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Snow White

by Matt Phelan
216 pages / 2016

This is Snow White inventively reimagined as a 1920s Depression-era American tale. The “king” is a stock trader who has managed to survive the stock market crash. The stepmother is still a queen, but this time of the Ziegfield Follies, a popular Broadway show. The mirror is now a stock ticker, and the seven dwarves are seven street-smart kids. Prince Charming? Well, I shouldn’t give too much away!

Though over 200 pages, this is a very quick read, because it is much more pictures than text – several times there are stretches going on for pages, where there are no words at all.

I first thought it would be hard to pick exactly who’d be the ideal audience. Fairytales are typically for children, but this seemed too somber to attract little ones – done in a black and white, it has a dark, noir style…all but for the last few pages with their happily-ever-after full-color conclusion. Some of the historical touches only adults would pick up on, but how many of them would pick it up? It’s listed as for teens at my local library, but our Christian school library also got it, and there it seems more of a tween hit – my own tweens have taken it out a few times already.


There are no real cautions to offer – if a child is old enough to read the original, then they will be old enough to read this one. There is a drop or two of blood here and there, but no gore. The worst is probably the pig or cow heart we see in full color at one point (in keeping with the original story). And there are no language concerns either.


This is an inventive, and very intriguing tale, done with style. Adults can’t help but appreciate it, but it’s really tweens who will most enjoy it.

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Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

Ella's big chance: a fairy tale retold

by Shirley Hughes 48 pages / 2003 This unique spin on the story of Cinderella is so good it improves on the original. Some of that is due to Shirley Hughes' artwork, charming as always. Then there is the setting: this is a "Jazz-Age Cinderella" pushing the story forward to the 1920s. Ella and her father run an elegant dress shop, making the finest of clothes. The evil stepmother, in this case, has some business acumen, turning the small shop into an even bigger success. But the greater the demand, the more work there is to do for poor Ella. The story follows along the familiar course of other Cinderella versions, but with pictures all the more stunning, and a twist at the end in which (SPOILER ALERT!) the love-at-first-sight duke finds his Ella but doesn't get the girl! This is really what sets this version both apart and above all others – none of the nonsense about knowing someone for an evening and then getting married when next you meet again. Nope, Ella ends up with the store's delivery boy, who has always been there for her and wanted to be so evermore. While Hughes' artwork is wonderful, the prose is superb as well. It flows so very naturally that, as I read this out loud to my girls, I felt as if I was one of those professional readers. I sounded good! But that is all to Hughes' credit, and not my own - there is a wonderful flow to each page of text. I will add one caution: there is one use made of the term "good heavens," which some view as a substitute oath and too much like a real blasphemy for their liking. Though I don't agree, I do sympathize and wanted to alert readers to its use. I would give this two very enthusiastic thumbs-up, and recommend it highly to anyone who has three- to ten-year-olds. While this is probably far more a girl than a boy book, I really liked it. I think other dads will enjoy reading it too. And if you're looking for another inventive spin on Cinderella, be sure to check out Jan Brett's Cinders: A Chicken Cinderella....