James Marshall--creator of the well-loved George and Martha books--infuses merriment into the grimmest of the Brothers Grimm tales. His cheerful, cartoonish art is the perfect foil for this dark story, making it somewhat less scary, though by no means benign. A poor woodcutter lives with his wife and two children, Hansel and Gretel. His wife (the children's stepmother) doesn't like the youngsters, complaining, "Those wretched children of yours are gobbling everything up!" She persuades the loving but weak-willed woodcutter to take the children into the woods and abandon them to the wilderness. Hansel, first with white pebbles, then with bread crumbs, valiantly tries to lead his sister back to the house, but when the bread crumbs are eaten by birds, they are stuck. Much to their glee, the children eventually find a "small house made of cookies and candy, spun sugar and cake." But if you think this is a happy ending, think again! The weird, bawdy witch who lives in the delectable house cages Hansel (to fatten him up like a veal) and enslaves Gretel. Gretel pushes the witch into the oven as an unfortunate but necessary means to save her brother.
Marshall has winningly retold and illustrated other fairy tales, including Goldilocks and the Three Bears, a Caldecott Honor Book. Here, Marshall's retelling of this rather horrifying story contains just the right comic touches to match his artwork. The text is set in large type, with short lines, making it a natural for first- or second-grade readers. Marshall's wonderful illustrations guarantee that the story of Hansel and Gretel will once again leave youngsters spellbound. (Ages 5 to 8)
From Publishers Weekly
Marshall's trademark wit and slyness mark every page of this effervescent interpretation. Never has there been a more horribly magnificent witch than his--an overstuffed, cackling harridan resplendent in scarlet costume, lipstick and rouge, her hair bedecked with incongruously delicate bows. She is matched, perhaps even surpassed, in girth by the woodcutter's bad-tempered wife, whose piggish eyes, ferocious countenance and caustic barbs will prompt delicious shivers. The children triumph over both in high style, proving themselves worthy successors to the fairytale characters who have previously found new life in Marshall's hands. Ages 4-8.
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