Online Book Club - Wrapping Up September: Apples

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I've joined in with some blogging friends for an online book club, and we are wrapping up this week. By the way, all our readers are invited to join in as well. Each month we'll have a theme to build our book picks around, and our September theme was Apples. 

Snow White: A Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan - I chose this book because of how much I loved the cover. The art deco look lettering sealed the deal on this book with an apple on the cover! I don't usually choose graphic novels, but this appealed to me. Plus it's an unusual setting in which to retell the familiar fairy tale.

Author and illustrator Matt Phelan brings his creativity to the well-known fairy tale of Snow White. He tells the tale mostly in pictures, with a minimum of dialogue. The drawings are grayscale with just hints of color here and there, and yet they have a watercolor feel. 

In this retelling, the story is set in 1920s New York City. Samantha (nicknamed Snow) loses her mother when she's young, and her banker father eventually marries a Ziegfeld Follies star who convinces him to send Snow away to school. Snow returns after her father dies - and perhaps the Queen of the Follies had something to do with that? - and is soon driven from her home by her stepmother. There's an attempt on Snow's life, but seven young street urchins rescue her. They strike up a friendship but the stepmother finds out Snow is still alive and takes matters into her own hands. 

Although you might think that it would be very quick to 'read' a picture book, I felt that it was important to take my time over each frame, and with only the bare minimum of dialogue and almost no narration, it did require me to interpret the illustrations. You can certainly follow the story easily with a glance, but there are nuances if you take your time. I do actually recommend graphic novels - and would recommend this one in particular - for young people that can read, but don't like to; or for students who are struggling readers. Perhaps not a steady diet of picture books, but to encourage them to read or to give them a break from something they find difficult - definitely! This is one that could lead to interesting discussion as well - have them make the connections to the original story, or do some of their own narration to see how they interpret the illustrations.

The unique take on the setting and characters is remarkably true to the original story, and there is a little magic thrown in as well. And yes, there is definitely a fairy tale happy ending!

The curtain rises on New York City. The dazzling lights cast shadows that grow ever darker as the glitzy prosperity of the Roaring Twenties screeches to a halt. Enter a cast of familiar characters: a young girl, Samantha White, returning after being sent away by her cruel stepmother, the Queen of the Follies, years earlier; her father, the King of Wall Street, who survives the stock market crash only to suffer a strange and sudden death; seven street urchins, brave protectors for a girl as pure as snow; and a mysterious stock ticker that holds the stepmother in its thrall, churning out ticker tape imprinted with the wicked words: "Another . . . More Beautiful . . . KILL."

At the Edge of the Orchard: A Novel by Tracy Chevalier - I also chose this novel because there were apples featured on the cover. John Appleseed is one of the supporting characters, and the story centers around an apple orchard and the products from it. I'm not even close to finishing it, but it's good so far!

James and Sadie Goodenough moved west from Connecticut, but only made it as far as Ohio. They settled in the Black Swamp, as its called, and tried to homestead there, but it's really rough going. Shortly after they arrived, John Appleseed sold James saplings so they could grow apple trees. Fifty trees are required to stake the claim to the property. But the very hard life sows trouble between James and Sadie. They fight almost constantly over the apple trees, because Sadie wants them for applejack and James wants the more valuable eating apples. The narrative switches back and forth between James and Sadie as viewpoint characters, with James in third person and Sadie in first person. Although I haven't read very far, I've picked up on the fact that a large part of the battle between these two is that neither one understands how the other thinks and they do not really try either. It's rather sad to see their very broken relationship and how they keep sabotaging it, but I'm interested to keep reading and see if their son Robert (the lead character in the second half) will make better choices and how it will all be resolved.

1838: James and Sadie Goodenough have settled where their wagon got stuck - in the muddy, stagnant swamps of northwest Ohio. They and their five children work relentlessly to tame their patch of land, buying saplings from a local tree man known as John Appleseed so they can cultivate the fifty apple trees required to stake their claim on the property. But the orchard they plant sows the seeds of a long battle. James loves the apples, reminders of an easier life back in Connecticut; while Sadie prefers the applejack they make, and alcoholic refuge from brutal frontier life. . .

Visit the participating bloggers to see what they've read as part of this theme!

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