This version of Hansel & Gretel for the iPad was simply too scary/harsh for me to share with my child. It's the classic tale of children cast out into the woods by cruel parents. Things go from bad to worse when they are then nearly eaten by a witch living in a house made of candy. Modern versions of this story are often remade to be less scary, but this one definitely isn't softened in any way. The house, in fact, does not even look tasty.
Since the step-mother is the villain in this version, the interactive element included for her character consists entirely of her moving her pointed finger and shaking her head while she basically roars. Not a nice woman. The rest of the book has similar levels of animation & sound effects with a very limited number of frames. The graphic style of the book is otherwise clean but the animated elements just feel unfinished.
The father on the first page is chopping wood, for example, and the animation of his chopping is 'choppy' itself. Ironic, yes ... satisfying, no. There is also a musical track, not bad at first but on an awful loop with no way to turn it, or the narration, off. A few simple settings would be a nice place to start on the next update. But too many other elements of this book just feel sloppy.
The text of the story even refers to the witch's "oven" repeatedly, but pictured instead is a large caldron of water boiling in a fireplace. All they had to do was have the story say she was making 'kid soup' and it would have at least matched the story's graphics. Hansel & Gretel still manage to push the witch into the fire in the end, but with no explanation of how she could catch fire in a pot of boiling water (perhaps it was oil).
The problems with the story, unfortunately, don't stop there. It feels like they've left something out. In other versions of Hansel & Gretel there is usually some sort of power the witch has to keep Hansel & Gretel prisoner, but in this version the kids are merely so obedient that they do chores for her and don't try to run away? It just doesn't really make sense.
There is also no explanation about the step-mother's disappearance at the end of the story. All we know is that the father regrets listening to her (perhaps he realizes he needs his child labor force back?). I would tell this father to be VERY careful ... these kids are clearly passive-aggressive but can be pushed to violence. In the next chapter, they will likely push dear dad into the caldron/oven as soon as he turns his back!
Ultimately I would suggest parents think about the age appropriateness of different 'fairy tales' and take that into consideration when sharing folklore with their children. And possibly the less animated and interactive versions of some tales are more appropriate in general, when not softened in anyway. Oral storytelling may have needed to make stories harsh so they could 'grab' the audience (and also to help the storyteller remember them), but in a modern retelling I think we should consider the medium.
On an iPad, where a child can feel so drawn into a story, do we really need to tell these tales in the same way to have the same effect? After all, stories like this are often lauded for having a moral. I would just challenge parents to find another way to teach young children that we live in a cruel world. Not many kids under 10 need an interactive storybook about parents so cruel they cast children out simply because they can't afford to feed them. It seems like the economic news lately is scary enough. As a mom, I just can't recommend this title.
All reviews are of the app, not the platform/device. Based originally on iPad versions. Minor technical details may vary.
Yasmin Studios, LLC.
6 - 10 Minutes
Based on non-digital book: No
Allows Own Narration:
Uses Motion: No
Age: 6 - 10 +
In this version of the tale made famous by Brother's Grimm, the step-mother wants the children cast out because they can't afford to feed them. She 'makes' the father of Hansel & Gretel cast them out into the forest (by lying to them and saying he'll be back). They sneak back home using little white pebbles. This time the step-mother leads them into the forest herself and abandons them. The classic bread crumbs were left this time but are eaten by birds. Then they stumble upon a chocolate house where a witch makes them do chores and tries to fatten them up to eat them. They push her into the oven and run home with her gold while her house burns. They find their father alone and regretting having listened to the step-mother. All is forgiven and apparently they live 'happily every after'.
More about the story of Hansel & Gretel: Folklorists Iona and Peter Opie indicate in The Classic Fairy Tales (1974) that "Hansel and Gretel" belongs to a group of European tales especially popular in the Baltic regions about children outwitting ogres into whose hands they have involuntary fallen. The tale bears resemblances to the first half of Charles Perrault's "Hop-o'-My-Thumb" (1697) and Madame d'Aulnoy's "Clever Cinders" (1721). In both tales, the Opies note, abandoned children find their way home by following a trail. In "Clever Cinders", the Opies observe that the heroine incinerates a giant by shoving him into an oven in a manner similar to Gretel, and point out that a ruse involving a twig in a Swedish tale resembles Hansel's trick of the dry bone. In the Grimm tale, the woodcutter and his wife are the biological parents of the children and share the blame for abandoning them. [Source: Wikipedia]