cover image Hansel and Gretel

Hansel and Gretel

Jane Ray. Candlewick Press (MA), $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-0358-8

With a sumptuous setting that often looks good enough to eat, Ray (The Twelve Dancing Princesses) makes this Brothers Grimm tale her own. Abandoned in the woods by order of their stepmother, Hansel and Gretel eventually find their way home--but not before a psychedelic stay in the candy cottage of a devious witch. Ray's resplendent villainess is an intricate mix of kabuki, mime and Indian detail. She sports a white mask, peacock feathers in her hair, Persian slippers and elaborate Indian henna patterns on her hands. Her glowing red eyes are appropriately frightening, but Hansel and Gretel make a quick escape here, enduring very little suffering. Although Ray's depiction of the protagonists is somewhat inconsistent (at times, Hansel and Gretel appear to be adolescents clutched in an embrace rather than youngsters huddling in fear as depicted in other scenes), their resourcefulness and cleverness remain steady. Ray's well-paced version contains plenty of suspense and intrigue. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)