Friday, October 30, 2015

Hansel and Gretel by Holly Hobbie

Hansel and Gretel by Holly Hobbie
Little, Brown, and Company

Rating: 5 stars

Kiefer has been saying how much he likes scary stories. I told him I got a good one from the library--could I read it to him? After reading Holly Hobbie's indescribably gorgeous new version of the classic Hansel and Gretel, he said, "I never want to read that again!"

I'm not sure what it says about me that I'm chuckling at chilling my four year old to the bone...

But that's what this tale is: bone-chilling.

Do you remember all the details? Hansel and Gretel live on a farm with their father and their step-mother. (This is one of the many examples of a story where step-mothers don't look so great.) Times are hard and money is tight; the step-mother convinces the man to abandon his children. After a few tries, and when the birds eat the crumbs Hansel spread along the path, the children are successfully abandoned.

In a deep, dark creepy forest.
"The children waited...and no one came to take them home."
(this image is sure to give my son nightmares)

(Did I mention we live in the woods? Perhaps I should have thought of that before reading this to poor Kiefer.)

The two children walk along until they find a house made of candy, with a suspicious-looking lady welcoming them. They soon find out she's feeding them well to plump them up so she can eat them for dinner. Hansel is caged; Gretel is enlisted with chores.

They need a plan, and it's up to Gretel. When the witch asks her to lean into the fire to make sure it's hot enough, Gretel asks, "How?" in her most innocent voice. The witch leans into the large fire, and Gretel shoves her backside with all her little-girl might. When the "dreadful shrieks" end, she rescues Hansel and they run back home together.

When they get home, their father opens his arms to them. He's grateful for their return (there's no talk of forgiveness; no "Why'd you ditch us, Dad?"). The step-mother? She "had died after eating food that had gone bad." What??!!?!! I'm actually concerned that Kiefer will remember this and use it against me in the court of dinner sometime.

"Fetch wood while I sharpen my best knife."
Anyhow, I do think this story is important for children to know as part of their cultural literacy. And if you're going to chill your child to the bone on this day before Halloween, let it be with this version of the tale. Holly Hobbie's artwork is unbelievable. Are you familiar with it? If not, go check out all her recent stuff and prepare to sit down after the kids go to bed to just appreciate her talent. She's a fantastic storyteller (read her Toot and Puddle series) and her illustrations make classic books come to life (check, just buy... The Night Before Christmas).

And to the step-mothers out there...yikes! Sorry about the bad rap those Grimm brothers gave you.

Happy Halloween!

No comments:

Post a Comment