Sunday, May 8, 2011

Hansel and Gretel

Retold By: Roberto Piumini
Illustrated By: Anna Laura Cantone

Italian author, Roberto Piumini in collaboration with illustrator Anna Laura Cantone, have created a version of Hansel and Gretel that is light, humorous, and perfect for young readers.  Piumini tells the story using simple language.  For example, “A few weeks later, the witch felt the twig again and became impatient.  “That’s it!” she said.  “Whether you are fat or thin, I’m going to eat you right now.  Light the fire, Gretel!”” This in comparison to a version of the Brothers Grimm, “When four weeks had gone by, and Hansel still remained thin, she was seized with impatience and would not wait any longer. "Now, then, Gretel," she cried to the girl, "stir yourself, and bring some water. Let Hansel be fat or lean, to-morrow I will kill him, and cook him."”

Piumini also makes the tale a little less harsh for young readers.  For example, when Gretel shoves the witch into the oven, Piumini writes, “But as soon she opened the door, Gretel shoved the witch into the oven and trapped her inside forever.”  Again, in comparison to a version of the Brothers Grimm, “Then Gretel gave her a push that drove her far into it, and shut the iron door, and fastened the bolt. Oh. Then she began to howl quite horribly, but Gretel ran away, and the godless witch was miserably burnt to death. Gretel, however, ran like lightning to Hansel, opened his little stable, and cried, "Hansel, we are saved. The old witch is dead."”

Accompanying the text are Anna Laura Cantone’s interesting and cartoon-like illustrations.  Hansel and Gretel are drawn with big round eyes, huge noses, rectangle bodies, and tiny hands and feet.  These illustrations set more of a humorous tone to the book and help the reader to feel safe.  The witch, although given a more evil appearance, is quite funny looking with her huge nose, tiny teeth, feet, and arms, gigantic body, and hairy legs. 

In reading information about Cantone, I found out that her illustrations are a combination of acrylic, pencil and collage.  I did not notice the collage aspect of her illustrations until I went back and relooked at them.  Although there is not a ton, she did include what looks to be sandpaper, rope, and beads incorporated in her illustrations.  She also uses two lines around her characters.  The black line is to define the character and the red line is to give a vibrant effect.  It was interesting to find out the purpose of these lines.  Overall, these visual effects give her illustrations three-dimensional appeal that will engage and interest young readers.

In the back of the book, Piumini extends the fairytale by including a glossary, discussion questions, and directions for how to write your own fairytale.  I thought the directions Piumini gave for writing a fairytale were clear and easy to understand.  It will give direction to young readers who are inspired to write their own fairytales!

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