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Hansel And Gretel

A rewritten title from the previous "Read it Yourself" series with the original concept of the child reading a familiar story and the link with Key Words retained. It is part of Ladybird's overall "Learning to Read" programme which can be used alongside any other reading scheme.
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Gr 1-4‘A brooding, surrealistic version of the classic fairy tale. Wallace modernizes the Grimms' story, turning the stepmother into the more ambiguous "the woman"; making Gretel into Hansel's equal partner (eliminating her crying); and omitting all mention of God. Otherwise, the text follows the original pretty faithfully. The illustrations, done in pastel pencils on black paper, have an eerie gloominess and iridescent quality. The witch's face is only shown on the cover, but the pictures inside are scary enough. When the children are alone in the forest, they are tiny figures in an alien, threatening landscape. What looks like a giant, half-submerged face seems to threaten them at one point; a huge hourglass next to Hansel's cage underlines the urgency of his danger; and the siblings' reunion with their father takes place near a graveyard. At the end, the text proclaims the traditional litany of "...they lived in perfect happiness from then on," but a turn of the page reveals an ominous rebirth of the witch. Somewhat surprisingly, there are not many good picture-book versions of this tale in print. James Marshall's (Dial, 1990) is excellent for the very young‘the witch is not scary and a sense of humor pervades the text; Susan Jeffers's (Dial, 1980) is traditional and beautiful. Wallace's is unusual and emphasizes the dark side of the tale. It is definitely a distinguished book to savor; independent readers will pore over its pages and scrutinize its details.‘Judith Constantinides, East Baton Rouge Parish Main Library, LA

Working from a faithful translation of the original text, Zwerger has created rosy-cheeked, appealing children who look as if they have just descended the Alps. The witch, by contrast, is a shapeless, fiery-eyed ghoul with real scare potential, but the illustrations never take advantage of that; the pictures show passive moments and have an ephemeral quality because there is almost no background for the figures on the page. For example, on one page of text, the stepmother kindles a fire and leaves Hansel and Gretel alone, the birds come and eat the trail of bread crumbs, the children walk for 24 hours without much food, sleep and walk again. Opposite is a picture of the siblings, looking melancholy but not appearing to be in dire straits. The design of the book falters: some of the artwork is horizontal and bleeds, other paintings are vertical, with wide gutters and margins; the text is set in light type without paragraph indentations and so readability suffers. Zwerger's artistic gifts are not wholly in evidenceeven simple details like Hansel's hair color, which varies, are overlooked. For once, her version of a popular story is extraneous, and Hansel and Gretel, so often done and redone, seem lost. Ages 6-up. (June)

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