Snow White: a graphic novel

Matt Phelan has created a beautiful and intriguing graphic novel retelling of the classic fairy tale of Snow White.

Snow White: a graphic novel
by Matt Phelan
Candlewick Press, 2016
ISBN 978-0-7636-7233-1
235 pages : chiefly illustrations (some color) ; 21 cm
Graphic novel
Dewey: 741.5; Int Lvl: 4-8; Rd Lvl: 4.0
5 out of 5 stars


The story of Snow White is well-known, so most readers will approach this story with a feeling of familiarity. Matt Phelan has given Snow White a truly brilliant twist by setting it in 1928 New York City.

In Phelan’s update, the Wicked Witch is the star of Ziegfeld’s Follies. After Snow’s mother dies, her wealthy father becomes enchanted by the Queen of the Follies and marries her. Snow is sent to away to boarding school. Instead of an enchanted mirror, a stock market ticker shows what motivates the evil Queen. She is obsessed with money, wealth, and beauty. With her insecurities fed by the words on the ticker tape, the Queen kills the father and attempts to kill Snow when she returns for the funeral.

The seven dwarfs are seven homeless boys who have banded together to survive the cold streets. The boys save Snow from muggers, and take her in, where she becomes a mother-type figure to them. Snow’s relationship to the boys is truly a highlight of the story. The boys at first do not trust adults and refuse to reveal their names to Snow. The moment where she finds out their names is a real tear-jerker.

Prince Charming is Detective Prince, who is called to the scene when Snow’s poisoned body is discovered in the window of Macy’s department store. She was placed there by the seven boys after
she took them to see the magic that can be found in the beautiful holiday window scenes. It is easy for the reader to believe the magic of those windows can save Snow White.

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As well as an unique setting and time period, Phelan’s art work adds intrigue to the traditional story. Mostly done in detailed black and white, color is used to add mood and intensity. Splashes of red really pop and are effective in highlighting evil and blood/death. Shades of cool blue are used on the Macy’s window scenes, and finally, the happily-ever-after ending is done in color.

Phelan has managed to craft a unique Snow White story that will stick in your mind. He has done this by sticking to the traditionally known plot, but incredible visuals combined with the new setting and time frame make the story feel new and updated. Middle grade and older readers will enjoy this fresh version.