Hunger as Motive
Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman and Lorenzo Mattotti (Four/Five Stars)
Perhaps Gaiman’s best adjustment to this timeless tale is the accent he places over the hunger that Hansel and Gretel’s family endured. Using hunger as a motive for these children’s actions complicates the symbolic linking of greed and sugar often featured by common renditions of this story. Hunger, in fact, acts as the engine pushing along the choices of Hansel and Gretel’s parents as well as the famed, old cannibal lady with the house made of gingerbread and sweets.
The illustrations are dark and forboding in a way that honors this fairy tale’s ancestral roots. Perhaps too dark, however, to a point where the action of the illustrations can be lost at times.
Ultimately, Gaiman and Mattotti succeed in adding nuance to this fairy tale classic. Reading this book with a 8-12 year old would be a half hour well spent. Graphic novels are a great way to promote literacy among young people.