"A library book, I imagine, is a happy book." Cornelia Funke

"Everything puts me in mind of a story." Ben Franklin

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Nibble Nibble Mousekin: a Tale of Hansel and Gretel



Nibble Nibble Mousekin: a Tale of Hansel and Gretel by Joan Walsh Anglund, 1962.

Variations:

  •  No mention of God
  • Stepmother does not tell the woodcutter her plan to be rid of the kids
  • Children go to the woods with the family to "gather berries"
  • Witch's house is a "...cottage... made of gingerbread. Its roof dripped with thick white frosting, and it sparkled with gum drops and peppermint sticks. It's chimney was a cookie and the windows were clear sugar."
  • Witch promises no harm will come to them
  • Stepmother runs away because she is frightened by the evil things she has done
Verse:

"Nibble nibble mousekin,
Who's nibbling at my housekin?"

In Anglund's specific artistic style, the children are drawn with no facial features but eyes, which are round and black. Only in profile are their noses visible. Although Hansel and Gretel look cute when they are alone, they seem bizarre when contrasted with the adults that have complete features and expressions. The stepmother has a beaky nose and a nasty expression, either smirking or looking as though she smelled something bad. The witch has a similar look, with her chin and nose so pointed that in profile she looks like a quarter moon. Her clothing though, would not be amiss on Mother Goose, with a ruffled mop cap topped by a peaked hat, spreading skirts, an apron and a cloak.

Every other picture spread is in color with pops of red and yellow. Anglund uses the space well, with a good ratio of design to blank space. The scenery, such as rolling hills and draping trees, give the art a sense of movement.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Acting Out Hansel and Gretel


 
 
Playtales: Hansel and Gretel by Moira Butterfield, 1998.
 
This book offers everything kids need to put on a play of Hansel and Gretel. It can be read aloud by one person, done as Reader's Theatre or acted out by multiple kids. The characters are: the Storyteller, Hansel, Gretel, the Woodcutter and the stepmother/Wicked Witch.
 
 The book briefly explains how to choose a part, read lines and follow stage directions. Suggestions for easy costumes and props made from cardboard, colored paper and items like trash bags and pipe cleaners are given.
 
The script is shown in cartoon balloons issuing from a small drawing of the appropriate character and each speech balloon is color coded by character to help kids easily follow along.
 
In this version of the story, the stepmother actually is the witch, and she has the woodcutter father and the birds of the forest under a spell so that she can control them. This conveniently takes the blame off the father for abandoning his children and, somewhat absurdly, from the birds for eating the dropped bread crumbs (as birds would certainly do.) Another change has Hansel dropping the white stones, but Gretel dropping the breadcrumb trail.
 
The play's action is illustrated with photos of multicultural kids in cute homemade costumes.

Hansel and Gretel, Illustrated by Sybille Schenker



Hansel and Gretel, Illustrated by Sybille Schenker, 2011.

Variations:
  • No mention of God
  • Doesn't have Hansel drop pebbles first
  • Hansel drops breadcrumbs
  • Children follow a white bird to the witch's house
  • Witch promises no harm will come to them
  • Gives detail on the witch, including her keen sense of smell
  • Children ride a white duck across the water to get home

Verse:

"Nibble, nibble, munch munch,
Who is chewing on my house?"

"Duck, duck, Help Hansel and Gretel.
There's no bridge and no track.
Take us on your little white back."

In this version of the book, the format is important. Schenker uses die cut pages and vellum overlays  to create exciting and dramatic visuals. Black silhouettes and layers of images create a sense of foreboding such as when the children are led to and abandoned in the woods. Printed on orange vellum, the stepmother is shown in stark outline pointing her finger accusingly at her husband, and with a turn of the page, she's looming larger than life over the scene of the family heading into the forest:

From Schenker's webpage at http://cargocollective.com/sybille

The book's black cover contrasts with its die cut title that shows the flower sprigged yellow calico print behind it. This same background is used in the scenes of the children finding the treat house and meeting the deceptive witch. The cottage is a patchwork of homey patterns with the only hint of its sweetness shown with a panel of chocolate. The witch is a hunched old lady in sweetly patterned clothes similar to the children's but her eyes are red, her forehead is scrunched up and her nails are frighteningly long. In her home, the table is laid out with treats, but they are featured against a blood red background, and on the following vellum page, the only image is the witch's hand reaching down ominously. The reader can see through to the next page of the siblings "safe" in bed, with the hand hovering over them.

