MG Fairy Tale: Hansel & Gretel by Neil Gaiman and illustrations by Lorenzo Mattotti
Published by: TOON Graphics on October 28th 2014 Genres: Fairy Tale Pages: 54 Format: Hardcover Source: Library
I am a fan of many of Neil Gaiman's other work, The Graveyard Book, Fortunately Milk, Odd and the Frost Giants, even his young adult novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I have yet to read his fairy-tale retelling, The Sleeper and the Spindle, but hope to soon. I was familiar with the general details of the fairy tale, having read many of Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson fairy-tales before.
In Neil Gaiman's story, he begins with a woodcutter and his wife living in a forest with their two small children, Hansel and Gretel. The family cuts down trees and sells them to keep food on the table, that is until the war comes and soldiers begin to destroy neighbors crops and take their food. A famine begins to sweep the land. As the family begins to go hungry, the woodcutter's wife suggest that her husband take their children out deep into the woods and leave them behind, because with two less mouths to feed they have better chances at surviving. Overhearing his mothers plan, Hansel quickly gathers small rocks from the stream to mark their way back home. However, a few weeks later, his father takes them unexpectedly back into the forest where they become hopelessly lost. Until, they are lured by the smell of gingerbread coming from an old woman's home. At first the old woman seems to want to help them, but then decides instead she wants to eat them.
That's the Hansel and Gretel that I remember reading about growing up. There are a few things that I didn't recall distinctively, like the aspects about the war, but it certainly explained why they didn't have any food. I'm pretty sure in the versions that I read, the woodcutter's wife was his second wife, a change that makes Gaiman's version stand out as being much more sinister, how can a mother send her two children into the woods and just leave them there? I'll admit, this story creeped me out growing up, it was not one of my favorites. But, the one thing that I always found so enchanting was the gingerbread house. I wanted more details about the house in Gaiman's story, besides "it smelled of spicy gingerbread." I recall descriptions of the sugar-pane windows, iced frosting on the roof and gumdrops. All the things that still make me want to put together gingerbread houses. Overall, I thought the pairing of Gaiman's words with Mattotti's illustrations added just the right darkness to this re-telling of Hansel and Gretel, but maybe not quite as creepy as the original. Hansel & Gretel has been nominated for the Cybils award and my review reflects my personal opinion, not the opinion of the Cybils committee.