Best-selling author Neil Gaiman and fine artist Lorenzo Mattotti join forces to create Hansel & Gretel, a stunning book that’s at once as familiar as a dream and as evocative as a nightmare. Mattotti’s sweeping ink illustrations capture the terror and longing found in the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale. Neil Gaiman crafts an original text filled with his signature wit and pathos that is sure to become a favorite of readers everywhere, young and old.
Am in two minds about this book – whilst I normally adore Neil Gaiman’s style of writing (and have adored his other recent fairy tale retelling in The Sleeper and The Spindle), I cannot immediately tell which part is Gaiman and which isnt.
Meanwhile, the illustrations are fabulous, in strong black and white (it says it’s ink, but I would say it was charcoal), with figures in silhouette rather than full definition. The telling is traditional, with little variation from the Grimm’s fairy tale – Hansel and Gretel are left in the woods by their parents, who are running low on food after a period of war and famine. The first time, they make their way back to their home, after Hansel has the foresight to load his pockets with white stones to mark their way. The second time Hansel doesn’t have the time to gather the stones, and his bread is eaten by the birds before they find their way home.
The siblings, already starving, find their way to a house made of gingerbread, where an old woman lives. She captures both children, locks Hansel in a cage in order to fatten him up, and chains Gretel to the table for her to do housework. The woman struggles to see, and fails to realise that Hansel is getting fatter, but uses a bone when she feels his finger to find out how fat he is getting. Gretel uses her brains, and when the witch wants to roast both of them for her dinner, Gretel pushes her into the hot oven.
The two children escape home, with lots of loot from the witch’s house, and find their mother (the one who insisted they were to be “lost” in the woods) has died not long after their disappearance.
All the standards are there: the trail back home , the gingerbread house, death by roasting…is this my favourite Neil Gaiman? Not convinced. Is it a wonderful hardback addition to the collection of books-with-pictures? Oh yes indeedie