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

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

Friday, June 20, 2014

Hansel and Gretel by Michael Morpurgo & Emma Chichester Clark

Hansel and Gretel by Michael Morpurgo & Emma Chichester Clark, 2008.


"Nibble-dee-day, nibble-dee-day. Who's nibbling at my house today?"

This is a nicely illustrated expansion of the Hansel and Gretel story. It keeps many of the tale's motifs and puts the focus on the children as part of their family unit. Hansel and Gretel live with their mother and father, Gabriel and Lisette, and all is good until a wicked witch, Belladonna, becomes jealous of Lisette and sets her sights on Gabriel and the children. She turns Lisette into a weeping willow tree, shape shifts into a beautiful young woman and pretends that she almost died while trying to prevent Lisette from drowning. Before long, she worms her way into the family and wins Gabriel's love, becoming his new bride. When the children cannot accept her, she brings a famine to the land and sets about getting rid of the kids in the usual way. Gabriel only pretends to go along with her demands to lose the children in the forest and helps them with the stones and breadcrumbs. When Belladonna learns of this, she turns Gabriel to stone and carries out the gingerbread house plan. After Gretel dispatches the witch in the oven, the kids return home, taking the hag's formerly fierce wolf-dog and discovering that her spells have been broken: the land is back in plenty and their parents are whole and healthy.

Clark's pictures have a pleasant, homey feel with characters dressed in folkloric patterned aprons and kerchiefs, pages bordered with vines, flowers and birds, and titles suggestive of  cross stitching. The family farm is full of chickens and the un-cursed forest teems with birds and animals. The witch's gingerbread house is cute as can be, surrounded by daisies, but her courtyard is a mess, filled with sticks, stones and bones. In her wifely form, Belladonna has disturbingly electric green eyes and in her full-on witchery she has pink eyes, a bulbous, warty nose, an abundance of facial hair and scraggly grey locks.

Seek this book out for a great longer read aloud with kids who already know the usual story.

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