From School Library Journal
Grade 2–4—Leaving the basic framework of the Grimm Brothers' tale intact, Morpurgo has altered details of the plot, creating a story in which strong familial bonds allow the innocent brother and sister to overcome evil. A happy, self-sufficient family is cursed by a witch, Belladonna, who falls in love with Gabriel, the children's father, and turns their mother into a weeping willow tree. She enchants Gabriel, who marries her, but she soon realizes that she will never become an integral part of the family. Overcome with jealousy, she creates a sudden famine that kills nearly all of the plants and animals, then twice convinces Gabriel to lose his children in the forest, where she entices them into her little gingerbread cottage for a meal of pancakes and syrup. After each reference to the witch's black magic comes the refrain: "It was nothing for her to do that." The moment Gretel pushes Belladonna into her own oven, the children's world is instantly filled with love, beauty, good health, and happiness. Folk-art-style paintings, in watercolor with colored-pencil outlines and facial features, range in size from small decorations and vertical strips of various widths to full-page scenes. The story is written in language geared to young children, but the dark tone bumps up the age for which it would seem appropriate. Libraries with large fairy-tale collections may want to purchase this lengthier-than-usual version of the story.—Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
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"* "Draws on the idea of hope and courage within the story, making it much more than a simple fairy tale." A Patchwork of Books blog"
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