Reviews for Hansel and Gretel

Booklist Reviews 2009 January #1
As in The Princess and the Pea (2007) and numerous other retellings, Isadora sets a traditional European fairy tale in an African setting. This time, Isadora chooses one of the scariest stories ever told about small kids who must fight evil, powerful adults. Spare prose combines with lush, bright cut-paper collage illustrations that show Hansel and Gretel abandoned in the dense forest, lured and locked up, and then finally triumphant after they trick the witch and push her into the burning oven. The immensely detailed double-page spreads are dense with jungle animals and plants, but the real terror is inside the witch s house, filled with dark silhouettes. Drawing on beautiful, geometric African patterns common to traditional Kente cloth, Isadora balances her compositions with soothing white space. Kids will be held by this strong retelling of the familiar story about a brave boy and girl who overcome a looming threat and find their way home.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2009 #3
Among Isadora's European fairy-tale retellings set in Africa (The Fisherman and His Wife, rev. 3/08; The Twelve Dancing Princesses, rev. 9/07), this is the most kid-friendly. The telling, which hews closely to the Grimms' version, showcases Hansel's quick thinking in marking the siblings' path and Gretel's bravery in handily dispatching the witch. Along the way, each spread (of striated cut-paper and oil paint collage in myriad patterns) is attentively designed to reflect the scene's action. Special care is paid to facial expressions (the greedy stepmother's downward-angled eyebrows, the children's glee upon finding the candy house) and body language (brother and sister huddled together, hands clasped, to face danger). In addition to the threats posed by their wicked stepmother and the evil witch, the kids are also eyed by the jungle animals they unintentionally disturb while wandering lost; in the witch's house, too, there are unfriendly creatures to contend with, though the postures of the frogs, spiders, and lizards dangling haphazardly from the bars of Hansel's cage evoke humor rather than fear. On the last spread, the children are reunited with their father, their two cats looking on. There's lots of white space holding the formerly constricting jungle at bay, keeping the focus on the contented little family. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2009 March #2
Another African-acculturated fairy tale by Isadora continues her sequence of retellings depicted with textured collages in vivid colors. The straightforward account dispatches the witch by burning her up in the oven (a large stone fireplace) and kills the mean stepmother offstage, with the children returning home to their loving father. The brightly colored scenes weave a variety of flora and fauna into the backgrounds, the children wear African-styled clothing and Gretel sports dreadlocks. The witch is genuinely scary, but the "gingerbread" house doesn't look like the description at all: "they came to a little house built entirely of bread with a roof made of cake and windows made of sugar." Nothing about the illustration suggests a house made of candy: The roof is pink with cut-outs of chocolate bon-bons pasted on, the cross-hatched door is daubed with magenta and brown and the sides look like fabric imprints. All in all, this sequence raises the question, do the classic tales need remodeling? (Picture book/fairy tale. 5-7) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Reviews 2009 April

Gr 1-3--Isadora's abbreviated retelling of the popular Grimm Brothers tale closely follows the original in both plot and detail while making the story more accessible to a younger audience. With the same artistic style she used in her adaptations of The Twelve Dancing Princesses (2007) and The Fisherman and His Wife (2008, both Putnam), she again sets her tale in Africa, piecing colorfully patterned and hand-painted papers together to create bold, busy eye-catching scenes with a strong ethnic feel, although no specific culture is featured. Scenes include a thatch-roofed hut, a large orange sun, coconut palms, and trees shaped like baobabs. Faces cut from brown-streaked paper in silhouette style are, nevertheless, filled with emotion, resulting from the shapes and placement of eyes and mouths. Even young children will comprehend the domineering stepmother; the meek father; and the fearful, disbelieving children. While most scenes are set against stark white backgrounds, several night scenes, filled with an array of wildlife, appear dark and foreboding, but not overly scary. The witch, a black-costumed hag with green hands and face and red-highlighted eyes, provides the only potentially frightening element. Those youngsters who can deal with the malice of stepmother and witch will delight in this highly artistic and unusual presentation.--Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH

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