One of my favorite picture book people, Josh Funk – seriously, have you followed him on Twitter? – has another entry into his fractured fairy tales “It’s Not…” series. This time, he’s setting his sights on Hansel and Gretel, who just can’t believe their loving parents would hatch an evil plot to leave them in a dark forest all alone, or that a sweet old lady who’s doling out candy could possibly be an evil witch!
Set up as a back and forth between our omniscient narrator and the characters, the story is set in motion. The narrator has a lot more information about the story handy than do our characters, and the back and forth between them is laugh out loud funny. Gretel chastises the narrator for making Hansel cry at the very insinuation that their parents have an evil plot to get rid of them; the narrator is exasperated when the kids go to town on all the candy that the witch puts out for them. Gretel adds a smart, feminist slant to the story, asking why it’s always “Hansel and Gretel”, when Gretel clearly comes first alphabetically; she also points out that Hansel gets to sit around and gorge himself while she, the girl, has to cook and clean, exclaiming, “Get with the times-this is the fifteenth century!” There’s a wink, nudge nod to jokes about food allergies, a fabulous unicorn makes a guest appearance, and a Happily Ever After that will satisfy and amuse readers.
Sharp-eyed readers will spot some great fairy tale cameos (was that a flying monkey I saw), and the endpapers are loaded with enough candy and treats to tempt any reader into sampling what lies inside. Josh Funk’s got a gift for snappy, fun dialogue, and Edwardian Taylor’s bright, digital art is fun and explodes with the energy Josh Funk loads his story with. I read this with my 6 year old; he voiced the characters, I voiced the narrator, and we had a blast together. A perfect add to your fractured fairy tales shelves!
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Like Hansel and Gretel, Josh Funk doesn’t like being told how stories should go—so he writes his own. He is the author of a bunch of picture books, including the popular Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, illustrated by Brendan Kearney, and recently, How to Code a Sandcastle, illustrated by Sara Palacios, and Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience & Fortitude, illustrated by Stevie Lewis. He lives in New England with his wife and children. Learn more about him at www.joshfunkbooks.com and follow him on Twitter @joshfunkbooks.