Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Hansel And Gretel by Bethan Woollvin.

Review: Hansel And Gretel by Bethan Woollvin.

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Once upon a time, there was a nice witch called Willow who lived in the forest. One day, two children dropped breadcrumbs everywhere, threatening the security of her gingerbread house. Wait a second – what? Is that how the story goes? 

This Hanel & Gretel retelling is deliciously funny and works because it is understated. The narrator doesn’ t sound like a smarty-pants who is proud to be subverting the story (which is, if you’ll excuse me, a major put-off in retellings). Rather, this is a whole new story. The story of a witch who put up with gingerbread-stealing, rude little children for just a bit too long. 

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The ending is so fantastic that it made me squeal with delight. Partly because I love gingerbread and partly because it was so much better than the original ending. That’s what happens when you hand the story to a witch with a sweet-tooth and strong magical powers. 

There are a handful of tales I heard once too often in childhood, to the extent that I started to question what the big deal was. Hansel & Gretel is one of them. Everyone loves the gingerbread house and the breadcrumb trail through the forest and that climactic moment as the witch wobbles in front of the oven. I firmly believe that fairy tales are an important part of our lives and that every child deserves to be told them, but there is such a vast range of stories and so many ways of telling each one. Today’s children are lucky to have books like this one. 

The illustrations are impossibly cool, with their contrasting black, grey and orange palette and minimal shapes and in block colours. Hansel & Gretel’s thoughtless, gleeful expressions are terrific. We know from their faces that there is no reasoning with them. 

An old tale reworked into something equally timeless and memorable. This rebalances the story and the result is hugely fun. 

 

Thanks to Two Hoots for my copy. Opinions my own.

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