Hansel and Gretel by Bethan Woollvin

Hansel and Gretel

Hansel and Gretel by Bethan Woollvin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hansel and Gretel but not as you know it; the kids are horrible little things and the witch, Willow, is – well, not quite what you think. I’ve known of Bethan Woolvin’s stylish work for a while and so, when I received a copy of this to reveiw from Two Hoots, I was thrilled. There’s a part of the picture book world that embraces oddness; art that longs for wilful disobedience, that aches make a line curve when it should be straight, that wants to have a colour two shades darker than you might expect, that longs to utilise shape in a way that you might never expect. That’s Woollvin’s work right there; modern, full of careful design, and deliciously, obstreperously of itself.

The idea of a disruptive fairytale isn’t that new now, and it’s something that needs to be done with a fresh spin if it’s to have any resonance. Woollvin finds that through her limited palette; the ‘note-colour’ here is orange, splurging and squishing off the page with fluorescent intensity. Hansel and Gretel wear orange, tying themselves intimately into the heart of the text, whilst Willow herself wears a grey/black triangular dress, highlighted only with the tiniest note of orange on a button and on her tights. She is sidelined, separate.

But the ending of this book addresses that sidelining with devastating effect: it was Willow’s story all along. There’s a slightly strange final spread that didn’t quite work for me – it felt a little disjointed – but overall, this is a powerful, stylistically strong text with a deliciously dark and unflinchingly honest ending.

My thanks to the publisher for a review copy.

View all my reviews

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