Hobbie’s stripped-down retelling of “Hansel and Gretel” maintains a high degree of fidelity to the classic fairy tale, while her illustrations reveal a rich array of artistic influences on her visual interpretation of the story.
Befitting the tragic beginnings of the tale, Hobbie eschews the pastoral, light style she’s known for in her eponymous commercial illustrations and in the Toot and Puddle books. Eerie, dark landscapes abound, and shades of German expressionism are apparent in the hollow, gaunt faces of the woodcutter and his wife, while the children’s waiflike but spritely depictions bring to mind the earthy style of illustrator Brock Cole. The witch, meanwhile, is white of face, round of form, and spindly-limbed, making her reminiscent of the wicked crones found in Anthony Browne’s and Lisbeth Zwerger’s retellings of the same tale. This is not to say that Hobbie’s work is derivative, and given her usual style, it’s remarkable that her strongest pictures are those that indulge in the dark and dreary. There are also some marvelous, cheery compositions, including the one depicting the children’s reunion with their father. Here, he stands before a white sheet hanging on the line, creating a natural bright highlight behind his open arms as his children run toward him.
A fine addition to the fairy-tale shelves. (Picture book/fairy tale. 4-8)