A sumptuous edition of the old fairy tale uses striking design to place readers in the forest with the children.
The title is laser cut into the all-black cover in a Gothic script that, pleasingly, makes “Hansel and Gretel” look much like “Hansel und Gretel”—the first of many touches that tell readers this is no ordinary book. The stitching of the case is in orange thread that is visible through the clear plastic overlay that protects the cover. The orange appears again, through the die-cut window of the poor woodcutter’s cottage, seen in silhouette against a lowering sky. From the outside, it looks cozy, but with the turn of the page, readers see the wicked stepmother with finger crooked, talonlike, against the now-ominous orange background. This page is semitransparent; a flock of birds can be seen taking flight on the next page. Silhouetted ferns, birds and trees appear and recede in spooky, disorienting fashion, visible in both directions through the many semitransparent pages. Delicate pencil and ink drawings complement the heavy silhouettes, which are reminiscent of the work of Nikki McClure. The witch’s cottage itself is a wild crazy quilt of patterns (including a bit of digitally collaged candy bar) placed on a deceptively safe-looking chintz background. Adapted by West from a public-domain edition of the tale, the text has an appropriately old-fashioned feel that supports Schenker’s masterful interpretation.
Gorgeous. (Picture book/fairy tale. 5-8)