Award-winning author Bethan Woolvin is back with another of her signature subversions of classic fairy tales, this time taking on Hansel and Gretel with striking graphics and trademark humour. Slip off the dust jacket of Hansel & Gretel to reveal the outline of a cookie-cutter – don’t be taken in by this; Woolvin’s fun interpretation of the story is more kooky than uniform.
Rendered through a bold palette of black, white, grey and vivid orange, dynamic illustrations introduce us to Willow the Witch, whose conical shape is harmonious with her sylvan surrounds. Happily practicing good magic in a gingerbread home with her placid familiar, a black cat, ‘Willow was a good witch’, the book’s refrain informs us. Willow’s peace is shattered when she seeks to assist two wayward children. The pair glance at Willow askance, but know a soft touch when they see one – soon their rowdy antics try even Willow’s patience. They munch on her eaves, meddle with her magic and get overly-familiar with Willow’s poor familiar.
The moral message of Hansel & Gretel is clear: no matter how good-natured and sweet, everybody has a breaking point and bold children are best advised not to push their luck! This message is brought home in a playful, captivating way. The only slight criticism that could be levelled is the choice of typeface over hand-lettering, but the detailed illustrations are as much of a treat as forbidden gingerbread could ever be.