It is an utter delight to read this Morpurgo retelling of this famous yet spine-chilling Grimm tale. What I like about this book is that it does not make the story too infantile. Instead Morpurgo expands the story by defining characters and highlighting the dark themes inherent in the story, so adults can enjoy this novel-length version too.
I love the way that Morpourgo brings out the character of the story. It is a direct, fluid, concise retelling that also fleshes out the characters. There are various touches that allow the story to take flight while remaining true to the Grimms. I love how the children are perceptive and proactive when reacting to their various predicaments. I love the way that he conflates the stepmother and the witch into one character. It allows us to see how the stepmother wants to go all out to destroy the children, both by marrying the husband and turning herself into the witch in the gingerbread house. As such he makes the motives clear to the readers. I also love the way that he brings out the terror of this fairy-tale so that it doesn't become too cosy. Morpurgo accentuates the dark themes in this story, for instance, the famine backdrop, the dominance of the wicked stepmother and even the wolves that prowl the forest around Hansel and Gretel. So this allows the reader to share in the experiences with the protagonists.
Morpurgo's words are well-matched by the atmospheric Emma Chichester Clark illustrations. They suit the material very well and draw the reader into the story.
This is, in short, a delectable version of the fairy tale, better than any infantile retellings of this kind of story.