As the children return home, the silhouetted images become beautiful instead of frightening: a butterfly, meadow flowers and a great antlered stag. The final picture, of the children reuniting with their father, is colored summer grass green.

Thing 14: Videos


I had to skip Thing 13 for now, due to software issues. So, on to Thing 14, Videos starting with:

Vine

"Vine is the hottest video service right now that only allows you to take 6-second videos. 6 seconds doesn’t seem like long, but think of them as enhanced photos. Instead of a still shot of a library program, make a quick 6-second video you can share on the library website or via social media."


Making the video in Vine was super easy. I made one of our Staff Suggestions displays. We have five library staff who do themed displays and recommendations on an ongoing basis.

Posting the video to Blogger proved to be impossible for me. I'm not on Twitter, so I tried pasting it to Facebook to try to get the link. On my IPhone the video displays fine, but on my computer, clicking the video just takes you to the Vine homepage, and if you try to share, you get an error message. I see that you can post the video on Youtube and get the link that way, but this is just too much of a hassle. Frankly, I'm frustrated and I don't think I'll bother with it.

Or maybe I might in the future. Maybe the difficulty has to do with my outdated IPhone software. I can see uses for Vine in my library, if the county approved the posting. Also, I would be interested in using it in Power Point presentations.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hansel and Gretel by James Marshall



Hansel and Gretel by James Marshall, 1990.

Variations:

  • Does not mention God
  • Hansel drops pebbles but says he is turning back to look at a white cat on the roof
  • Children think that their father is nearby in the woods, but he has fixed a tree branch to strike a tree to sound like an axe cutting wood
  • Hansel drops breadcrumbs but says he is turning back to look at a pigeon on the roof
  • Children follow a white bird to the witch's house
  • House is "made of cookies and candy, spun sugar and cake."
  • Children ride a white duck across the water to get home
Verse:

"Nibble, nibble, little mousie
Who's that nibbling
on my housie?"

James Marshall approaches this story with his usual humorous touches. The stepmother, who is nothing but bossy and nasty, asks her husband, "Do you want your pretty little wife to waste away?" She peppers her conversation with "you dolt!" "you donkey!" and "simpleton!" The witch, in her excitement and catching the siblings, slips up with "Two tasty-uh-pretty children have come to stay."  Once she cages Hansel, she does a little dance in delight.




Marshall's illustrations also make the book enjoyable, because they are outright fun. The stepmother is a large woman with carrot colored hair in Princess Leia buns. The witch (as shown above) has green hair and a matching wart, a honker of a nose and Cupid's bow lips. She is adorned with bows from her hairdo to her toes and  when she dances around Hansel she jumps right out of her shoes, revealing skinny ankles and a green pedicure.

Recommended.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hansel and Gretel retold by Jane Ray



Hansel and Gretel retold and illustrated by Jane Ray, 1997.

Continuing on with the theme I began in Picture Books: Hansel and Gretel , we now look at Jane Ray's version of the tale.

Variations:
  • Does not mention God
  • Hansel drops pebbles but says he is turning back to look at a white cat on the roof
  • Hansel drops breadcrumbs but says he is turning back to look at a pigeon on the roof
  • Children follow a white bird to the witch's house
  • House is "made of gingerbread, iced with pink and white sugar and covered all over with sweets and sugarplums. The windowpanes were of clear sugar and a fence made of gingerbread figures ran around the house."
  • Witch is an old woman "dressed in tatters with cobwebs and spiders clinging to her skirts."
  • Witch promises no harm will come to them
  • Gives detail on the witch, including her keen sense of smell
  • Children ride a white duck across the water to get home
  • Stepmother has gone, no mention of her death
Verse:

"Nibble, nibble little mouse, who's that nibbling at my house?"
"Just the winds, the winds that blow, from the sky to the earth below."

"Little duck, little duck, duckling dear,
Hansel and Gretel are standing here.
A bridge they lack and a boat they lack,
Please carry them over on your back."

Ray's spectacular art makes this book really special (full disclosure: I already own it). She used watercolor, gouache, ink, pencil, collage and varnish to produce it. It is very detailed, with background patterns of branches, vines and stars on pages before and after the visit to the witch's house, and skulls, lizards and feathers when the children are with her. Ray uses motifs of hearts, stars, eyes and hands throughout the book.

