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

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

Friday, May 16, 2014

Hansel and Gretel by Tony Ross

In French, but with the same cover art
Hansel and Gretel by Tony Ross, 1989.


  • Does not mention God

  •  Stepmother stays at home while the father does the dirty work of leading the children into the forest

  • Devious owl takes the children to the witch's house

  • House is "... built of cake, with an icing roof, and a garden fence of gingerbread men."

  • Witch is preceded by her nose, which pops out through the letter box: "It was not a nice nose, and it was green."

  • Kids have a hint that something wrong when they find tadpoles in their jelly at tea.

  • Hansel is put into the cellar, not a cage

  • After Gretel pushes the witch into the oven, the house collapses

  • Children ride a swan across the water to get home, but it asks for all the treasure that Hansel has in his pockets in payment

  • Stepmother vanishes in a great ball of fire and the smell of burnt cake

  • Gretel saved a pearl under her cap

  • Verse: none

    Tony Ross personalizes the tale with a funny tone and the added details mentioned above. His stepmother is a horrible person, snarling at her husband to dump the children in the forest and referring to them as "two extra, useless, snivelling mouths to feed" and then calling "Goodbye, darlings" as they are led away. In response, the woodsman creeps around sadly and allows himself to be bullied.

    Much of the book's humor come from Ross' art. When Hansel and Gretel return home the first time, their cat waves the British flag at them, while a mouse prepares to bop the cat on the foot with a hammer, as the cat is standing on the mouse's tail. At the witch's table, she serves Gretel a beverage in a frowny face mug. And as the oven overheats, well dressed mice vacate the gingerbread house carrying tiny luggage.

    The story is full of animal friends and foes: the cat and mouse at home, a bat, rabbit, fox and others in the forest, cats, a frog, a snail and a fork-toting rat in a witch hat in the gingerbread kitchen, and the jewel-decked swan who gets the children back to their father.

    Ross' adults look pretty grotesque anyway, but the witch has the added bonuses of green warty skin, scraggly teeth, Pippi Longstocking style stick out braids and an impossible half moon face.

    This would be a keeper for me if I ran across a copy!

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