Neil Gaiman’s stirring narrative of Hansel and Gretel combined with artist Lorenzo Mattotti’s oppressively black illustrations give the Brothers Grimm fairytale a nightmarish quality different from what I remember as a kid. Back then the terrifying takeaway was the trusting old woman in the candy-coated gingerbread house who transformed into a mean and hungry cannibal. Don’t get me wrong, the evil old woman is still mighty sinister in Gaiman’s book, but this time the takeaway was the horror of parental abandonment and betrayal. Maybe because I’m now an adult, or maybe because it wasn’t told in such detail when I was a kid (I can’t remember), the events leading up to Hansel and Gretel finding the gingerbread house in this version are quite unsettling. Although it’s a great creepy book for kids, I’d be careful not to read it to younger children who might be sensitive to the darker side of fairy tales. After all, there are no good fairies in this book.
Hansel & Gretel
by Neil Gaiman (author) and Lorenzo Mattotti (illustrator)
2014, 56 pages, 7.5 x 10.3 x 0.4 inches