Snow White by Matt Phelan; Candlewick Press,$19.99.
New York City’s Central Park, vaudeville stages and back alleys are the backdrop, the Stock Market Crash and the Great Depression the triggering events in Matt Phelan’s brilliant reimagining of the Snow White fairy tale as a graphic novel set in 1930s New York. The black and white images evoke detective stories of the period, with chapter headings such as “A Drop of Blood” and “Detective Prince Oversteps His Bounds.” Phelan’s Snow (Samantha White) is a kindhearted young lady; the Seven are a gang of tough street kids she encounters in a dark alley while fleeing her stepmother’s clutches. Most brilliant of all: The evil stepmother is vain, but money is her true motivation.
– Jean Westmoore
The Hawkweed Prophecy by Irena Brignull; Weinstein Books, 363 pages, $18. Ages 12 and up.
Fairy tale elements – a witch’s curse, babes switched at birth – combine with YA themes about coming-of-age, questions of identity and a doomed love triangle to create some real magic in this enthralling fantasy from screenwriter Irena Brignull (whose credits include “Skellig” and the adaptation of “The Little Prince.” Feisty, dark Poppy – who doesn’t know she is, in fact, a witch’s daughter – has never felt she belonged with her “normal” parents and encounters one dismal experience after another with bullying classmates in school; sweet, blond Ember, raised in a coven of witches in a remote forest in Britain; feels distaste for the spells and potions she is supposed to be learning. Chance brings the two lonely girls together, and friendship blooms, until they both fall for the same boy – sweet, smart, homeless Leo. Also by chance, the girls discover their true identities, as the novel moves toward a thrilling climax and the fulfillment of the Hawkweed Prophecy and the ascension of the new queen. Brignull creates complex, interesting characters and brilliantly imagines the details of the hardscrabble existence of life in the coven and the astonishment Ember feels on her first venture into a town, painting her nails, hearing music for the first time. Most interesting is Poppy, the outsider with her strange powers, and the liberating but unsettling discovery of the identity of her birth mother, and the villainy of her aunt. The action-packed finale comes to a satisfying conclusion, but the true heart of the novel is revealed in the sacrifice Poppy must make for love.
– Jean Westmoore