Snow White has always been Matt Phelan's favorite fairy tale. Phelan got the idea to set his version of Snow White in Depression Era New York City while sketching apple peddlers for a story he wrote about Herbert Hoover for the anthology book Our White House. Phelan's illustration lends itself marvelously to the noir tone of this story that is set amidst the end of the Jazz Age and the beginning of the Depression. With the Queen of the Zigfield Follies cast as the wicked stepmother and Detective Prince taking on the role of Charming, the casting is perfect - especially Snow White's protectors and friends, the Seven Dwarves.
Samantha "Snow" White lost her mother to tuberculosis when she was a little girl. Her father remarries and she is sent to boarding school. Snow's father is a business man and his ticker tape machine, one that he watches with growing unease and concern, especially after surviving the crash. Phelan brilliantly has the ticker tape stand in for the magic mirror that drives the Queen to her wicked deeds. After Snow's father dies, it is his will, naming her as the sole inheritor, not her potential as a rival beauty, that causes her exile. This exile granted to her, instead of death, by Mr. Hunt, a goon with a heart of gold.
Snow flees to Hooverville where she is rescued by a gang of orphaned boys living on the street. Their relationship is one of my favorite parts of Snow White, with the tough urchins refusing to tell Snow their names, until a tender, heartbrreaking moment later in the tale. I don't want to give away all of Phelan's marvelous adaptations, but I will say that the store window of Macy's does play a special role in this story. Phelan's expressive, suggestive illustrations save the sharp lines for the wicked stepmother's Louise Brook's bob, glaring eyes and her fitting end. Snow and the boys are soft lines and smiles when the world is treating them well, and the ending to Snow White treats them very well and just might bring a tear to your eye. Phelan uses splashes of red sparingly, eloquently and effectively in Snow White, with most of the story playing out in slate greys and occasional icy blues. However, Phelan's "happily ever after" is presented in a warm palette that is indeed a happy ending.
Read my reviews of more of Matt Phelan's graphic novels and picture books here
Source: Review Copy