 Interestingly, the cruel stepmother's face is never shown. Ray's gingerbread house is less readily identifiable as made from sweets and her fence of  gingerbread people with skull-like faces is downright creepy.

The witch is scarily dramatic, with red eyes, fang like teeth and blood red lipstick that creeps beyond her lip line. She is suggestive of a demented Marie Antoinette with chalk white skin and black beauty marks. Her hat carries a black bird, a butterfly and a flopping fish of bones. Her clothes appear to be dripping feathers, spiders, snakes and a toad. Her red taloned hands are decorated with a mendhi pattern and her shoes have eyes.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Picture Books: Hansel and Gretel

I'm now looking at various illustrated versions of fairy tales by title.

I am starting with "Hansel and Gretel." If you don't know the story, or need a refresher, you can do no better than to look at the Surlalune website. This site is amazing, and I also very frequently check out the Surlalune Blog.

http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/hanselgretel/

In this post:

  • Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm, illus by Anthony Browne, 1981
  • Hansel and Gretel by Cynthia Rylant, illus. by Jen Corage, 2008.
  • Hansel and Gretel retold and illus. by Rachel Isadora, 2009.
  • Hansel & Gretel by the Brothers Grimm, retold by Amy Erlich, illus. by Susan Jeffers, 1980, 2011.
  • Hansel & Gretel by the Brothers Grimm, retold and illus. by Will Moses, 2006.



Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm, illus by Anthony Browne, 1981.

This is adapted from a translation by Eleanor Quarrie, 1949.

Variations:

  • Mentions God
  • Hansel drops pebbles but says he is turning back to look at a white cat on the roof
  •  Children think that their father is nearby in the woods, but he has fixed a tree branch to strike a  tree to sound like an axe cutting wood
  • Hansel drops breadcrumbs but says he is turning back to look at a dove on the roof
  • Children follow a white bird to the witch's house
  • Witch promises no harm will come to them
  • Gives detail on the witch, including her keen sense of smell
  • Children ride a white duck across the water to get home
Verse:

"Nibble, nibble, little mouse,
Who is gnawing at my house?"

"Only the wind,
The Heaven-sent wind."

"Little duck, little duck,
Here stand Hansel and Gretel.
There is no bridge upon our track,
Take us over on your white back."

"My tale is done; see the mouse run;
Catch it if you would, to make a fur hood."

Anthony Browne has set his story in modern times and dispensed with folkloric costuming. He stresses the poverty of the family through the run-down quality of their home. There are bare patches in the ceiling plaster, peeling wallpaper and holes in the curtains, though they do have a television set and the stepmother owns fancy red high heel shoes. Hansel, Gretel and their father's clothes have dirty spots, but the stepmother looks clean and stylish (albeit with a black beehive hairdo).
Browne's art has something of a surrealistic quality, although not as overt as in Gorilla or Changes. When the parents are in bed, the bars of their headboard seem to foreshadow the dark trees of the wood or the bars of Hansel's cage. The frowning stepmother is later shown behind bars as she stares through the window at the returning children after Hansel's pebbles proved a successful guide. The witch is also shown looking out the window of the sweet house, and her features, like her pursed mouth and black mole resemble the cruel stepmother's. The witch looks like any elderly woman, but stern, with red-rimmed eyes. Browne has cleverly painted her with a lovely black cat, and she is positioned between the parted curtains in a way that places her inside a sharp black triangle suggestive of a witch's hat. The shadow of her hand feeling the bone that Hansel offers resembles a snake with a protruding tongue.
This is a book that I would gladly add to my own fairy tale collection!







Hansel and Gretel by Cynthia Rylant, illus. by Jen Corage, 2008.

Variations:

  • Courage and bravery stressed
  • Talks about wickedness and explains characters' behavior
  • Doesn't mention God, but guardian spirits
  •  Smiling stepmother takes them into the woods saying they are going to find flowers and look at birds.
  • She claims the parents will bring the children berries, but they are abandoned
  •  Smiling witch who claims to love children
  • Both children are put in cages
  • Children ride a white swan across the water to get home
  • Stepmother died eating mushrooms
  • Joy, forgiveness and love bring the happy ending
Verse:

"Children dear, children fair,
I love children, everywhere."

