing genre of quality graphic novels for young people.