cover image Hansel and Gretel

Hansel and Gretel

Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm. Picture Book Studio Ltd, $16 (24pp) ISBN 978-0-88708-068-5

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)