Jen Corace's art definitely attracts me to this book. It looks like art deco "cozy cottage" type illustration, the kind you see on vintage mottos. For example:

From Pinterest
She successfully uses a muted color scheme with pops of bright: shades of deep forest green and olive, a variety of browns from tan to chocolate and berry red or sunny yellow.

Corace's stepmother has mostly neutral expressions and is not unattractive. The witch is a pleasant looking old lady in a black dress with a red hooded wrap. Even at her nastiest, she does no more than frown. Her dear little house doesn't really look like it's made of sweets, but the plants in the window boxes do. One of the prettiest pictures is Hansel and Gretel crossing the water while riding the large graceful swan. Pink waterlilies and pads surround them and the pale tan water seems to emphasize the swan's whiteness.

This is another lovely edition that I would like to collect.





Hansel and Gretel retold and illus. by Rachel Isadora, 2009.

I have talked about this version before in the post Fairy Tales Set in Africa by Rachel Isadora .

Variations:

  •  This is a less detailed story than the others in this post
  •  Unlike the Grimms' tale referenced on Surlalune, there is no mention of God
Verse:

"Nibble, nibble, little mouse,
Who is nibbling at my house?"

"My tale is done,
A mouse has run,
And whoever catches it can make for himself
from it a large, large fur cap."

In the illustrations, the stepmother always looks cross and the witch is frightening, obviously not a normal human, with green skin and blazing red eyes.





 Hansel & Gretel by the Brothers Grimm, retold by Amy Erlich, illus. by Susan Jeffers, 1980, 2011.

This translation of the story is from Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm by Mrs. Edgar Lucas, 1902.

Variations:

  • No mention of God
  • Children follow a white bird to the witch's house
  • Witch's keen sense of smell is mentioned
  • Hansel is kept in a stable, not a cage
Verse:

"Nibbling, nibbling like a mouse,
Who's that nibbling at my house?"

Amy Erlich's illustrations were done in ink and dyes over pencil drawings. Animals feature prominently, from the children's pet white cat and dove (which is not mentioned in the story), to the birds and forest creatures, like rabbits, bats, deer and an owl. The stepmother is constantly scowling, but the matronly witch looks unthreatening in her mob cap and apron adorned with gingerbread people. Her cake house is dripping with frosting and candies. Jeffers's detailed drawings of the woods are impressive, especially a two-page spread of Hansel and Gretel in the forest at night, their two figures the only color in a mass of white leaves and black branches.

Another version I would be happy to own.


Hansel & Gretel by the Brothers Grimm, retold and illus. by Will Moses, 2006.

Variations:
  • Mentions God
  • Hansel drops pebbles but says he is turning back to look at a white cat on the roof
  • Tree trick used
  • Time passes before the children are put out again
  • Hansel drops breadcrumbs but says he is turning back to look at a pigeon on the roof
  •  Children follow a white bird to the witch's house
  • Specifically calls the house gingerbread
  • Witch promises no harm will come to them
  •  Witch's keen sense of smell is mentioned
  • Children ride a white duck across the water to get home
  • Stepmother dies of a black heart
 Verse:

"Nibble, nibble, I hear a mouse,
Who's nibbling on my house?"

"Tis the wind, the wind; it's very mild,
Blowing like the Heavenly Child."

"Help us, help us, beautiful duck!
We are Hansel and Gretel and out of luck.
We can't get across the river, try as we may,
Won't you please help us, this fine day?"

"Like a mouse caught by a cat, my tale is finished! Sleep well tonight, and don't let this old story give you a fright. Your parents love you dear and will never let harm come near!"

Folk artist Moses' oil paintings make the most of the rural setting. The mountains and green forest that surround the children's home are with filled colorful plants and wildlife such as bears, fox, and wolves. The fair haired children appear in traditional German costume and folklore motifs are frequently used, on the characters' painted beds and other furniture, and decorating the witch's shutters and even the doors of her oven. More motives like a running deer, a pot of flowers and bright birds adorn the book's margins.
The stepmother has wide, staring eyes and open mouth as she is caught mid argument. The witch has a hooked nose, a warty chin, and big eyes with tiny blood red pupils. Her gingerbread house is an inviting one, not only made of tasty treats, but surrounded by a garden with an arbor, a hay wagon and playful farm animals.