cover image Hansel and Gretel

Hansel and Gretel

Dom DeLuise, Amy Cordova. Simon & Schuster, $15 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-81202-6

In this ultimately dizzying retelling, DeLuise quickly establishes a sense of intimacy with his chatty approach and kid-friendly sense of irony. Take, for example, his description of Hansel and Gretel's home life: ""They lived from hand to mouth, and, let's face it, that's a very short distance."" Unfortunately not content to leave well enough alone, DeLuise takes to the soap box. Here, he advocates good nutrition: Hansel and Gretel's dear departed mother served her family fat-free chicken soup (recipe included) and gave her children fruit snacks, while the gingerbread homeowner is an obese woman named Glut Annie, who is ""completely unaware of how unhealthy all that fat and sugar is!"" When the siblings finally reunite with their father (who becomes a successful health-food store owner) they are, ""a loving, fat-free, healthy family who lived happily ever after."" The story sinks under the weight of its message, despite Santoro's (who teamed up with DeLuise on Goldilocks) attempts to buoy it up. His work here seems frenetic and overstuffed; many of the illustrations lack a strong central focus. Even the occasional use of exaggerated and cartooned typography to emphasize a dramatic point only makes the text seem more shrill. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)